Bishop on Venezuelan migrant crisis: ‘Serious thing’ to sacrifice people for failed system

Venezuelan migrants Venezuelan migrants receive food while waiting for information to enter Peru in Arica, at the Chile-Peru border, on May 4, 2023. | Credit: AGUSTIN MERCADO/AFP via Getty Images

In a May 8 interview with EWTN News, Bishop Marco Antonio Cortez Lara of Tacna and Moquegua in Peru said “it’s a serious thing” for a government to sacrifice its people for a failed ideological system.  

The prelate was referring to the crisis of the migrants stranded at the Peruvian-Chilean border, most of whom are Venezuelans who have fled their country due to the dire social and economic situation that currently exists there.

Under the socialism introduced by the governments of presidents Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has gone from being a prosperous country to one having shortages of basic necessities and a high rate of poverty. 

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 7 million Venezuelans have fled the country in search of a better life.

In recent weeks, hundreds of migrants — mostly Venezuelans but also Colombians and Haitians — have been trying to leave Chile and enter Peru because Chile has toughened its immigration policies.

Peru’s interior minister has stated that only those with proper documentation will be allowed in. The rest have remained stuck on the border between the two countries, enduring the desert’s inclement weather. Some of the migrants have engaged in confrontations with the police.

In response, the Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency at most of its border crossings in order for the armed forces to support the police.

The Chilean government ordered the militarization of its northern border in February to prevent more migrants from illegally entering the country.

Cortez commented on the fact that some resource-rich countries such as Venezuela create conditions that force their inhabitants to emigrate.

“The Holy Father Francis and also his predecessors have pointed out one thing, one extreme, one reality: When a situation is polarized and an attempt is made to resolve it through ideological inspirations, whether from the left or the right, the central point is lost, the person as such, his inalienable dignity that cannot be manipulated either,” the bishop said.

“It’s a great shame, it is an enormous pain when we see that governments get lost in these tangles of ideologies and sacrifice the person for the structures.”

“It’s not a facile accusation that I’m making, but it’s a reality: It’s a very serious thing that the authorities sacrifice their citizens by carrying out an ideological system that from the beginning has already failed,” the Peruvian prelate lamented.

“We are experiencing a drama with the migrant brothers who are on the border between Peru and Chile, and we hope that a solution is found urgently,” the bishop of Tacna and Moquegua stressed.

“There is no difficulty that cannot be overcome, if there is truly the desire to all face the problem together and share the responsibility,” he added.

Cortez noted that for 10 years his diocese has had a shelter for migrants; and for about 30 years, some 12 border dioceses of Chile, Peru, and Bolivia have been working to help in the face of the phenomenon of migration.

The bishop told EWTN News that the dioceses have been actively working to assist migrants and recalled the statement he published at the end of April with the bishop of Arica in Chile, Moisés Atisha Contreras, in which they humbly offered some insights “to get out of this trap.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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