"The work being done by the dioceses of Cúcuta, Riohacha in Colombia and Boa Vista in Brazil through Caritas and other humanitarian organizations to care for the Venezuelan emigrants is extraordinary. Eternally grateful," the archbishop wrote.
According to Caritas International, about four million people have left Venezuela due to the grave economic crisis marked by a major shortage of food and medicine under the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, the president of the country since 2013.
Maduro, the handpicked successor of Hugo Chavez, has continued Venezuela's socialist economic policies without the added boost of high oil prices that benefitted his predecessor. Maduro was re-elected May 20 in elections that have been internationally questioned.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies stated that the average Venezuelan lost about 24 pounds in 2017, in a population where almost 90 percent live below the poverty line. A lack of affordable medicine has caused a resurgence of diphtheria and an increase in measles and malaria, diseases that had almost been eradicated in Venezuela.
In recent days, the migration of Venezuelans to Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina has increased. Many have fled on foot to escape the humanitarian crisis hitting the country.
Earlier this month, the governments of Ecuador and Peru began requiring immigrants to present their passport in order to enter. Previously, other forms of identification, including a national ID card, had been allowed.