Venezuelan mass migration in Mexico is a phenomenon of this century. Its incipient presence dates back, according to official census data, to the seventies, although the numbers did not exceed hundreds. Since 2000 the numbers have been increasing, although it was after 2015 that it has been massive although lower in volume concerning other migrant populations in the country.

The demographic characteristics, reasons for departure, and migratory routes have diversified and currently, in the country, one of the main refugee applications are those made by people originating from the Bolivarian country. The Inter-agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V) indicated that there are 5 million 914 thousand 519 Venezuelan refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in the world, as of October of this year.

In recent years more than two-thirds (68%) of all refugees and displaced persons abroad, Venezuelan people occupy a relevant place in UNHCR data: it is the second country of origin, only after Syria, with 4.9 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. Up to 2015, the figure was 1.5 million.

As with other populations, several factors force people to flee and seek refuge in other countries; in the case of the Venezuelan population, the economic crisis that has been exacerbated in recent years stands out, although there is a sum of historical factors, at least 40 years ago. Their massive presence in Mexico is recent.

Manuel Gerardo Delgado Linero is a postdoctoral researcher at the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Research (UNAM), he is Venezuelan. He arrived in 2014 for academic reasons. Here he did his master's degree, doctorate and is currently doing a postdoctoral stay at the CRIM campus in Cuernavaca. He has lived in different cities in Mexico and his research has focused on the migration of his fellow countrymen.

Venezuela: from receiver to expeller

Manuel Gerardo tells Once Noticias that Venezuela, during most of the 20th century, was a country of reception and not expulsion. People from different parts of the world came to work and live in the country of Bolivar due to the booming economy as a result of oil exploitation, which brought modernization to its cities.

"In the fifties, with the refining of oil and the granting of concessions to foreign companies, the country became attractive to the foreign population - Spaniards, Italians, and Portuguese. Before that, there was already a Colombian population in border areas (they have always had a greater presence), and in coastal areas, such as Aruba or Curacao, there was a Caribbean population, from Trinidad and other Antilles".

In the seventies, there was an influx of people from the southern cone -Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile- due to the dictatorships that devastated the region. "Towards the eighties, Venezuela entered a crisis that has lasted until today," Gerardo lamented. The doctor in migration said that at that time immigrants from the southern cone returned to their countries of origin and with them joined a small flow of Venezuelan emigrants.

They had a particular profile: they were highly qualified migrants who were trained through the scholarship system sponsored by the Gran Mariscal Ayacucho Foundation (undergraduate and graduate studies) and who, upon returning to their country of origin, we're unable to enter the labor market and began to emigrate.

With the "Caracazo" (1989), triggered by the application of economic measures recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), undertaken during the government of Carlos Andres Perez, there was a strong social discontent, mainly among the middle class. It was a turning point in Venezuelan history, because later, in 1992, the first coup d'état by Hugo Chávez against the government of Andrés Pérez took place.

However, the specialist pointed out that in the first five years of the 21st century, there were relevant transformations in the migratory issue. When Hugo Chávez came to power in 2002, the middle and upper classes saw their interests threatened, which led them to leave the country, as stated by Inés Guardia (Investigaciones Geográficas, 2007).

The specialist shared that one of those changes was when almost 20 thousand workers of the state-owned company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PVSACV) were fired and disqualified from working in the state companies. Many of these people left for Mexico to work in the oil sector, "mainly in Tabasco, Campeche and southern Veracruz. Mexico is beginning to be a point of attraction. Although they also settled in Mexico City".

Venezuelan Migration in Mexico

The traditional routes of Venezuelan migration, for a long time, were the United States and Spain. This migration was characterized because it was a labor migration, leaving with a specific professional profile to work in another country. However, with the death of Hugo Chávez (2013) and the arrival of Nicolás Maduro to the presidency, there was a strong economic crisis which had an impact on the increase of migratory flows.

He pointed out that in 2000 there were three thousand Venezuelan people in the whole Mexican territory, by 2010, there were 10 thousand people. By 2015 there were between 15 and 16 thousand. In the last INEGI census (2020) there are more than 52 thousand Venezuelan people in Mexican territory. They are mainly concentrated in cities such as Mexico City, "although in Monterrey, there is a small Venezuelan community that does not reach 6 thousand people, it is the main group of Latin American origin", emphasized the specialist.

"That massive migration occurs after 2015, no longer to insert themselves in the labor world according to their professional training. They also change the traditional destinations and go to other Latin American countries, mainly Colombia, due to its proximity, but also to Mexico", said the demographer and migration specialist.

The profile of migrants arriving in Mexico responds to very particular economic and professional characteristics: they arrive by air and most of them have professional studies. The specialist told Once Noticias that the migratory profiles have diversified, for example, those who arrive in other parts of South America such as Colombia or Peru, make their journeys on foot or by bus.

Those who arrive in Mexico do so by commercial flights, although he said that they are also registered in the caravans, but to a lesser extent, at least in comparison with the Haitian or Central American population. "Venezuelan migration is not visible in the Mexican news. It can be considered an important flow of skilled migration. Many arrive to cross to the USA. Few tend to use the figure of the pollero, like other migrations".

The pandemic and the numbers

His critical acuity and his experience as a demographer allow him to affirm that the figures, at least those handled by R4V regarding Venezuelan migration in Mexico (more than 100,000), are overestimated. He criticized that the sources of information on Venezuelan migration are very closed, especially on the issue of returns, "there is talk of a massive return, but there are no figures to back it up.

Since before Maduro, exact figures are not known to dimension the claims. There is the ENCOVI (2017) and the effort of some universities. That is why I say that with the pandemic the departures decreased, for previous years, but we would have to contrast the data". With the health emergency, Venezuela closed the borders, and flights were restricted, although that did not limit people to use the land borders to move to neighboring countries.

In Mexico, refugee applications from Venezuelan people have increased since 2017. According to data from the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid (COMAR), while in 2013 there was one refugee request, in 2014 and 2015 there were 56 and 57, respectively. In 2016, 361 refugee requests were made for Venezuelan individuals.

However, in 2017, 4 thousand 038 were registered and in 2018, there were 4 thousand 249. Since then, the figures oscillate in that tenor: this year, up to September, out of 90 thousand 314 people who have requested refuge, 4 thousand 670 are of Venezuelan nationality, that is to say, 5.1%, approximately.