CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government accused Peruvian authorities on Sunday of fomenting “xenophobia” against the large Venezuelan exile population after a series of incidents of apparent mistreatment of migrants.
Venezuela’s economic crisis under the leftist Maduro has sent several million people fleeing abroad in recent years, with more than 850,000 ending up in Peru.
The initially welcoming attitude to Venezuelans around South America has soured amid accusations they bring crime, crowd the job market, and strain social services.
The mood appears to be particularly ugly in Peru, where videos circulating on social media in recent days appear to show a young Venezuelan woman being beaten in the street at night, a street-seller complaining of harassment by police, and pamphlets demanding the migrants’ exit.
“These are shameful and inhuman acts, permitted or committed by Peruvian government authorities and encouraged by hate campaigns against Venezuelans,” Maduro’s government said in a statement issued by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.
“Venezuela denounces the Peruvian government for violating and neglecting its international responsibilities by promoting and allowing acts of segregation and xenophobia,” it added, saying various “racist” governments in the region were working with Venezuela’s opposition.
Along with dozens of other nations around the world, Peru has recognized Venezuelan congress head and opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president and denounced Maduro as a usurper after an election last year critics say was rigged.
“Peru strongly rejects the unfounded accusations of xenophobia made by the illegitimate and dictatorial regime of Nicolas Maduro,” its Foreign Ministry said in a statement responding to the salvo from Caracas.
Peru accused Maduro of driving Venezuelans out of their homeland due to rights abuses, and said it had shown solidarity in welcoming so many people fleeing “inhuman conditions.”
On Saturday, Guaido told reporters during a visit to a poor Caracas suburb that it was important not to over-generalize about xenophobia by Peruvians or crime by Venezuelans.
“We know that Peru has supported Venezuela’s struggle, but also we should take urgent, corrective measures to avoid attacks on Venezuelan citizens,” he added in a tweet on Sunday.
Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Additional reporting by Maria Cervantes in Lima; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne