CUCUTA, Colombia – Maria Elena Lopez Gonzales left her home in Venezuela three months ago. She said she wants to earn enough money here to return home and then bring her young son to Colombia.
“We have shortage of food, and medicine. Children are dying because of the shortage of medicine. The senior citizens are dying because of the shortage of medicine,” said Lopez Gonzales of the conditions in her home country. “We can’t find food. Everything is overpriced and that is why the majority of Venezuelans are fleeing the situation.”
Millions have left Venezuela since the collapse of oil prices in 2014. At the Colombian border town of Cúcuta, government officials said tens of thousands of Venezuelans cross the Simon Bolivar Bridge into Colombia daily. Some stay, others move on to different countries in the region and many return to Venezuela after receiving food and medicine from aid organizations.
During a tour of relief efforts in Cucuta on Wednesday, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley blamed the crisis on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his socialist regime and proclaimed “it’s time for Maduro to go.”
“We need the international community to understand that the United States – yes, we’ve given $60 million and we’re giving $9 million more today – but everyone needs to step up and everyone needs to be loud against Maduro and force him to leave,” Haley told Fox News in an exclusive television interview.
Those dealing with the crisis said the situation keeps getting worse.
“I’ve been caught in torrential downpours and I haven’t found shelter. I live in the streets,” said Lopez Gonzales. “We want to solve all these problems we don’t want free handouts, we want to work.”
Others said they’re fleeing an oppressive government.
“We are political persecuted, we have been persecuted by this government. Everyone who has been persecuted by the government has had to flee,” said a Venezuelan man crossing the bridge into Colombia. “We have left our country looking for a new horizon because they want to kill us, they have killed our families and hide everything that’s happening around the world from Venezuela.”
This weekend, there was an assassination attempt on Maduro. It failed and several Venezuelans at a Catholic kitchen in Cucuta said the Maduro regime has further suppressed its citizens since the attempt.
Despite the assassination attempt, Maduro remains in power, the crisis persists and the daily march of refugees gathers in Colombian border towns.
“We want to provide a better future for our families,” said one Venezuelan man crossing into Colombia. “We are all professionals.”