Cúcuta, August 26, 2015 (SIG).
President Juan Manuel Santos announced a comprehensive plan involving health, housing, education and employment, as well as fuel supplies, in addition to the humanitarian aid that is being provided to the Colombians deported from Venezuela, in concluding his visit to Cúcuta this Wednesday.
After speaking with the deported Colombians at the shelter in the Guaymaral neighborhood school, and following his meeting at the Unified Command Center in Cúcuta, the president explained the new measures aimed at alleviating the suffering of the deported Colombians.
Shelters and humanitarian aid
“Our priority has been, and will continue to be, to offer all possible humanitarian aid to those who have lost their homes. Today there is no single deported Colombian without a roof, without a mat, without food, without their toiletry kits, without the minimum conditions for their wellbeing”, President Santos said.
He stated that with the support of the Risk Management Unit, the Red Cross, the Church and other entities and people who are backing this effort, five shelters have been enabled and humanitarian aid kits have been distributed.
The president pointed out that even if the officially registered deportees are 1,097, it is estimated that there could be as much as 5 to 6 thousand who, out of fear or desperation, have voluntarily returned from Venezuela to Colombia and have not been registered.
“I ask you to duly register yourselves in order to be entitled to receive humanitarian aid and allow us to help you as we should, to be able to help you with all we are doing for the officially registered deportees”, he suggested.
Recovery of belongings
Upon stating that a drama being faced by the deportees is the fate of their belongings left behind across the border, President Santos explained that 15 trucks have been scheduled to go to Venezuelan territory to bring back their belongings, but cooperation from the Venezuelan authorities is needed to carry out this task.
“That is what we are asking from the Venezuelan authorities, who had given their approval more than 48 hours ago but up to this moment have not given us the green light to proceed”, he said.
According to the president, regarding health matters, there have been no epidemic outbreaks, all health cases have been looked after, and strict surveillance is being carried out in order to avoid any problems of this sort.
He announced that a pediatrics and health specialists’ brigade will be carried out this Thursday in order to provide care for any eventual health needs.
“I want to tell the parents and the children who are coming back that all the children arriving from Venezuela will be enrolled in our schools, where they will be fed”, the Head of State pointed out.
Furthermore, he announced that there will be an “enrollment marathon” next week in order to guarantee education for all the children.
“What is the most important thing that our deported compatriots and the population affected by the border closing need? Job opportunities, income opportunities”, the President said.
In this regard, he stated that 2,300 jobs will be offered to the deportees, as follows:
• The Ministry of Labor offers 600 temporary jobs in rural zones.
• The Department for Social Prosperity (DPS) offers 350 jobs in Cúcuta.
• The DPS is speeding up the start-up of 15 construction works to create 450 additional jobs.
• The SENA, along with the private sector, has identified 600 job opportunities and will train 300 people in order to prepare them to find jobs.
• Those who will be trained will receive a monthly allowance of 200 thousand pesos from the DPS to prevent desertion.
• The Ministry of Housing, along with Camacol, has identified projects where 300 additional people will be able to work.
• The DPS and SENA signed a 4 billion peso agreement aimed at supporting entrepreneurial ventures for those who want to set up their own businesses.
According to President Santos, on housing matters and through the Risk Management Unit, a temporary rental subsidy of 250 thousand pesos will be provided during three months to the families, as was provided during the rainy season, in order for them to live properly while their housing and employment situation is solved.
He stated that budget transfers will be made to devote some slots of the free housing program to benefit the deportees who may need them, which could in turn create even more jobs.
“There are concerns regarding fuel supplies. I want the people of Norte de Santander to have peace of mind in regard to this topic. There will be no gasoline or fuel shortages”, the Head of State said.
He explained that the quota of subsidized fuel assigned to this border zone has not been exhausted yet, since consumption has reached 85 percent of the quota for Norte de Santander and 87 percent of the quota for Cúcuta.
In this regard, he added that the government has decided to immediately increase the subsidized fuel quota by 30 percent to enable the economic activities to continue their normal operation. Gasoline will represent 80 percent of the quota. “There are no reasons for any kind of shortages”, he reiterated.
He highlighted that in order to avoid ‘queues’, service hours at all gas stations will be extended till midnight and 9 gas stations will operate around the clock. Furthermore, control operations will be increased in order to prevent illegal sales and speculation.
‘You are home’
“I have said it since this crisis started and I will repeat it here from Cúcuta: our deported compatriots and those who live in the border zone have a government and a country that support them”, the president said in concluding his day in Cúcuta.
“You are home. You have not returned as foreigners, you are not strangers in your homeland. We receive you with open hearts and arms. You are arriving to your fatherland, to your home, and you may be absolutely certain that the entire government and all the Colombian people will do all we can to make you feel that way”, President Santos said to his compatriots deported from Venezuela.