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Venezuela breaks deal with U.S. by halting migrant deportation flights

Flights were a key instrument for the Biden administration to halt illegal migration from the communist South American country

Protestan contra vuelos de deportaciones
Vuelos con deportados | Captura de pantalla

February 23, 2024 9:16am

Updated: February 28, 2024 2:31pm

Venezuela’s communist Maduro regime has halted flights of migrants being repatriated from the U.S. and Mexico, according to U.S. officials.

The Maduro regime has been threatening to halt the flights as the U.S. has increasingly stepped up its pressure on the communist dictatorship to allow free and fair elections this year, a move which places the Biden administration in a complicated position as millions of migrants continue to illegally cross the southwest border, also during an election year.

The halt in flights came as part of a Venezuelan measure after then White House reinstated some economic sanctions it had lifted against its oil and gas industry as part of a gesture to move the country toward democratic elections.

Washington has since accused Caracas of following through with its promises to ease pressure and intimidation tactics against opposition candidates, such as the country’s prized Unity candidate, Maria Corina Machado.

The Maduro regime has rescinded its promises gradually as Corina Machado’s poll numbers continue to rise across the South American country.

ADN reported earlier this month that  Corina Machado obtained an impressive 72% level of support, marking a milestone as the candidate with greatest support in the history of the country before elections.

In addition to breaking its promises to observe democratic principles for free and fair elections, Venezuela has also asserted a claim it has a right to invade its oil rich neighbor, Guyana, sparking further concerns within the Pentagon and State Department.

In December, ADN reported that the U.S. sent fighter jets to patrol Guyana’s border, the United Kingdom sent a warship and Brazil sent troops to safeguard its northern border. The Guyana crisis was temporarily averted after the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a Latin American consortium of nations came together to broker an agreement for both nations to stand down.

Now Maduro is striking back, despite the deal that Caracas made with Washington in October.

Flights from the U.S. transporting Venezuelan migrants, who have been leaving the communist country in droves, came to a halt last month according to U.S. officials who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. The Dow Jones, Manhattan based newspaper says that the chances of reigniting the agreement are slim and relations between both sides continue to slip into a dark chasm.

The U.S. has so far repatriated about 1,800 Venezuelans on 15 flights since the October agreement was brokered, a sliver of the migrants who have penetrated the southwest border during the Biden era.

But the flights were viewed as a crucial step in the right direction for many immigration hawks who believe the southwest border has become compromised, and also to other migrants who place their lives at risk by making the dangerous trek through the Darien Gap jungle and through Central America to the U.S.

In July, ADN did a comprehensive report outlining how the 575,000 kilometer jungle was costing some migrants their lives, and that in the first six months of last year, more than 28,000 Venezuelans has crossed the Gap.

ADN also reported how some illegal travel operations were selling packages for as much as $1,350 to help migrants get from Venezuela through the Gap and up to the U.S. southwest border.

Increased deportations and containing the surge of migrants from Venezuela, the third-largest nationality after Mexico and Guatemala, could have helped ease some of the pressure on Biden, whose poll ratings have been sliding ahead of November’s presidential election, partly because of the immigration issue,” the Journal reported.

According to the newspaper, the U.S. Department for Homeland Security said it continuing to work with U.S. allies to curb the migration problem.

“If Venezuelan migrants do not avail themselves of lawful pathways,” a spokeswoman told the WSJ, “they are subject to removal,” such as being sent to Mexico.

The other hurdle may be that there are currently no direct commercial flights between Venezuela and the United States, and Mexico will not deport Venezuelans back home on commercial flights either.

If there are no government-funded deportation flights to Venezuela, “it stands out that there’s no ability to deport Venezuelans back to Venezuela,” U.S. immigration advocate Tom Cartwright told the Journal.

U.S. estimates place the Venezuelan exodus at about 7.7 million people who have fled the country since Maduro came to power 2013, as a means of taking flight from political persecution, inflation, and skyrocketing crime.

Some Biden advisers had hoped that stabilizing the Venezuelan economy holding free elections would discourage the exodus, but since the U.S. made its deal in October, human rights groups have said the regime has actually become even more abusive.

ADN has published several reports outlining the crack downs, kidnappings of opposition candidate campaign workers and intimidation tactics.

Last month, ADN reported that Venezuelan opposition leader María Corina Machado said the Maduro regime kidnapped two of her regional leaders and vandalized 10 of her political headquarters in several states throughout the South American country.

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.