Every day an average of 500-600 Portuguese stream through the doors of the Portuguese consulate in Venezuela, desperate for help as the political situation leaves citizens deeper and deeper under siege.
Talking to Jornal Madeira – the leading paper of the archipelago to which many ‘Venezuelan’ Portuguese are returning – Portugal’s consul-general in Caracas Licínio Bingre do Amaral conceded that his is one of the busiest consulates in the world.
He described a “race to get passports, social assistance, medication and repatriation”.
Demands are such that a special team to help with the workload has “come from Lisbon”.
With the world assailed by reports criticising the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro, the latest ‘horrors’ are enshrined in a UN report describing “grave human rights violations”, including extrajudicial tortures and killings.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet claimed this week that the incidence of extrajudicial killings (given in the report as ‘nearly 7000’) has been “shockingly high”.
The report describes death squads that break into families’ homes, separate the young men from family members and then shoot them.
It’s hardly surprising that so many citizens with Portuguese roots are seeking an escape.
Says Amaral, the Portuguese community “is looking for options which also include leaving the country” – most of them seeking a ‘return’ to Portugal.
And contrary to usual practices, the consulate is providing all necessary paperwork free of charge.
“Every act is free”, Amaral told JM Madeira. “The State understands the situation and the Portuguese pay nothing”.
Visits to the country by government representatives have been taking place regularly, he added, to the extent that “people feel supported by the Portuguese government and the government of Madeira”.
To date, thousands of Venezuelan-Portuguese have returned to Madeira, many of them with serious diseases which require urgent treatment.