Photo: NTN24 retrieved

“Please, stop harassing us. We have nothing to do with it. We just wanna live in peace”.

That was the plea of a Venezuelan, middle aged woman, living in Ibarra, Ecuador, on Sunday night. All xenophobic hell broke loose in the town of 180,000 people, north of Quito. The day before, another Venezuelan, Jordy Losada, took his pregnant ex-girlfriend hostage in a street downtown, and murdered her in front of 100 people, including a police squad. The crime was streamed live on Facebook.

Ecuador was already hurt because of Martha, a woman that was sexually assaulted earlier in the week by three men in a restaurant in Quito.  Ecuador was already hurt because four Venezuelans murdered a man in Ambato for a bottle of rum on New Year’s Eve. Ecuador was already hurt because crime is rising and the police doesn’t know how to proceed without going to jail because of all the restrictions imposed by Hugo Chavez’s friend, Rafael Correa, after the failed coup of 2010.

The assassination of Diana Ramírez sparked a rage contained within Ibarra. 

Hence, Ibarra. A city with virtually no crime before the Colombian migration wave of the 1990s, was forced to watch a horrendous scene on one of the busiest streets in town. The assassination of Diana Ramírez sparked a rage contained within. Venezuelans were chased early Sunday, kicked because of their nationality. President Moreno’s statement only added fuel to the fire, announcing brigades to verify legal status of Venezuelans in the country and a special permit to enter Ecuador (which ended up being criminal record, legalized).

And then the night came.

What started as a protest on  Ibarra’s Ecu 911 station, with “get out venecos!”, and “close the borders!” as rallying cries, morphed into a medieval witch hunt when the sun came down. Venezuelans chased down the streets, forced to leave their houses (and the city). Broken windows, broken doors, burning mattresses and looting. All because nobody on the government mentioned that these types of crimes—gender crimes—have no nationality. All because police decided to sit this one out. All because the trending messages on social media were all anti-Venezuelan.

For the first time in my life I was scared because I’m Venezuelan. I cried for hours, helpless. So did one of my neighbors. The Kristallnacht was complete.

The fear was real, and not only in Ibarra.  WhatsApp groups of Venezuelans in Ecuador were flooded with messages. “Don’t send your kids to school tomorrow,” “keep a low profile” and “avoid confrontation” were lines repeated over and over after the Ibarra’s videos were trending on Twitter.  For the first time in my life I was scared because I’m Venezuelan. I cried for hours, helpless. So did one of my neighbors. The Kristallnacht was complete.

Morning rose and Vice-President Sonnelholzner’s cadena nacional brought calm to the situation. “We cannot generalize. We know that the vast majority of Venezuelans are in Ecuador looking for a better future.” No major incidents were reported on Monday. Diana’s murderer tried to kill himself in jail. But somethings have changed for Venezuelans in Ecuador. The fear remains.

 

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