The weekend stabbing murder of a pregnant Ecuadorian woman by her estranged Venezuelan boyfriend triggered widespread demands in Ecuador for limits on migrants entering the country.
On Saturday evening, Venezuelan migrant Yordy Rafael stabbed pregnant 22-year-old Diana Carolina Ramírez to death after he held her at knifepoint for over an hour. Ecuadorian officials later admitted that police failed to adequately follow protocols that may have prevented her death.
“There are rules to follow but the police has the obligation to act and especially when it concerns protecting a life. The femicide was committed whilst the police were there and they should have acted,” Ecuador’s Interior Minister María Romo explained in a press conference.
The shocking murder subsequently proved a catalyst for many Ecuadorians to express their frustrations over the large numbers of Venezuelan migrants in the country, nearly all fleeing the worsening political and economic situation in their homeland.
In response to the murder, local citizens organized a march in the center of Ibarra, where the attack occurred, demanding a ban on further Venezuelan migration. Protesters harassed a group of homeless Venezuelans by chasing them out of the area and burning their possessions. Many of the Venezuelans ended up needing police protection after an angry mob stormed a local municipal shelter.
Ibarra, este domingo en la noche. Habitantes buscan -como en las noches de Salem- a venezolanos, los sacan de sus casas y queman sus pertenencias. Los demonios desatados de la xenofobia pic.twitter.com/KwEG6IktDi
— Arnaldo Espinoza (@Naldoxx) January 21, 2019
Instamos a las autoridades de Ecuador evitar la injusta persecución a los venezolanos que sólo busca un mejor porvenir en ese país. Con su trabajo y constancia, lo han demostrado a lo largo de los últimos meses. #noalaxenofobia pic.twitter.com/urPWCLtsc9
— Sergio Novelli (@SergioNovelli) January 21, 2019
In a statement Sunday evening, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno announced his government would set up “units” to monitor Venezuelans in the country, as well as possibly creating a special permit for entry.
“Ecuador is and always will be a country of peace. I will not allow any antisocial behavior to take this away from us. The safety of our mothers, daughters, and friends is my priority,” he said. “I have ordered the immediate setting up of units to control Venezuelan immigrants’ legal status in the streets, in the workplace, and at the border.”
“We are currently looking at the possibility of creating a special permit to enter the country,” he continued. “We may have opened our doors, but we will not compromise anyone’s security.”
— Lenín Moreno (@Lenin) January 20, 2019
Over three million people have fled Venezuela country in recent years, many of whom are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. According to current figures, 4,000 people are arriving at Ecuador’s border every day and over half a million arrived over the course of 2018. A recent study by the Brookings Institute predicted that 8.2 million Venezuelans will emigrate within the next four years.
The large flow of migration has consequently sparked tensions in local communities, who have developed growing fears about levels of crime, unemployment, and the undercutting of wages. Similar protests to that taking place in Ecuador have also occurred in heavily affected areas of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.