Colombia and Venezuela share 2,219 kilometers of border and many Colombians take advantage of better opportunities in Venezuela and move there. Venezuela's president Rafael Caldera spoke of "hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of Colombian immigrants living in Venezuela" when he addressed the Colombian Congress in September 1995.
Venezuela is a country of 21 million with 1993 per capita GNP of $2,800 in 1993. The minimum wage was raised to 45,000 Bolivars ($150) per month in February 1996 and unemployment is 25 percent. Colombia is a country of 36 million with a per capita GNP of $1,400.
One estimate is that 70 percent of the immigrants living in the northwestern Venezuelan state of Tachira are Colombians. Colombians are 90 percent of the agricultural labor force in Tachira and most earn less than $40 a month.
Venezuela in March 1995 deported 1,000 Colombians from the western Venezuelan border area and announced plans to conduct a census to locate and deport illegal immigrants. A February 1995 attack on a Venezuelan border military post that left eight Venezuelan soldiers dead strained relations between the two countries.
Venezuela seems to prefer European to Colombian immigrants. In Fall 1994, Venezuela asked the European Union (EU) for aid to help 5,000 to 10,000 immigrants from East European nations move to Venezuela each year. Thousands of Spaniards and Portuguese migrated to Venezuela in the late 1940s. A total of 800,000 immigrants arrived in Venezuela between 1948 and 1961.
Regional officials in Venezuela blamed a cholera outbreak in December 1996 on uncontrolled immigration from Colombia and non-stop rain. Immigration officials do not keep count of the number of people going in and out of Venezuela, making it harder for health authorities to control the disease.
"Venezuela blames cholera on immigrants," UPI, December 13, 1996. Alberto Garnica, "Venezuela to crack down on illegals," United Press International, March 22, 1995.