Maduro: Venezuela Willing to Take in 20,000 Syrian Refugees
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro promised on Monday that his country would offer asylum to up to 20,000 refugees fleeing from the civil war in Syria, Reuters reported.
The embattled leader's announcement came in the midst of the ongoing border crisis with Colombia, during which his government has expelled thousands of undocumented Colombian immigrants, many of whom had resided in Venezuela for years.
In his remarks, Maduro noted that he had accepted an offer by his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, to engage in discussions to try to resolve the dispute under the mediation of the heads of state of Brazil and Uruguay, El Universal of Cartagena, Colombia said.
But he then tried to shift the focus to the volatile situation in Europe, which has been struggling with the influx of Syrian nationals trying to escape the conflict between dissident militants, the terror group ISIS and forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad.
"How many more Arabs must die before a great human conscience of peace is awakened?" Maduro said at a Cabinet meeting. "I want 20,000 Syrians to come to our Venezuelan fatherland, to share this land of peace, of Christ, of (independence hero Simón) Bolivar, and to help with the development of this magical land."
The president's late predecessor, Hugo Chávez, maintained cordial relations with al-Assad, who has been accused of using chemical weapons against his own people. Even though more than 4 million Syrians have fled their country in almost five years of civil war, Maduro on Monday reiterated his support for the Syrian dictator, The Associated Press noted.
Maduro used his address "to condemn plans by the U.S. and its Western allies to topple the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, who was democratically elected," the semi-official Telesur television network insisted.
Venezuela, meanwhile, is not the only Latin American country that has offered to take in Syrian refugees, El Universal of Caracas recalled, as Uruguay and Argentina have similarly opened their doors to migrants from the war-torn country.