In #VenezuelaALaFuga (Venezuela On The Run), text, video, audio and data tell the stories of mothers, fathers and children who have left Venezuela for other parts of Latin America due to the ongoing crisis at home.
This series, worked in four stages, attempts to document and portray the exodus of Venezuelans to countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Launched on March 4, it’s an initiative of newspaper El Tiempo, of Colombia, and the journalistic site Efecto Cocuyo, of Venezuela, which were joined by other collaborating media and journalistic organizations such as Ojo Público of Peru, and Consejo de Redacción of Colombia.
"As editor of the El Tiempo Data Unit, I proposed to Laura Weffer and Luz Mely Reyes (of Efecto Cocuyo) to apply for a grant awarded by Peru’s IPYS (Press and Society Institute) to finance research projects," Colombian journalist Ginna Morelo told the Knight Center.
The initiative presented by Morelo, Weffer and Reyes was one of the two winning proposals that received $5,000 from IPYS in November 2017. "The initial objective (of the project) is to travel the three routes by which Venezuelans are fleeing, as a consequence of the crisis in the country," Morelo explained, referring to Peru, Argentina and Curaçao.
Weffer, co-founder and editorial director of Efecto Cocuyo, and Morelo, also president of Consejo de Redacción in Colombia, have been the editors and curators of the installments of this first phase of the special report.
Transnational collaboration among Latin American journalists has become increasingly common in recent years, especially as the world becomes more globalized and issues like immigration or corruption fail to adhere to strict geographical borders.
In order to work together to edit the stories, Weffer and Morelo made use of different tools. They used WhatsApp chats to communicate with each other and with the collaborators during their reporting trips. They also communicated through Skype, Google Hangout and Meet.Jit.si. The photos and texts of the reports were uploaded to a Drive for editing, and the videos were shared via Dropbox and WeTransfer.
"Open, transparent and permanent communication was always key. Undoubtedly, I think there is a beautiful learning curve in everything we did with camaraderie, professionalism, understanding and solidarity," Morelo said.
Morelo said that understanding the phenomenon and its manifestation was fundamental in carrying out the special project. Therefore, for the first stage, Reyes developed three pieces that try to explain it in figures, Morelo explained.
According to information collected by Reyes, the migration of Venezuelans to other South American countries has increased 895 percent between 2015 and 2017. That is, almost one million people (925 thousand) have left Venezuela in the last two years. Most Venezuelans have relocated to Colombia or have used this country as a transit route to other destinations in the region.
The first testimony, published on March 4, tells the story of 35 Venezuelan migrants. One of them is Naycore Gallango, 37, who left on a bus from the Venezuelan city of Valencia, Carabobo, to Tumbes, Peru. She is a specialist in nursing, and temporarily left her three children in Venezuela, her husband and her elderly mother, in search of a better future for her family.
For this story, Morelo and Diego Pérez, from El Tiempo’s Video Unit, accompanied the 35 migrants headed for Peru on their route. In addition to the crónica that this trip produced, they also made a documentary that they have divided into five parts to share with the audience on their sites and through their social networks.
Regarding the realization of the aforementioned documentary - which bears the name of the series, Venezuela a la Fuga, and which is 33 minutes long – it is the first time that a traditional Latin American newspaper with a digital platform has bet on making something in that format, according to Morelo. She explained that there is a lot of news about what is happening in Venezuela, but that there are few in-depth stories, with an intimate and respectful look, and that "that was the objective."
"From the professional side, the conditions of the environment made everything a permanent challenge. Recording in Venezuela openly is forbidden. Making clean, hard shots; achieving a narrative rhythm, also complex, but since Ginna invited me to the project I proposed that we had to make a documentary," El Tiempo's audiovisual director, Diego Pérez, told the Knight Center.
Also in this stage of the special, the Efecto Cocuyo team, formed by journalists Ibis León and Ángel Colmenares, covered the journey of Venezuelan migrants to Brazil. For this route that started in Caracas and ended in Boa Vista, they produced a crónica and four video stories.
In the next few days, the project will publish a report from Peruvian site Ojo Público that deals with Venezuelan migration to Peru for medicine, treatments and medical care that is no longer accessible in the country.
Peruvian journalist Fabiola Torres, co-founder and editor of Ojo Público, told the Knight Center that "the shortage of food and medicine has generated a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela that is causing a mass exodus. Peru has become an important destination because it has opened more migratory benefits."
Before the series, Ojo Público had already published some stories about Venezuelans leaving their countries, including one about Venezuelan migrants with HIV. And for this special, the Peruvian site is working on issues it had already identified as consequences of the general crisis in Venezuela in recent years, such as the search for medical attention in other countries, Torres explained. The story they will publish this week deals with Venezuelan children with chronic diseases who are applying for immigration cards in Peru due to the seriousness of their health conditions.
"This project seeks to give a fairly clear and complete picture of the phenomenon of the Venezuelan exodus to Latin America. One of the largest waves of migration in recent years, which is related to the humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is experiencing, despite the fact that the government (of that country) does not officially recognize it," Torres said.
She also said the aim for the special is "to go beyond the descriptive stories, and to be able to establish certain specific data on the number of migrants, routes, difficulties and legal benefits in each country."
Regarding a second phase of the project, Morelo revealed that they have proposed getting more stories of Venezuelans in other latitudes. "We are about to upload to the site a story from Mexico. Laura Weffer created an email and we expect more material to arrive there," Morelos said, while adding that they will continue to cover more routes of this massive migration. They are currently working on a story about Venezuelans in Bolivia, she said.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.