Clowns Without Borders joins Corporación Humor Y Vida for their Revuelta de la Mitad del Mundo (Festival at The Center of The World). This program addresses Venezuelan displacement in Ecuador. It is CWB’s second collaboration with Humor Y Vida, after our digital partnership in 2020. The team will perform for Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Quito, Esmereldas, and Lago Agrio.
Venezuela’s Political Crisis
According to Human Rights Watch, Venezuela is in the midst of a severe humanitarian crisis. A UNHCR fact-finding mission found reasonable evidence that officials in the current Nicolás Maduro government are responsible for human rights abuses amounting to crimes against humanity.
The Maduro government is disputed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, head of the National Assembly. In 2018, Maduro won a second six-year term by 1.6 percentage points. Many candidates were barred from running against him, while others fled the country on fear of imprisonment. The National Assembly did not recognize Maduro’s reelection and Guaidó cited a constitutional mandate for the head of the Assembly to step into a “vacant” presidency. Since then, different nations recognize different leaders. The United States and some Latin American countries recognize Guaidó, while Russia, China and others continue to recognize Maduro.
UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) says that the recent exodus of Venezuelans from their home country constitutes the largest human migration in recent Latin American history. As of 2o2o, 5.6 million migrants had left Venezuela, with 4.6 million people hosted in the region. This means that small neighboring countries, like Ecuador, are under pressure to integrate and serve vulnerable migrants.
The Refugee and Migrant Response Plan 2021 (RMRP), an inter-agency platform addressing the needs of Venezuelan displacement, states that migrants are especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. They face a lack of social integration and the breakdown of informal labor due to COVID-19 restrictions and border closures. Many displaced people already struggle to access documentation, work, health care, and other services. The pandemic has reinforced disproportionate access, while fear and misinformation contribute to rising xenophobia against migrants.
According to RMRP, Venezuelans in Ecuador require food assistance and social integration as top priorities. Both of CWB – USA’s recent programs in Ecuador have addressed critical issues of social integration, including child safety. Our 2019 tour, in partnership with Jesuit Refugee Services, focused on community-level social integration by creating space for migrants and host communities to share emotional relief. Our 2020 digital PSA program, in partnership with Humor Y Vida, addressed increased family violence due to pandemic-related stress and lack of mobility during lockdown. These PSAs encouraged everyone to speak up on behalf of child safety.
CWB’s primary partner is Corporación Humor Y Vida, a social clowning organization based in Quito, Ecuador. The group uses clowning to address human rights abuses, such as gender-based violence (GVB) and the marginalization of displaced people. Other partners include HIAS, UNHCR, JRS, and FUDELA.
Watch Clowns In Conversation with Corporación Humor Y Vida’s Patty Galarza!
Paty Galarza, Shana Cardeña, Laura Oviedo, Orlando Erazo, and Daniel Betancourt join us from Corporación Humor Y Vida. Ecuador-based clown Lars Uribe and his clown partner Alex Pizano join U.S.-based Robin Lara to complete the performing team.
Clowns Without Borders is in close conversation with our project partners and public health advisors about the safety of this tour. We are monitoring COVID-19 in Ecuador and evaluating the audience and performer safety each day.