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Andreina Briceño-Brown

Activist and Founder/Director of La Casita Hispanic Cultural Centre Andreina Briceno-Brown says promoting xenophobic attacks on Venezuelans at the national level or sanctioning citizens for assisting Venezuelans to leave them vulnerable to serious mistreatment, unjustified evictions, compromise their safety, abuses and violence.

She was responding to Dr Keith Rowley’s comment at Saturday’s press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s that if Venezuelan migrants were registering high numbers of COVID-19 cases, Government would not hesitate to inform the public.

Briceno-Brown said “The specific data on who is increasing the COVID-19 figures in T&T are in the hands of the CMO and the Ministry of Health.

Holding the “regular and irregular” Venezuelans who reside on the island responsible would be irresponsible and even difficult to confirm, taking into consideration that the chain of infections that the system had a few months ago had been lost.

“This is a community spread of the virus and has no discrimination of who it infects. COVID-19 is easily confused with other influenza and those asymptomatic people are out there with a mask perhaps spreading uncontrollably.

“There are studies that confirm that children can transmit it for up to three months and adults perhaps one month.”

She said Venezuelans were forced to flee the socio-economic crisis and crimes against humanity that occurred in their country.

Briceno-Brown said there had never been any ill will or intention of harming this country, the community or the people who were reaching out to them.

She said insisting on a contagious theory like this would make people think of the limitations and scenes of discrimination to which Venezuelans were victims of on a daily basis in some health centres.

Briceno-Brown said coming from a family of medical professionals reminded her every day of the sacrifices and the risks to her father and brother to save the health and lives of their patients regardless of their nationality.

She said the sadness invaded her when she was moved to discuss or ask for advice from some local doctors who due to local health policies as it relates to non-nationals put their ethics and even the honour of this noble profession on a fine line to avoid a sanction.

Briceno-Brown said for the society in general, it would be more productive to accept international assistance that allowed the government to effectively deal with this emergency since the virus does not discriminate.

She said to allow access to the fundamental right to health so that it was acceptable and timely for vulnerable groups.

Briceno-Brown said if they continued with the haughty and xenophobic narrative, the responses in the local sectors to the Venezuelan community will not change, forcing them not to seek controlled medical care and thus exposing the general population.