Colombia to ask U.N. for special envoy to manage Venezuelan migrant crisis
BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will ask the United Nations to designate a special envoy to coordinate humanitarian aid for the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants flooding into countries around the region, the foreign minister said on Friday.
More than a million people have arrived in Colombia from Venezuela over the last year and a half, fleeing a severe economic and political crisis in the socialist country that has caused food and medicine shortages.
"We are going to insist on the strengthening of an emergency humanitarian fund and we are going to propose the creation of a special envoy under the United Nations who can coordinate the multilateral actions that are required because of the humanitarian crisis we are living," foreign minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, who took office on Tuesday, told journalists.
Colombia has spent millions on aid for Venezuelan migrants, including food, shelter and medical care. Many arrive with only what they can carry and are often underfed.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday announced an additional $9 million in aid to Colombia to help with the crisis, during a visit to the border city of Cucuta.
Trujillo said he had not yet received a formal extradition request from Venezuela for six people it has accused of involvement in the explosion of drones at a military event last week and who are believed to be in Colombia. Venezuela's government has said the incident was a failed assassination attempt.
"I don't like to talk about hypotheses - we'll see. ... I've been told the request for extradition has not formally arrived, if it's going to arrive," the minister said. "If it arrives, we will review it."
Trujillo reiterated that Colombia would withdraw from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), created a decade ago in an attempt to counterbalance U.S. influence in Latin America, in tandem with several other nations. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru have already indefinitely suspended their participation in the body.
"We're consulting with other countries which apparently want to take the same route. If we consolidate a similar decision from these consultations, we'll act in conjunction. If not, we'll withdraw anyway."
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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