BY ANASTASIA CHOO
Venezuela’s downward economic spiral has led to widespread food shortages, hyperinflation and a mass exodus of migrants into Latin America. Although the situation is anatomically different from Syria, analysts claim the exodus from Venezuela rivals the number of Syrians in Germany. The intensifying economic and political crisis has now pushed hundreds of thousands to flee the country in search of food, security, medicine and jobs; at least 500,000 have fled Venezuela this year.
Don’t blame it on weak oil prices or high inflation or the CIA as Nicolás Maduro would have you believe. Culpability lies with him and his ruling party: The Socialists United of Venezuela (PSUV), also known as the Narco-Dictatorship according to Andrea Rocca, a Graphic Designer who fled Venezuela In October 2017. Their experiment started with Hugo Chávez transforming Venezuela into a second Cuba, but Maduro’s regime has resulted in Venezuela being in much worse shape than the closed world run from Havana.
The largest migrant crisis in the hemisphere is not the result of war or famine, but because of political malfeasance. PSUV’s stubborn adherence to their Marxist post-colonial fight between the colonised victim and the coloniser has destroyed what was once a country people migrated to. Or, if many Venezuelan watchers are correct, PSUV is largely a criminal enterprise not interested in a political project of any sort, per se, but interested in making money through currency arbitrage, drug trafficking and controlling the court system. Indeed, as the sentencing of two nephews of Venezuela’s First Lady on cocaine-smuggling charges proved in December 2017 in a federal court in Manhattan; U.S. court records revealed they relied on the help of government and military officials in Venezuela.
Venezuelans are too afraid to speak out for fear of retribution from Maduro’s paid pro-government activists or worse – the Bolivarian Intelligence Service known by the acronym SEBIN will pay them an unwelcome visit. What hope is there for the suffering Venezuelans struggling to stay alive on meagre rations while Maduro is seen tucking into a “Salt Bae Steak?” Venezuelans are leaving the country in droves and here I caught up with a family willing to speak about their experiences and new life as economic migrants in foreign countries. Living in cramped conditions, working at below minimum wage and worrying daily about loved ones left behind in Venezuela; family only remain to ensure their property is not taken over by Chavistas. A family that once upon a time would have had good prospects in one of the richest countries in South America has been brought to its knees by a failed socialist experiment:
Andrea Rocca, 26 years old, born in Ciudad Bolivar, Bolivar State (South East Venezuela.) A Graphic Designer in Venezuela and an anti-government activist, literally, fleeing Venezuela in October 2017 having been the victim of yet another crime. Currently, working in a branch of Subway in Santiago, Chile. She fled the Narco-dictatorship of Venezuela and stresses that Hugo Chávez began with the work of gradually transforming Venezuela into a second Cuba and Nicolás Maduro has placed the icing on the cake with his economic policies.
Leonardo graduated in journalism but was never able to work in this area in Venezuela. He feels the current government has robbed the young of opportunities and aside from hyperinflation and the ever-spiralling cost of living, it is not safe to live in Venezuela; he hopes the current government headed by Nicolás Maduro will be brought to justice and never believed their false promises. Having moved to three different countries in six months in search of work and living in cramped conditions, he has finally settled in a modest flat which he can call “home” and found work in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Carolina Diaz worked as a Finance Analyst for twelve years at state-owned oil company PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. or Petroleum of Venezuela.) Carolina did not feel safe living in Venezuela, looking over her shoulder every time she went out and worried that someone may snatch from her the little food or medicine that she managed to buy. Nor did she appreciate being forced to participate in pro-government rallies or face losing her job.
Adriana Potts has lived in the UK for twenty years and she last saw her family in 2013. She has helped her family morally and financially, as she witnesses a once thriving country fall apart. Adriana feels human rights are being violated, freedom of speech suppressed, and Venezuelans are dying not only as victims of crime but hunger. It is this despair that is forcing people to flee often with few possessions and even without a passport. *Special thanks to Adriana who helped with translating these interviews.