The exodus from Venezuela

The Financial Times has a story today on something that I assumed must be happening in Venezuela but which I haven’t seen widely reported. The downward spiral of the economy is so bad that Venezuelans are now fleeing the country semi-permanently:

Since fleeing to Bogotá, Eduardo, who declined to give his name as he is still an illegal immigrant, says he has been working “on this and that while a friend helps me out. At least I can find food here. Back in Venezuela we all lacked anything to eat”…

“Most Venezuelan families these days hope a member leaves, somewhere, in order to send money back,” the man adds. He is echoed by a Venezuelan accountant who entered Colombia this weekend and is determined to stay even if “I have to stand at a corner all day selling arepas”, a maize staple in both nations.

According to a senior Colombian immigration official, that is now the trend: “The number of Venezuelans crossing into Colombia, legally or illegally, has grown a lot.”

Last month, as many as 100,000 Venezuelans crossed the border with Colombia (legally) in order to shop for groceries. At the time the AP reported on Tebie Gonzalez and Ramiro Ramirez who had cashed out an emergency savings fund in order to fill suitcases with food for themselves and their children. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:

It’s hard to imagine the unenviable choices left to people in Venezuela. This couple has bought their family a little more time, maybe a month at most. But the situation in Venezuela only seems to be getting worse with every passing day. The next set of choices for people like Tebie and Ramiro seems likely to be even more desperate.

It has been about a month since then and I imagine the food the couple brought home that weekend in July is now running out. Meanwhile, the price of food in Venezuela is even higher now than a month ago thanks to triple-digit inflation but the couple has no savings fund left to cash out. What will they do?

The only logical thing to do for people in danger of watching their children starve to death is to try to get out while they can. As the former accountant in the Financial Times story says, better to become a street vendor than stay at home and starve.

But most of the people in Venezuela probably can’t afford to escape. Their country has become a prison and their ruling party is willing to let them die rather than give up its power.