Venezuelans leaving their country behind in hopes of a better life

Last year I noted a story about a Venezuelan accountant who chose to become a street vendor in Colombia because at least that way he wouldn’t starve to death. Today, CNN has a story about more regular Venezuelans who have left their home country and extended families and are starting over abroad.

Alejandro Nava is leaving his home in Venezuela, and he doesn’t plan on coming back…

“We live in constant fear of getting robbed and shot everyday,” says Nava. “There’s no sense of stability. You can’t save money, you can’t plan for the future.”

Nava got a visa and will be coming to the U.S. where he hopes to work as a paralegal while he applies to colleges in the U.S. Earlier this year the U.S. office of Citizenship and Immigration Services revealed Venezuelans were making more asylum requests to the U.S. than any other country. But not everyone is lucky enough to get a visa.

Diego Hernandez, 23, won’t be going back either. He moved to the U.S., tried to get a university to accept him and sponsor his visa but couldn’t, and eventually moved to Argentina…

His mom often calls him from Caracas, crying that her boy is gone and may not come back.

“It’s really hard. I miss my mom, my family, my house, my customs, my favorite foods,” says Hernandez. But: “If Venezuela doesn’t change, we don’t want to go back.”

Tomas Paez, a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, tells CNN 2 million people have left the country since 1999, about the time Hugo Chavez became president. Paez says the number of people emigrating was 200,000 last year, double what it was the year before. The NY Times reported last November on people taking to overloaded boats to set off for neighboring countries where they can still find food:

They have mortgaged property, sold kitchen appliances and even borrowed money from the same smuggling rings that pack them on the floorboards alongside drugs and other contraband.

The journey to Curaçao takes them on a 60-mile crossing filled with backbreaking swells, gangs of armed boatmen and coast guard vessels looking to capture migrants and send them home.

Then, after being tossed overboard and left to swim ashore, they hide in the bush to meet contacts who spirit them anew into the tourist economy of this Caribbean island. They clean the floors of restaurants, sell trinkets on the street, or even solicit Dutch tourists for sex, forced by the smugglers to pay for their passage by working in a brothel, the authorities in Curaçao say.

Venezuela’s socialist government was becoming a dictatorship even before the country’s Supreme Court announced it would take over the role of the National Assembly last week. The ruling party’s attempt to create a bubble isolated from the law of supply and demand has only resulted in a collapsing state where poverty, hunger and the danger of being killed in the street are shared by all. The only surprise is that the exodus from this socialist paradise is happening as gradually as it is.