Views from Venezuela – Living as foreigners, missing home

Jose Luis Ramirez, 28, lives in San Felipe, Yaracuy, Venezuela. Every week he tells about his life in Venezuela, in this exclusive Chile Today column. Today no. 7, about migration.

The staggering crisis has made thousands of Venezuelans leave their country. So many have left that our country seems to get emptier as the emigration rate continues to hike. Because of Venezuela’s crisis, Latin America has a migration crisis, as countries like Colombia, Chile, Peru and others register thousands of Venezuelan immigrants. The truth is that most Venezuelans would prefer to remain – if the conditions were as they used to be.

Before the last presidential election, I remember many people saying “if Maduro wins the elections, I will leave this country too.” Well, he actually won the elections in May, so the phrase that had become a cliché, turned into reality. Many decided to look for a future abroad, leaving everything they had behind, family, friends, and belongings. For those who remain, it is very hard to get used to the idea that we are running out of friends, and even family. Besides, it is difficult to realize that most of them are spread around the world, desiring to come back.

In Colombia, around 320,000 Venezuelans live with a visa, but another 500,000 are there illegally. According to Colombia’s government, about 230,000 arrivals aimed to continue their journey to another country. Between 2015 and 2017, about 50,000 Venezuelans migrated to Brazil. And according to the International Immigration Organization (OIM, Spanish acronym), the Venezuelan emigration rate went from 89,000 to 900,000 during the same period. That’s an increase of 900%!

The International Monetary Fund predicted an inflation rate of 1,000,000% by the end of the year

The government continues to claim that those people, most of them young, would be better off here than in any other country. But they are precisely running from the crisis that is going on here. The hyperinflation is so massive that the International Monetary Fund predicted an inflation rate of 1,000,000% by the end of the year. It also remarked that the hyperinflation, together with scarcity of food and medicine, and the collapse of economic activity have fueled the high emigration rate.

How can people be better off here if it’s almost impossible to have a good lifestyle? An inflation rate of that proportion prevents people from accessing the most basic supplies. That is why many people have taken the decision to live as a foreigner abroad. Many of them wonder what is the point of having a professional degree or a comfortable job here, if what you earn isn’t enough to live well? In that case they prefer to work in another country, so that they can live properly and send money to help their family.

“I prefer panhandling here than working as an engineer in Venezuela. Here, I can buy whatever I need and also send money to my family. So I will return to Venezuela when the government is voted out,” said a friend of mine who lives in Peru.

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