A growing number of Venezuelans leave their crisis-torn country in search of a better future, leaving a bittersweet taste as families are divided.
A shortage of medical supplies, rampant inflation, hours-long food lines and deep insecurity are part of daily life of Venezuelans under President Nicolas Maduro’s regime. A social and economic crisis that began under the rule of Hugo Chavez has reached new depths since the more popular Chavez died in 2013. Rather than wait for things to get worse, many people have chosen to leave.
Exact figures on the number of Venezuelans leaving their country are hard to come by. But statistics from a few neighbouring countries are telling. An UN report shows that Venezuelan asylum seekers has climbed by 8.8 percent in the US, Peru has introduced a special visa for Venezuelans already in the country and Argentineans statistics show an increase of Venezuelans in the country of over 1000 percent from 2012 to 2017. At least 655,400 Venezuelans have exited the country by 2016 according to the World Bank.
“To leave the country has become something common, my friends and my partner at the time discussed it regularly” said Luis Araque to The Scoop. Araque has been living in Brazil for two years now.
While the political crisis in Venezuela has reached a fever pitch in recent months, it is the material hardship that weighs most heavily in favor of emigration, according to some who have departed.
“If we had food, medicine, security and everything else I would have stayed in the country, regardless of the kind of government there is,” Jhonatan Ivimass told The Scoop.
Ivimass, a 22-year-old who is living and working in Ecuador, says he discovered new hardships once he left.
“It was hard, especially the detachment process from my family. In Venezuela we were always united” Ivimass said.
But he still remembers how bad things were, and exactly what prompted his departure.
“What marked me for life was to know that in three days my mum and sister had only eaten bread, and just in the mornings,” he said.
Currently, Ivimass works not only to support himself but also so he can send money back to his family in Venezuela. He plans to bring his mother to Ecuador, so she too can have a better life.
Despite the difficulty of parting with loved ones, Venezuelan families are encouraging their youth to leave the country if possible.
“My family was sad, but they encouraged me to do it,” said Luis Araque, regarding his departure from Venezuela.
Others who spoke to The Scoop had similar stories to tell.
“My parents would urge me to do something with my life, that I was wasting time in Venezuela,” said Sandra Guaita, a 23-year-old Venezuelan who moved to Argentina less than a month ago. She wants to study medicine or nutrition, but first must complete a year of high school so she can apply to the University of Buenos Aires.
Guaita had already been accepted by a Venezuelan university, but constant strikes there delayed the commencement of her studies until 2018. This was part of the reason why she decided to leave.
“I didn’t want to leave the country” she said, emphasizing that leaving her family behind was the hardest thing she had to go through.
“I miss them so much” said Guaita, who has two little brothers in Venezuela. She is especially hard hit, she says, “to think that I will not be with them every step of the way.”