Calculating Our Diaspora


Like many caraqueños, I’ve had to say goodbye to friends and relatives many times. Truth is I am the only one among my neighborhood, high school and college friends still living in Caracas. Even my sister is gone!

Although this exodus has been going on for a while, we don’t have accurate figures on how many Venezuelans have left the country over the past few years.

As it happens with many other statistics, the Venezuelan government hasn’t published the annual migration rate for years. This index does not estimate the amount of Venezuelans residing abroad, but could show if we are gaining population (or losing it) due to migration tendencies. Our main official statistics office, INE, hasn’t included emigration as an issue to be measured in its periodical surveys, so we don’t even have indirect estimations.

More than a third of our population is planning to leave the country. And that percentage increases among young Venezuelans.

This lack of official statistics, of course, hasn’t stopped public interest in a tendency perceived to be growing.

The information void results in different numbers of migrating Venezuelans, with sources wildly varying among themselves. According to BloombergBusinessweek, “The flood of people fleeing Venezuela’s crisis has become one of the world’s great mass migrations, surpassing the flow of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.”

The International Organization for Migration’s Informe Migratorio Sudamericano 2017, which uses government statistics, reports 606,344 expatriates. Then again, this is the same report that places Venezuela as a country of net immigration as of 2015, which to say the least, sounds a little strange. Universidad Simón Bolívar professor Iván de la Vega estimates a figure of 2.5 million people.

A very direct estimation, however, can be made through the 16-J plebiscite and its overseas turnout. 724,067 Venezuelans voted that day from outside the nation, roughly 3,66% of CNE’s voters registry. If we assume the same proportion for the whole population, Venezuelan emigration could be around 1,149,579 émigrés.

We don’t have a precise figure on the amount of Venezuelans that moved abroad during the Bolivarian Revolution, but we know it’s huge, and increasing. Just consider how many Venezuelans are still living here, but thinking about leaving:

Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP):

More than a third of our population is planning to leave the country. And that percentage increases – a lot – among young Venezuelans.  This is an overwhelming reality we must face and study, because migration could be a loss, yes, but it could also be an opportunity.

Only time will tell if we’ll know how to sail those waters as a nation and what effect will the true legado del Comandante have on our culture.

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Is a PhD sociologist and researcher at Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales and Sociology Professor at Escuela de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. Blogger and collaborator of SIC Semanal and


  1. Lissette, I guess I don’t understand the graph Inmigracion/Emigracion. It shows that while 1.4 million people inmigrated into Venezuela, 600K emigrated. That gives a net gain of 800,000 people. If I’m reading this correct, why would so many people waant to move to Venezuela. The rest of the countries, except Argentina, show net losses in their population. Where are all these people moving to?

  2. Charlie, that specific graph is based on statistics that the government gives the UN, and I think stands as example of the shameless, outrageous flubbing of the truth that this government is famous for.

    • Thanks Emi. Now though, is it then true that people from other South American countries are emmigrating in huge numbers? Colombia 2.5M, Brazil 800K, Ecuador 700K, Bolivia 650K, Chile 150K, Paraguay 700K, Uruguay 250K That’s around 7.75M, with Aregentina having an inmigration of 1.1M. These numbers just don’t make a lot of sense to me, u less all these countries are also fudging their numbers.

      • I think the numbers are correct. They show foreign-born people living in a country and people of a country living abroad. So it counts all foreign born people living in Venezuela even if they came many years ago, and let’s remember that many, many people came to Venezuela from european countries and latinamerican ones. For example a twenty- year old italian that inmigrated to Venezuela in 1957, now would be a 90 year old, if still living here, he is counted.

  3. My wife left Venezuela permanently to join me (marriage) in 1988.

    A few uncles in 2003 (after the oil strike)
    A few more uncles in 2008 (after Chavez nationalized/confiscated their concrete/cement business)
    A flood of aunts, nephews and nieces since 2012

    All told, 30 former Venezuelans from my wifes family have left for either Spain, the US or elsewhere.

    The few who remain are Chavistas who insist that Venezuela is better because the Capitalists were a drag on the nation.

    • Let me add: The remaining Chavistas from my wifes family are “true believers” that drank the Chavez Kool-Aid. They LITERALLY believe that people are born oppressors and oppressed. That some omnipotent Capitalist entity chooses which families will be given every opportunity to succeed, and the rest will be actively prevented from escaping whatever poverty or misfortune they are thrown into.

      Example: My wife is a physician. They believe that since her uncles (owners of above concrete business, who helped pay for her education abroad) were born into money… that while they came from nothing, they were “chosen” to succeed. They also believe that my wife is no more intelligent than them, but that she was chosen to be successful in academics. All of this resulted in a conspiracy that allowed my wife to get an education outside of VZ that perpetuates the next generation of conspirators against The People.

      Jobs? They think that entrepreneurs and business owners can create jobs at their whim, and the only reason they don’t hire everyone is because it would cut the amount of profit they get to keep for themselves. And wealth? All that Capitalists have to do is go down to the bank and get money. They literally think that wealth just materializes. They truly believe that once they get into the Capitalist Oppressors Club, that we sit back in fine leather chairs, in our wood paneled offices atop high-rises, and drink cognac and gnaw on chocolates.

      I’m not kidding. That is what they think. And I weep for Venezuela, because so many poor people have drank that same Kool-Aid.

      • And with each passing day, as demonstrated by this article, the percentage of such numbnuts in our population grows. Of course, the loss of productive individuals and increase in such idiots is just fine with this regime.

      • “They LITERALLY believe that people are born oppressors and oppressed. That some omnipotent Capitalist entity chooses which families will be given every opportunity to succeed, and the rest will be actively prevented from escaping whatever poverty or misfortune they are thrown into.”

        And thus the more people leave, the more of these dimwits will be left to be manipulated by the regime-a la Cuba.

        And unfortunately, this is more & more common everywhere, not just in Venezuela & other LatAm countries, also in Europe and increasingly the US as well.

  4. ” 724,067 Venezuelans voted that day from outside the nation”. And I am sure a good chunk of those were on vacation. In my inmediate family many were, including my wife and I. If the vote had been held in February, maybe numbers would be meaningful regarding emigration, but as is…

    • That’s part of the problem, we have no reliable way to tell and there’s no official source on the matter. The government would never recognize this as a real consequence of their administration.

    • calculate the people that voted abroad should be easy: just count the number of flights out. there are 1000 seats/day of international flights. lets assume ALL of them voted abroad. How many would it be? 30,000? 60,000? how many are children under 18? Even 60,000 is not very high, roughly 10% inflated the vote abroad due to vacation?

    • And yet there was a BIG chunk that didn’t get to vote. I live in Santiago de Chile since last year and at least 35.000 voted, it was calculated that at least 15.000 other didn’t get to vote (me, my wife, 2 cousins, an aunt and at least 5 venezuelan coworkers) that were left in a very long line that stretched out a couple of kilometers until local police disbanded the line at 22:00.

    • Yes, but there is also the other way around, people that is living abroad but was visiting Venezuela for vacation or another reason and voted here instead of the country they are currently residing in. I know a case of a person that lives in Costa Rica but was here during that time so voted here. Anyway I don’t think there were so many people abroad for vacation at that time, how many people can do that nowadays in Venezuela? And I am pretty sure that Venezuelans living abroad that didn’t vote, because they were underage, they couldn’t do it or just didn’t care, maybe were afraid of doing it, didn’t live near a voting point, or that simply are chavistas ( I know a few of those BTW) is much higher than Venezuelans vacationing abroad and voting in that plebiscite. So, those 724067 people is the very minimum.

  5. I will always remember the day I went to vote for the presidential election at el Consulado Venezolano en Londres. That day around 1600 voted. We were so many voters that a pub in front of el Consulado was taken by thirsty Venezuelans demanding pints of beer, someone appeared with an iPhone with the most incredible playlist, the landlord was happy of us been in charge of the music, suddenly it as a rumba, it was like a licoreria in any corner in Venezuela, we felt Invincibles.

    I also voted in the latest voting experiment of Borges and Allup, 16J, this time was different, this time was huge, thousands, un conazo e’ gente, en la cola puro chamo, young couples came with their chamos, mitad ingleses mitad paisanos, wearing clothing with the Venezuelan flag. I also saw whole families, Venezuelans with dual citizenship that left behind everything, chamos that have been living in the UK for years and are bringing their old parents. This time we were 4000 I believe.

    After more than a decade living en el Imperio de los Imperios I have seen the Venezuelan diaspora in London going from a few caraquenos sifrinos a miles de chamos from all social classes and regions.

    And more are coming…


  6. The US estimate seems accurate. According to the Pew Center there were 230,000 Venezuelans (foreign born) living in the US in 2015.

  7. I left just after High School in 1995. Went back in 1999. Left again in 2005. Went back in 2012. Left for good in 2014 and will only go back to visit. In about a year I’ll be able to throw my expired and impossible-to-renew Venezuelan passport down the toilet.

    Venezuela has been cursed with 2 generations of sons-of-bitches who have risen to become political “leaders”. Coincidentally, wink-wink, they all are/were leftists. I strongly suggest people who can leave, do it asap. You can’t enjoy a fixed country while resting six feet under.

    • My expired for years Venezuelan passport sits in a drawer, but I will never throw it down the toilet. Regardless of what’s happening there, it will always be where I was born and raised. I miss it now more than ten years ago.

  8. Regla de tres: 700 mil que sufragaron el 16 de julio son emigrantes y sufragaron 7 millones de un país de 30 millones entonces deben haber 3 millones de emigrantes.

    P. S. el gobierno es el principal promotor de la emigración. Venezuela es un país de inmensos recursos naturales que se lo quedan para ellos.

  9. You actually wrote that migration could be “an opportunity”? But you never explained yourself. For whom or what will mass migration favor? You wrote an interesting story and I hope you follow up with more stories on immigration. Howver, you are dead wrong if you think migration is “an opportunity”. All common sense tells me that it is the better educated and better trained people that are leaving. You mentioned high numbers of young people want to leave. You are losing your human economic capital when you lose these people. I welcome your explanation as to how the loss of so much human talent is an “opportunity”. The only winner I can see is for those who wish to create another class-less, socialis country where everyone is equal, equally poor, except for the socialist leadership who enrich themselves like despots. Please explain your use of the word “opportunity”.

    • Totally agree. I could not believe I saw that! How can the migration of the best and brightest and most motivated be an opportunity? Venezuela will never be the same after this God forsaken nightmare passes. Of those that have left, most will never return.

    • Well this is the other side of the argument on the brain drain debate which is referred to as the “brain gain” effect of migration.

      • The logic here is that by seeing that educated people are able to earn more abroad, locals invest more in education. Since not all of them are able to migrate, the country ends with more human capital. The fact that in the US there are a lot of Filipino nurses an that in the Philippines there is a large number of nurses is usually used as a fact supporting this argument.

  10. Checking home prices in Maturin was a shock to me. I’m selling mine because I rarely go there and don’t want to find it some day occupied by chavista squatters with two banana trees planted out back. Since construction here has ground to a halt, I figured home prices would be booming. Not so. At least in Maturin they seem greatly depressed. Loss of population? Dunno.

    Now cars, that’s a different story.

  11. The people that were able to leave Venezuela are the people that Venezuela will need the most when it comes time to rebuild.
    Doctors, engineers and other professionals that had the wherewithal to leave and the ability to earn a living in another country, will become harder and harder to lure back the longer the regime stays in power. Making the damage done by the narco-criminals more challenging to overcome.
    Without professors colleges don’t function. Without educated members of the population everything else takes longer to do, costs more money and impedes the overall economy.
    New relationships, children meeting and marrying in the new country, grandchildren, employment opportunities are all reasons to stay somewhere else.
    When South Sudan tried to lure professionals back into the country, the results were mixed at best. The majority of people that returned were the refugees in neighboring countries that required social services rather than the people that could contribute to South Sudan’s rebuilding.
    Many of the refugees left Sudan as children. They have grown up in the US, Canada and the UK. These people have established themselves as college educated professionals in many fields. The South Sudanese government has tried to inspire a spirit of nationalism in these former refugees to coax them into returning.
    Although I am sure they have a love of their country of birth, they now have jobs that allow them a much higher standard of living and are loathe to subject their families to the conditions in South Sudan.
    Venezuela is going to have the same challenges. Although the country does not have the primitive conditions of South Sudan, there will still be many obstacles to overcome to lure refugees back home.

    • John

      As I have mentioned in a different thread, my wife has fond memories of growing up in Venezuela, but no longer considers herself Venezuelan. Her grandparents grew up in Spain, and once they left for VZ, they no longer felt a connection to Spain. My kids certainly have no desire to even visit Venezuela again, unless its a day trip from Aruba.

      My in-laws have no desire to go back. They have created a pretty good life here. They don’t much care for the cold weather, but they can afford coats and boots and a warm house with attached garage, and new cars with remote starters. So they ain’t bitching. The nieces miss their friends and the fun that VZ offers young girls. They think Minnesota boys are boring and “too nice”, but they do enjoy leading these same nice boys around by the nose. The nephews love it here. They are all soccer and baseball players and the local girls swoon when they hear their accents.

      I don’t foresee any of these people ever returning. They saw the Socialist writing on the wall, the same way their ancestors saw the Fascist writing on the wall. They are assimilating and despite the cultural problems the United States has, they love the opportunities afforded them. And if the United States needs anything right now, its hard working, educated and appreciative additions to the workforce. I know that were I live, we need employees (2.4% unemployment)

    • John, will have my desktop up and running tomorrow and will respond to your email. Can’t access yahoo for some reason with this phone.

      • Thanks MRubio
        Other people I’m in contact with are using Skype. Venezuelan internet sucks speed wise for video conferencing but it works well for messages.

  12. It is very unfortunate that we do not have better estimates of the size of the diaspora by country. I just returned from a visit to Norway. There, the association of Venezuelans has registered more than 500 families (more than 2000 people, not the 416 as in the graphic) Numerous Venezuelans who have received the Norwegian citizenship and in doing so, according to Norwegian laws, they have had to renounce their previous nationality. Therefore, they do not register in the association, although they usually participate in many of its activities. They are part of the diaspora and their number must be added too.

    In other countries it must be taken into account that Venezuelan children and grandchildren of European immigrants have now returned to the countries of origin of their parents and grandparents. When entering those countries they do not do it as Venezuelans, but as citizens of those countries, as required by law.

    In summary, the real figures are much higher than what this graph shows

  13. There are like 200 Venezuelan in South Korea. The popular consultation that was made last July against the Constituent National Assembly showed 32 Venezuelans. However, I know some people that coudn’t go because they were far away from Seoul or because they simply didn’t care. There are probably more Venezuelans who have emigrated than what these numbers say.

    • So, please explain why you think migration from Venezuela is, as you wrote “an opportunity”. Your paragraph containing that language reads as folliws:

      More than a third of our population is planning to leave the country. And that percentage increases – a lot – among young Venezuelans.  This is an overwhelming reality we must face and study, because migration could be a loss, yes, but it could also be an opportunity.

  14. You should amend the chart. Bonaire is a Dutch colony but not in Europe. I do hope the numbers are calculated with slightly more rigour. Oooops

    And if the intention was to put it in Europe because of its link with The Netherlands, then Aruba and Curacao shouldn’t be in Americas. Just a comment.

  15. I wonder if you consider the people who apply as a refugee or asylum seekers, taking in to account that they are not migrants. In all case, i realize the difficult of getting suitable data, as the researcher let us know..


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