Photo: T. René Rodríguez

I was walking the other day in Lima’s posh Miraflores neighborhood to the Parque del Amor, to get a glimpse of the Pacific, when we came across Manuel José. He wore an “SOS Venezuela” baseball cap, looking like a guerrero of 2017. Standing behind a wall as to not attract attention from municipal security guards, he was hawking simple candies for a sol. Even for street hawkers, this is the lowest rung.

Ileana, my wife, looked at his small box, pulled three candies and handed a ten soles bill. While he made change, I told Manuel to keep it. We shook hands as arm wrestlers. We teared up. He was a defeated warrior.

Manuel José is just a grain of sand; over 100,000 Venezuelans, are reaching Lima, with more arriving every day. And if you have an eye out, you’re bound to meet them.

Consider, for example, a tocayo, René, an older man we met on Avenida Brasil. René arrived with three generations of his family. He had worked in SIDOR for three years in the 80s, and had fond memories of Venezuela.

Sad for all the countrymen he couldn’t help, he was at least satisfied with what he achieved with Alberto, a young man from Caracas. For a month, Alberto worked as a painter in his house, clumsy and sort of lame at first, but quick to learn and meticulous.

Venezuela is not a distant country for many nationals. Sometimes, it seems like everyone in Lima knows someone who made the trip.

Turns out, Alberto is a mechanical engineer. After some fine references from René, he’s now wearing a uniform and driving a service truck, repairing A/Cs.

Same thing happened to Pati, one of my cousin’s best friends. Head of a popular cafeteria, she hired Emilia as part of the kitchen staff. From the start, Emilia was different; always one step ahead, taking control of crises, helping in the planning. Soon enough, she became Pati’s right hand, instrumental in the business’ growth.

Emilia is not yet 25, but she holds a degree in civil engineering.

Many Peruvians went to Venezuela in the 70s and 80s to escape economic hardships, and many have since returned, so Venezuela is not a distant country for many nationals. Sometimes, it seems like everyone in Lima knows someone who made the trip.

Just the other day (different from the one I already mentioned), I was walking after a majestic sunset with my wife and my 5-year-old under El Puente de los Suspiros, made famous by Chabuca Granda’s song. As we climbed the stairs, a young woman offered us marquesas. Her voice was a dead giveaway.

“Venezuelan” I pointed at her, “you’re gocha.”

She gave me a sweet smile.

Soy de San Cristobal!” she said.

We took some marquesas, walking away later with heavy hearts, maybe guilty for not helping in a bigger, more permanent fashion. Wondering what’s her past, what degree she hides under her arm, what dreams she had the day her feet touched Venezuelan soil for the last time. It’s what you feel when you hand three coins to a street dancer and the answer is an unmistakably Venezuelan “Dios te bendiga, mi amor.” It’s the knot in your throat when you see another youthful group with a styrofoam cooler and an “Arepas Venezolanas” sign.

How many more Venezuelans can Peru absorb? We’re aware of the young talent arriving (and the pain they carry), but where and how will these stories end? These are hard times and the compatriotas need a safe haven, they need the quality of life that Maduro’s government should have provided, but refused to do so. This is the true legacy of the Comandante: the Venezuelan immigrant, sailing to hopes of a brighter future on a river of their (and our) tears.

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37 COMMENTS

  1. I was in Lima all last week, and met several Venezuelans. One of them was Jacob, a 20-something from Táchira, who was waiting on our table. He mentioned that he was from Venezuela, I offered a few words of support, and he delivered a lengthy and somewhat erudite summary of Venezuelan history reaching back to the 30’s and 40’s. Turns out he has (like me) a poli sci degree and speaks fluent English.

    I recommended CC to him, perhaps he might show up here…

  2. This is what few people talk about or even dare think about. What this post, and many others, do not cover.

    The Deep, Devastating, Long Term, Irreversible effect of Mass Brain Drain.

    Se dice rapido: 4 Million Venezuelans GONE. And counting, with thousands more every week. And people like the author of this little set of anecdotes or Peruvian nostalgia vignettes don’t even dare to go into the the SO WHAT? I’ll tell you about the so what:

    1/ For the Genocidal Tyranny it’s an integral part of the Castro-Chavista Master Plan. Force as many people out as possible by destroying the economy and creating insufferable conditions, where you either become complicit, corrupt, a dependent leech, a thief or miserably poor and even hungry, or you get the hell out. Fantastic win-win for the Narco-Kleptocracy, you eradicate most of your dangerous opponents and critics without having to fire a shot, and you get billions of US$ and Euros in exchange, as a collective Thank You note, in delicious Remesas back into Kleptozuela, Cuban style. Perfect plan, working perfectly today. Bonus: You have 5 Million people less to feed and more oil cash to steal. Depinga chamo!!

    2/ For the country, it DEVASTATING. They are losing the brightest, the best, the few educated, hard-working, entrepreneurial people they had. What’s left behind, face it, is mostly the worst: the uneducated, the corrupt, the enchufados, the leeches, the clueless, the lazy, the Chavistoide zombies.

    And you are talking close to a Quarter of the Freaking adult population GONE. And gone for good. Stop dreaming and kidding yourselves that some of these people are eventually coming back to Kleptozuela, which will remain a mess, regardless, for decades now. Ask yourselves, since 95% of the readers here are also GONE, will you return? Of course not, most won’t. You build a life overseas, and do well. You get used to things that work, places where they don’t rob you blind, you have kids in school..

    A quarter of the entire population, the best part, gone for good. How long does it take to replace that? If ever? Generations, not just 30 years, more. The quality of the people, their level of education, professional skills, moral strength and values, that’s what makes a country good or bad. Not the government de turno. Not the next MUDcrap soon to come. And what Klepto-Cubazuela will have to work with for DECADES to come is the worst of what it once had. Highly corruptible, tragically under-educated, Chavistoide, populist zombies.

    It’s impossible to understate how deep and long-lasting the vicious effect of this humongous Exodus of the best Venezuelans will be. Yet no one talks about it. Don’t be surprised, then, when you have to explain to your chldren, well educated gringuitos or europeos themselves, whatever happened to that colorful place “Venezuela” which decades from now remains in comparison a 3rd world “shithole” of sorts. If you want to tell them the real reason, it’s not just “Chavismo happened..”nos jodio el Chavismo”, sure, but it’s Todo el mundo que pudo se fue pal’ coño y nadie medio educado y trabajador regreso. Massive Brain Drain: The devastating effects will be there for a loooooooong time to come, MUDcrap after MUDcrap gigs to come.

    For all intents and purposes, Venezuela is dead. After this enormous social phenomenon, Massive Exodus of the best people, “Eso se jodio”. For good. And it won’t come back. They should permanently change its name to Klepto-Cubazuela, or something else, because Venezuela, as we knew and loved it, ceased to exist long ago. We might climb the Avila or go to Choroni on vacation one day, but in some other country.

    • The hard cash remesas don’t make t to Venezuela. The $’s Euros, etc. are transferred from one foreign account to another foreign account. The Bolivars are then transferred within the country.

      Most everything else you said,I sadly agree with.

      • “he $’s Euros, etc. are transferred from one foreign account to another foreign account. The Bolivars are then transferred within the country.”

        That is how my Venezuelan associate (emigrated to the US) describes the process of getting money to her elderly mother/father stuck in VE (her VE-born mother will be leaving for good at age 70!)

        She said this last time around it took her two weeks to locate someone that had enough bs to make the transfer. She tries breaking it up into small amounts, but bottom line is that fewer and fewer people in VE have bs to do these swaps, which makes sense since it is zero-sum within VE. No USD enter; just moving of bs from one person to another.

        • AG, if her parents live in a larger city, the Christian arab community is always a good place to start.

          Try to find one who still has a clothing or shoe or furniture store open. They all have accounts in Miami and they all buy dollars, or at least they once did. Never had a bad experience with a single one of them.

          • Thanks, MG, I will mention this. I’m not sure how she goes about finding the money traders – I thought was on some sort of What’s-App Craigslist sort of “marketplace”. She transfers USD to their US bank account, and they transfer bs to her moms VE account. She’s on that What’s App a lot for whatever Venezuela related. It’s a sad/difficult situation.

            I’m sure this frustrates the Chavistas that they are by-passed, and want to get their mitts on some of that money through a fraudulently low exchange rate, but I get the idea that the last thing ex-Pat VE folks would take part in is funding Chavistas.

            I suppose Maduro could start a Go Fund Me page?

          • It doesn’t get bypassed, if the Chavists can help it.

            We used to send in CARE packages, until it became very clear that these packages were never clearing customs. SOMEHOW (magic?) they would make it on the plane for the journey into VZ, and between then and the ass end of customs…. “POOF!”… disappeared into thin air. David Copperfield could take a lesson from those guys.

            Of course, the customs people were stealing it, though they always claimed that DHL or FedEx employees were to blame. Food, drugs, condoms (used for barter)… everything. What was offloaded in VZ never made it to the second scan.

            Then we had some luck sending $ hidden in industry journals and textbooks. Apparently, Chavistas don’t read or aren’t interested in education. This worked until the delivery companies stopped delivering to Venezuela.

            We then sent $$$ with couriers who flew in and out once a month… until the airlines quit flying into Maiquetia. Then via Panama to Colombia to smaller airports. We even tried Aruba and onto boats. It all became prohibitive expensive, and dangerous. Once the boat got met by pirates from Punto Fijo. It cost more to get the package there than what was in the package.

            Dollars are being accepted by many merchants. Also by bachaqueros. Especially small bills. Dollar bills are precious. We have never tried the wiring angle. We always lost too much value in the transfer.

          • Electronic transfer is obviously the way to go IF you are satisfied with the exchange rate and you deal with someone honest enough to complete the transfer in bs after they receive the USD. And, of course, if the recipient of your largess has the ability to do something with the bs before they are worthless.

            The problem remains that her mom then has to turn the electronic bs into something that holds value immediately (dry goods and tins of tuna I am told), and that’s hard to do, especially without cash, for all the reasons stated on this blog.

            I am told that the only paperwork you need to leave the country, at least into Colombia, is USD papers with dead presidents on them. How you can the USD to the folks trying to leave? – IDK

    • Yeah but the inmense and posibly gamechanging belssing of having the LARGEST RESERVES OF OIL in the world.

      I know it doesn’t look that way but yes Communism destroys everthing as seen in Bulgaria and Hungary, ex soviet countries that are poorer tha Venezuela when Venezuela was in it’s silver age in the 70’s.

      Oil changes everything in a sense it’s cheating. Any group with some infimal measure of competence can quckly reestablish basic services and re build at a much faster pace than Bulgaria these last 20 years.

      Not that you’re wrong but Lat am is such a mess in general that there are thousands of easy pickings through a merit based immigration. A bit sad that Venezuela will have to brain drain fellow lat am countries but as you have pointed out there is no other way to recover mircaleously

    • My wife left for good in 1988 when she said “I do” and became Mrs. Guapo. Looking back, neither of us would have guessed that she would have only been the first of ALL of her family to leave Venezuela… not just the educated ones.

      Next came the uncles, whose concrete/cement business was confiscated by Chavez in 2003. These two guys, along with her father (a butcher) are the people who sent my wife off to college in the United States from what they could scrape together. These two guys created jobs and helped build Venezuela. They weren’t born into wealth… they created it by being industrious and seeking a better life for their extended family.

      So, the Uncles came to live with us when Chavez threatened them once the business failed shortly after being confiscated (nationalized was the euphemism). And what did these guys do? They created jobs in the United States, and brought their families from Venezuela. When they finally sold it about 8 years ago, it employed over 100 full time employees with solid middle class and working class wages.

      To make a very long story short, these uncles may not have had the brains, but they had the entrepreneurial spirit that is needed in EVERY country. What is happening is that not only the educated are leaving Venezuela, but the industrious and the self starters. Leaving behind the “followers” and the unmotivated. Granted, not everyone who stays behind is a dullard, but even those who are not afraid of hard work (which SHOULD be the norm) aren’t cut out to be leadership material.

      Venezuela’s in for some seriously deep shit, even once Chavsimo fails. Very few entrepreneurs are left, and the ones who will be rebuilding it after this shitstorm won’t have Venezuelas best interests at heart.

  3. Sad to report that Stepdaughter No. 2 is seriously considering quitting the country and via friends in assorted other countries, is weighing carefully where she might start a new life. Her mother is heartbroken but would never say a single word to dissuade her from choosing her direction in life. She understands completely that her daughter has dreams that she now believes she may not be able to achieve here. Her mother has no favorites amongst her children, but there’s no doubt she closest to his one, her youngest. All of her children are successful and independent adults, a rarity not only here but in most countries I’d say..

    My woman amazes me. She raised 5 children to young adulthood but lost 2 in the process. Her first husband died of a heart attack when one of her children was an infant, another still in diapers. She eventually remarried and was very happy until he began drinking and abusing her and the children. She didn’t put up with it, and despite the difficulties any woman faces going it alone while raising children, she made her own way, putting her kids through college, one through Venezuela’s version of West Point.

    Mr. Crispin is right, emigration numbers are abstractions, but with each one there’s a story usually involving heartbroken mothers, fathers, siblings. Yet another of the wonderful outcomes brought to us by the socialist paradise created by chavismo. May each and every one of them rot in hell.

    • God bless the mothers who have that sort of strength.

      We are going through a similar anguish, but only as empty nesters. The last of ours has gone to college, and the oldest ones are not interested in coming back to live nearby. While that is heartbreaking for me, my wife is an emotional mess, I can’t even imagine her heartbreak should our kids deciding to leave the country entirely out of disgust.

      Though I would understand, it still doesn’t assuage the fear and sorrow. Somehow, I’d think that I’d failed to give them everything that they needed, when in fact, I’d given them exactly what they needed… the knowledge and wherewithal to survive and thrive. Bravo to your woman for raising a survivor.

      Hopefully, your woman can look forward to a better future for her daughter. I discovered long ago that the anxiety of looking forward is far far more tolerable than the depression of looking back.

      But, I am great at giving advice… not so good at taking my own.

      As far as the Chavistas go… I assume that they think this emigration is the price a Great Nation has to pay to become a Utopia. You’ll never get them to admit that their scheme is anything less than perfection. And as far as rotting in Hell? I hope they get the express ticket, and get the same consideration that Oscar Pérez got.

      • Jews in Nazi Germany and occupied countries did everything to save their kids, including just “kissing them goodbye,” to give them a future.

        So VZ has really gotten to this same stage.

  4. Often a bridge exists between the new venezuelan inmigrants to colombia , ecuador , peru , spain and people in those countries because so many of them being the children of inmigrants have relatives in those countries (not just friends) or grew up with the sons of inmigrants from those countries that when they arrive they can connect to people they know or have some link to . Not quite the same when people inmigrate to the US or Canada or Brasil , because these are country where people never inmigrated to Venezuela or had few venezuelan inmigrants to begin with ……!! The drain is become visible as you find that almost all friends and acquiantances have children abroad or that people you formerly had professional or occupational ties to have left or are leaving the country……….!!

    In my family entourage at least half ot its members have left the country or about to , including most of the newer generations ……its a hard experience for those they leave behind , specially in Venezuelan families were family ties are emotionally very tight and strong .

  5. About brain drain, a few points:

    — To travel abroad has never be easier and cheaper, it’s not like we are in the 1950’s when people emigrated not knowing if they would ever be able to see their families again, our mobility nowadays is unparalleled, it’s easy to leave and it’s easy to return;

    — The brain drain can be reversed quite easily by opening the market to multinationals and letting them bring skilled expats, a freed Venezuela would witness a very large influx of skilled foreigners and nationals again, a pattern already seen in Macri’s recovering Argentina;

    — Many South Americans improve when living abroad, they return giving more importance to rule of law and far less naive about the politicians’ ability to provide everything for free to people, many also return richer, educated and more entrepeunerial than when they left, knowing that things can be done better because they’d seen it first-hand in the developed world, the former learned helplessness being replaced by optimism (they had seen victory abroad);

    — I don’t believe that Venezuela will end like Cuba, forgotten and destroyed for another 60 years, the deadline for Venezuela (worst-case scenario) is around 2020, when the world finally reacts;

    — If the Czech Republic was already a developed nation by the early 2000’s after half century of communism, Venezuela can do it even easier. Actually, it could have done it already if not for MUD’s continuous sabotage and election talk, but that’s another story.

    • Marc, I don’t think traveling back and forth between Venezuela and other countries is cheap. One can fly between Bogota and Miami for $300-500. Caracas-Miami (which is slightly shorter distance) costs around $700. That difference for sommeone erning bolivars is tons of money. Even for those outside earning hard currencies, the difference is significant.

      Returing to Venezuela will depend on how long you’ve been outside, if you married a local in your host countries, if your children were small when you left and they’ve spent more than half theirs lives there, if your children now have families of their own overseas, etc.

      • Charlie, don’t you think that the Venezuelan ticket prices will be closer to what we see in Colombia by the time that Venezuela gets a sane Government?

        That’s what I was referring to. And yes, nowadays it’s prohibitive.

        Regarding your second observation, Venezuela has good weather and nature, beautiful Caribbean sea.

        Europeans, Americans and Latin Americans used to emigrate there in huge numbers. if a sane government fosters a good environment for business and enforces public safety, it won’t be that hard to attract people again, and the country is also located in the heart of the Americas, not so distant from North America/Europe. If those remote Canadian cities with Arctic climate can attract people, hell, I don’t think that it can be that hard for Venezuela doing the same.

        And even if those Venezuelans don’t permanently return due to the reasons you describe, those people will like to go there every now and then, they can buy some property, spend vacations, send money to their relatives, spend money having a good time, etc. It’s excellent for the country, and Mexico is a country benefited by this sort of thing, the Mexicans help more Mexico by living in the US than if they returned. That’s why I don’t see brain drain in 2018 as the tragedy Poeta Criollo mentions above.

        Obviously working here with a scenario in which Venezuela has a good government in power that understands economy and how to control crime; otherwise no one would dare even thinking about going there again.

        • I guess I can only speculate about the future. I moved to the US to go to school and when people asked me about Venezuela all I could say was that it was a country with a lot of potential. Moved again to the US in 1998 and when people asked me about Venezuela all I could say was that it was a country with a lot of potential. Now I’m back because of family reasons, but I’m not hanging around too long, I hope

          I don’t think it is about the weather, the beaches, etc. I think it’s all about the people, specially if you’re talking about tourism. That’s what makes a country rich or poor. Most people from el pueblo, don’t treat tourists very well. Most people that visited Venezuela in the past and enjoyed their trip is because they new people here.

        • Americans and Europeans emigrated there because it was dirt cheap.

          Everything else about the country, especially tourism aspects like beaches, could be found everywhere else.

          In fact, anyone flying into Caracas expecting to find nice beaches is nuts. They suck.

          Maybe Margarita, but the mainland?

          Every Caribbean island has beaches which put those to shame. Our beaches in Florida even kick those beaches’ ass. And I had a condo in Macuto.

          • Macuto? Ira, ever eat at that little restaurant at the Hidalgo Inn? One of my favorite places to eat while entering or leaving the country. Closer to the airport as well instead of making the trip to Caracas.

          • First, I shouldn’t have said emigrated. I meant visited.

            M, never heard of that restaurant. My condo was right next to the hotel Las Quince Letras, on the ocean, a few short blocks to the actual Macuto beach area. Otherwise, the coastline was rocky where I fished, so not for beaching.

            There was a fabulous restaurant directly across from the hotel, open walled, etc. Very historic, native.

            It was around the corner from a tiny museum dedicated to Armando Reveron, an artist I knew nothing and still know nothing about.

            We used to spend a lot of time at the Macuto Sheraton, because they made parchito daiquiris that were too die for.

    • Chec Republic was more of an exception somebody had to be the slightly less idiotic sibling of the comunist bloc. For every Chec there is a Bulgaria, Hungary, Coratia, Serbia,Romania, Belarus,Azerbayan, Khazakistan, Uzbequsitan, Ucraine and Russia. So it’s more luck than anything else.

      Although Venezuela does have a cheat code so it’s not as dark as some people believe although it could be.

  6. These are stories that remind me how we (me in particular) shouldn’t be so quick to say fuck ‘em, they’re getting what they deserve.

    With this nightmare going on 19 years…and you look at the ages of some of these folks…they were just young kids. Hell, many were just teenagers, and now approaching middle age.

    And they’re paying for the sins of their patents.

    • I don’t know… some of my wife’s relatives (the teens/young 20’s from the Marxist branch of the family) are pretty quick to excuse the misery of Chavismo as something brought upon Venezuela externally… as if the United States had a cunning and subtle master plan to ruin Venezuela (but not Bolivia, etc.) Their parents certainly are to blame, but in all honesty, many Venezuelans have bought into the idea that the only thing wrong with Chavismo is that dishonest people are running an honest plan… if an honest Chavist were to take the reins (and the US would leave them alone), it would be Utopia.

      Its illogical, of course. Chavismo believes that you can gain something from nothing. It is the Santa Clause fallacy. Be a good boy. Vote for the right people. Santa gives you goodies and you repeat the cycle. As I have said numerous times, it isn’t just in Venezuela. Half the United States voters believe the same thing.

      Half of the worlds population WANT to be led. They don’t want to think. They like it that way.

      • But they’re kids and all they’ve been taught a certain way.

        To this day, I still think my ex-pat nieces and their husbands…in temporary asylum status in Miami…aren’t telling me the truth about their Chavismo support.

        Except they’re only in their mid-30s.

        So how the hell can I question anyone they voted for a few years after Stupigo was elected?

        What 18-year-old knows shit about shit?

  7. Many here don’t seem to think that after Maduro falls, Chavismo will disappear along with corruption, all international debt will be forgiven, heavy oil will be expensive and in high demand, plus Venezuela will magically have a diversified economy. That the next Muddy governments will make everyone want to come back to Kleptozuela.

    Back on planet earth, that ain’t happening. The damage to Venezuela was so deep, it will take decades to start recovering. By that time, your grandchildren will have all been born overseas.

  8. all international debt will be forgiven…

    Not a chance of that, not from a country sitting on such vast petro reserves, even if the lift and processing costs make much of that oil superfluous. Bone holders will get theirs.

  9. In post Chavismo Venezuela, dollarized officially, with less corruption, not needing 16 different business permits and licences and with a reestablished rule of law it will be a land of unlimitted opportunities. I for one WILL go back, probably not bringing my wife and kids at first, if ever. But that country will have sooooooo many business opportunities it’s beyond believe. I already have a separate bank account where I’m saving up monies so I can invest from day one. Can’t wait untill I’m back on a plane heading for Caracas.

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