A Tale of Two Maracaibos: Venezuelans Flee in Unprecedented Numbers

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Photo:El Nuevo Herald

Three million. That’s the best estimate for how many Venezuelans have left the country due to the crisis. The figure, put together by the Observatorio de la Diáspora Venezolana at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, is staggering. It was collected on the basis of work of researchers looking at official records in 90 countries and 400 receiving cities around the world.

A second figure that has been making the rounds is based on extrapolations from the results of a poll carried out by Consultores 21. It puts the number of Venezuelans in the diaspora now at 4 million. As we’d suspected, millions of Venezuelans have left our querido terruño.

To help you understand the magnitude of this exodus, it’s as if the entire city of my native Maracaibo moved out… twice. Estimates by the Observatorio de la Diáspora indicate that, ceteris paribus (that is, if the economic, humanitarian and social crisis doesn’t get worse) the projections on the number of Venezuelans leaving the country in 2018 should reach around 1.5 million. In just one year.

If that’s not a migration crisis, mi hermano, I don’t know what it is.

Let’s review the numbers.

According to data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the asylum applications by Venezuelans increased 20,500%, from 505 in 2012 to 103,955 in 2017. It’s a hyperinflation of asylum seekers.

                                                       Source: United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, Operational Portal, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/vensit [last accessed February 8, 2018].

The number of Venezuelans and Colombo-Venezuelans crossing the Puente Simón Bolívar has been making world news for weeks now. Migración Colombia reported that, by July 5, 2017, 455,000 Venezuelans had processed the Border Mobility Card (Tarjeta de Movilidad Fronteriza or TMF), which allows them to enter Colombian territory without the need for a passport, with 52% entering into Colombian territory to buy medicines or food.

Data indicates that a million Venezuelans had processed the Tarjeta by the end of the year, and we’re not counting the many Venezuelans entering through illegal passages and irregular transit routes that expose them to human trafficking networks, crime and violence.

In the United States, Venezuelans are the top nationality for asylum seekers, above China, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in 2016 more than 18,000 Venezuelans submitted asylum applications, 150% more than in 2015 and six times the level observed in 2014. By the end of 2017, the number went up to 46,248, according to data from the office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

We even have balseros now, who would have thought?

Venezuelans are also arriving in Argentina, Peru and Chile. Our neighboring Brazil has actually been greatly affected by the flow of compatriots, especially in border cities like Boa Vista and Pacaraima. The most important concern for the Brazilian state is how to provide health services to immigrants, especially indigenous peoples who arrive malnourished, with HIV and other diseases allegedly eradicated.

What to do, what to do

The situation is dire. Displaced Venezuelans include vulnerable people like women, children, indigenous people, people with HIV, people with malnutrition and a host of other diseases, chronic in some cases. They arrive with no means to find a home, and often have a hard time finding jobs, already hard for nationals in receiving countries. We must also consider the risks associated with human trafficking and discrimination, xenophobia and just plain abuse.

Although the situation is hard, there are lots of us, Venezuelans in the diaspora, already thinking on how to make things better. The work cannot wait, because we’ve lost two Maracaibos already in the last few years. How many more can we afford?

* The views are personal and do not represent the position of the OAS.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. “What to do, what to do”

    Let’s see:

    If you think that you don’t know the political scenario of your new country very well, #JUSTSAYNO to voting.

    The worst thing you can do to the nation receiving you is to vote for people similar to the ones who had destroyed your country. #JUSTSAYNO until you can fully comprehend who these new politicians are and what they want to do.

    Hint: If a politician in your new country has ever praised Chavismo, even if en passant, he’s no good!

  2. I was happy to read this, because I’ve been suspicious of past emigration numbers reported here on CC.

    At least this article explains the different studies/methodologies and the resulting discrepancy in the numbers.

    Of course, if the average Venezuelan could get a passport and afford the travel, the numbers would be astronomically higher.

  3. Only 3 Million? Who knows.. but what matters is Quality more than Quantity, for several reasons.

    “A large number of those emigrating from Venezuela are educated professionals.[7] According to Iván de la Vega of the Simón Bolívar University, 60% to 80% of students in Venezuela said they want to leave Venezuela and not return..”

    Educational professionals
    In 2014, reports emerged showing a high number of education professionals taking flight from educational positions in Venezuela along with the millions of other Venezuelans that had left the country during the presidency of Hugo Chávez, according to Iván de la Vega, a sociologist at Simón Bolívar University.[47] According to the Association of Professors, the Central University of Venezuela lost more 700 of nearly 4000 faculty members between 2011 and 2015.[48] About 240 faculty members had also left Simón Bolívar University prior to 2014,[47][48] with an additional 430 professors leaving between 2015 and 2018.[49]

    According to El Nacional, the flight of educational professionals resulted in a shortage of teachers in Venezuela ..

    College graduates
    In a study titled Venezuelan Community Abroad. A New Method of Exile by Thomas Paez, Mercedes Vivas and Juan Rafael Pulido of the Central University of Venezuela, of the more than 1.5 million Venezuelans who had left the country following the Bolivarian Revolution, more than 90% of those who left were college graduates, with 40% holding a Master’s degree and 12% having a doctorates and post doctorates.[7][33]”
    ———————————–

    Most of the “Elite” Venezuela once had is gone. And gone for good, never to return. The vast majority. That’s what’s absolutely devastating, with an incalculable impact to the country for Decades to come. Generations to come, I should say. For starters, Venezuela was already lacking truly educated people, highly skilled professionals, after 4 decades of Ad/Copey. By the time Chavismo hit, Venezuela was not a well-educated, professionally skilled country, by any means. And now, most of the few educated and skilled young people we had, gone. Such massive brain drain is catastrophic. The quality of a country depends on the quality of its people.

    And it’s the predominantly the young who emigrate. The best of the best. What’s left behind is mostly uneducated young children, born into the Chavista brainwash, and the old, dependent, also uneducated who can barely work anymore or make a difference. An markedly older population. An entire generational gap is created. Tremendo hueco generacional. Irreplaceable. Irreversible.

    Quality, over quantity. Most of the best people already left. I suspect that those leaving now are even more desperate, poorer, less educated, the remaining majority of average pueblo-people. They usually leave on foot, through porous borders, to South America. That’s bad, of course, for them, and because they also tend to be the young, malcontents, who could one day work for the reconstruction. But I also suspect a good portion of those emigrants would quickly return if the economic conditions improve back home. As opposed to those that left who had more means, better educated, bound to land solid jobs, put their kids in school, and grow solid roots in the USA, Chile. That’s la creme de la creme, sorry to say, never to return.

    Thus, the Quality of Klepto-Cubazuela’s population has already been severely and irreversibly downgraded.

    The impact will be HUGE for decades to come, as the new generation will be far less educated, clueless, without professional skills, plus used to a Chavista Populist “gobielno must feed me” rotten mentality.

    The damage is done.

  4. Poeta backed by numbers–dangerous stuff. Results so far (3mm -10%) haven’t yet reached the goal (Castro-Cuban diaspora 6mm-2mm = approx. 30%), but is trending in the right direction. The massive makeover necessary for Venezuela to even begin to function normally (and, never to return to the oil-boom glory days, which many on this Blog experienced, and remember so nostalgically) is daunting: complete constitutional/institutional/judicial/military/voting change to democratic norms; economy change to capitalistic norms/re-direction to non-oil dependence, with emphasis on international tourism; and, education/cultural change from Petro-State Peon reliance to self-reliance/work ethic. Anyone betting that these necessary changes are even remotely possible in Venezuela??

  5. Let me see. We equate human quality with formal education? Since when? If the departure of all these high functioning, professionally educated, critical folks means there is nothing but doom and gloom in the future that is indeed sad. But it’s also not true, not even close. The quality folks that have departed did sweet f-all for twenty some years while Venezuela was being flushed down the toilet by socialists. You know, socialism, communism, liberalism, the proponents of which are invariably the ones with most classroom time. As for me, I’d rather put my trust and allegiance in someone who has created prosperity, put his own money on the line to grow a company, has a track record of independence. Oh, and a member of the NRA. Years ago I took advantage of a Small Business Administration program that provided mentors to individuals starting a new business. My mentor was the retired Business School dean of a major University. His first advice to me: “Above everything avoid hiring or listening to anyone with an MBA” A four year degree in the US right now doesn’t even mean functional literacy.

  6. A full blast humanitarian crisis that is affecting the region and Europe. And Maduro y su combo keep at it making the disaster accelerate.

    Meantime, the Chavista’s 3 ring circus has gotten interesting, while Maduro distances himself from PSUV and its rivals with his Somos Venezuela shtick, Godgiven Hair must understand that Maduro is coming after him. The denial of elections for the National Assembly has put Mr. Hair on notice, so I expect a violent event between these two factions sooner than later.

    And then there is the military which has to enable the gangster takeover between the factions, or for that matter, get rid of those thugs and enshrine themselves as the new alphas. And they have to make this power play under the scrutiny of the international community with the raging humanitarian crisis.

    ‘Ta jodida la cosa.

  7. Sooner than later I suspect a perfect storm owing to defaulting on loans, an oil embargo, and some kind of runaway health crisis like malaria or typhoid, coupled with the grid crashing and the immigrant crisis as people flee a sinking ship and overwhelm Columbia and Brazil. And boats landing on Aruba, etc. Like a REAL disaster beyond what is already happening. It would only take a little more mismanagement for everything to grind to a hault whereby all the political talk would be meaningless. Poeta is right in my view – the damage has been done, but the full impact of how bad things have gone might not be felt for a while. Then it will. Like, all at once.

    Damn, I hope I’m wrong about this, but the word I’m getting from relatives in country all points to a total meltdown, sooner than later. The power grid might be the start of it, if and when it crashes.

  8. si, si… buen articulo y tal… pero lo mismo de siempre… a tale of two maracaibo… means that at least 4.1 millions venezuelans left the country… (’cause maracaibo had half that population in 2010 according to the last sensus made, which is way lower than estimates from the previus sensus in la octavida de la cuarta… maracaibo is not just municipio maracaibo, but also san francisco… as chacao is also caracas… )

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