Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Most young Venezuelans want to emigrate: survey

LOSS OF CONFIDENCE:With inflation forecast to reach 13,000 percent this year, 53 percent of Venezuelans between 15 and 29 want to live abroad permanently

The Guardian

Venezuelan migrants prepare food at a street cart in Panama City on Feb. 23.

Photo: Bloomberg

More than half of young Venezuelans want to move abroad permanently, after food shortages, violence and a political crisis escalated to new extremes last year, a survey showed.

Once Latin America’s richest country, Venezuela’s economy is collapsing and it is battling hyperinflation at levels unmatched anywhere else in the world.

The IMF projects inflation would reach 13,000 percent this year and the economy would shrink 15 percent.

For Venezuelans between 15 and 29, the crisis has escalated to a point where they have lost confidence in their home, a poll carried out by the US firm Gallup and shared exclusively with the Guardian showed.

About 53 percent would like to move abroad permanently.

One of the most painful effects of the current crisis has been widespread hunger.

In 2015, when inflation and food shortages were well below current levels, nearly 45 percent of Venezuelans said there were times when they were unable to afford food; in the latest study, that figure had risen to 79 percent — one of the highest rates in the world.

Oscar Dominguez, 27, is one of millions dreaming of a new life abroad. He is still in Venezuela only because he is trying to scrape together the price of a plane ticket.

“I want to go because our salaries are not enough to live on,” Dominguez said.

His disillusionment has been rapid. In 2016, he was optimistic enough about Venezuela that he invested in a food store, but a year later he had to close.

“Food prices increased a lot and it was impossible for me to keep the business running,” he said. “I got into debt trying to make it work.”

He ruled out Australia because of its strict visa rules, and instead has decided to follow friends to Chile — which Gallup found was the third-most popular destination for Venezuelans fleeing the country.

Because its land border is accessible to Venezuelans who cannot afford plane tickets, neighboring Colombia is the most popular choice for a new home.

So many people have fled into Colombia and Brazil that both countries have clamped down on controls along their long, shared frontier. Venezuelans over 30 may also be feeling bleak about their future, but are not quite as ready to leave.

More than a third of those between 30 and 54 want to emigrate, but less than a quarter of Venezuelans who are 55 or over hope to make a new home.

Norma Gutierrez, a radiologist in eastern Caracas, is one of those older would-be migrants.

Acute shortages in the hospital where she works depress her, and she says the idea of emigrating crosses her mind at least once a week.

She does not have many friends and family in Venezuela any more. Her eldest son left four years ago for the US and her brother lives in France; the main thing still tying her to home is her youngest daughter, who is trying to finish medical school.

“I want to leave because I have no quality of life,” she said. “With this hyperinflation, my salary is not enough to live with dignity.”

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