The economic collapse in this oil-producing country, which for decades was the fourth largest economy in Latin America, has translated into shortages and soaring prices of food and medicine, combined with the high rates of violence and crime, triggered the exodus of Venezuelans to neighbouring nations. Exhausted by the race for survival, more and more people are leaving.
United Nations agencies estimate that 2.3 million people have left Venezuela in the last three years, 7.2 percent of the country’s population of 31.8 milliony, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, said on Aug. 20. But in early September, international humanitarian organisations set the number of people in the exodus at between 3.5 and 4.0 million. Sociologist Tomás Páez, who directs a study on “the Venezuelan diaspora,” maintains that some three million have migrated in the last two decades.
“These are all estimates, because many people cross the border just to go shopping, and there are no accurate records in Venezuela, and because in some countries migrants settle illegally, but even so it is about 10 percent of our 31 million inhabitants,” expert Oscar Hernández, who is the head of the Migrant Training Centre, told IPS. He also considered that “it is a very, very serious brain drain. We are going to pay dearly for all the talent that is leaving, so many professionals, teachers and students, people at the peak of their productive age.”
The Central University of Venezuela, the country’s largest university, enrollment dropped in 10 years from 47,000 to 32,000 students. Healthcare unions estimate that so far this decade some 20,000 professionals have left the country, including doctors, nurses, and therapists.
“If people decide to walk to Lima, it’s because they feel their needs have reached a limit and their conditions for survival in Venezuela are minimal. Reality tells them what to do,” social psychologist Colette Capriles, of Caracas’ Simón Bolívar University, told IPS.
According to Efraín Rincón, an expert with the polling firm Consultores 21, only one out of every five Venezuelans who say they want to emigrate cites political reasons. The rest point to the economic crisis. The inflation rate for August alone was 223.1 percent and the accumulated rate for the year climbed to 34,680 percent, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the inflation rate could reach one million percent by the end of 2018 and economists at consulting firms believe it could grow even more.