World Economy

Venezuelans Outflux Rising

Many Venezuelans in their prime working years have left or want to leave, leaving a population of older adults
Venezuelans often arrive with little more than their clothes, many using unpaved roads to cross the two countries’ largely porous border or through the Tachira river.Venezuelans often arrive with little more than their clothes, many using unpaved roads to cross the two countries’ largely porous border or through the Tachira river.

Venezuelans angry with their government, a deteriorating economy, and a seemingly intractable political impasse marked 100 days of protest on Sunday—demonstrations that have often turned violent and in which more than 90 people have been killed.

The protest movement that emerged at the end of April is not the first to appear. Venezuelans took to the streets for several weeks in spring 2014 in protests that left more than 40 people dead, Business Insider reported.

Protracted discontent in Venezuela has also spurred another kind of movement: the migration of Venezuelans to neighboring and nearby countries in search of food, medicine, work and security.

Outmigration has moved in waves over the past 20 years. Many elites left in the early 2000s, dismayed at Hugo Chavez's socialist policies. Educated people and skilled workers departed during the latter half of the 2000s. Since 2010, the country's youth and middle classes have headed for the exits.

A 2015 survey found 10% of Venezuelans were working on paperwork to leave. A September 2016 poll showed that 57% of registered voters—some 12 million Venezuelans—wanted to leave. That sentiment has only intensified.

Polling done over the last half of 2016 and the first half of 2017 found that 35.3% of respondents wanted to leave Venezuela to live and work elsewhere in the next three years—nearly triple the 12% who said the same in 2014.

Young Generation Escaping

However, among Venezuelans 18- to 29-year olds, the desire to leave was even stronger—53% said they wanted to leave the country to live or work in the next three years. Among 30- to 39-year-olds, nearly 40% said they wanted to leave, while just under 31% of Venezuelans between 40- and 49- year-olds said the same.

"The country has broken down because of what we have lost," Emilio Osorio Alvarez, a professor and president of the Venezuelan Population Studies Association, said in an interview earlier this year. Many Venezuelans in their prime working years have left or want to leave, "leaving a population of older adults," he said. "That has an impact on the social reality."

Tomas Paez, a sociologist at the Central University of Venezuela, estimated at the end of 2015 that about 5% of Venezuela’s roughly 30 million people have already left the country. And the growing number looking to leave means that the outflux now draws from a broader segment of Venezuelan society.

Constant Flow

"Right now what you're seeing is far more people from the barrios going to Colombia, going to Brazil, going to Peru," Velasco, author of "Barrio Rising: Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela," told Business Insider.

Venezuela's neighbors have received more and more people who are in increasingly desperate situations.

Colombia has taken in more Venezuelans than any other country, thought to be more than a million over the last 20 years.

So many wealthy Venezuelans arrived in Colombia during the initial years of Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution and drove up property values and packed elite private schools. Now Venezuelans often arrive with little more than their clothes—many using unpaved roads to cross the two countries' largely porous border.

Colombia has sent a delegation to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey to study how to respond to sudden waves of migration, which they fear could happen in a repeat of Maduro’s expulsion of 20,000 Colombians in 2015.

"Since about a year and a half ago, it has been a constant flow," Daniel Pages, president of the Venezuelans in Colombia Association, told the Associated Press in June. "They need to leave in order to live."

More than 12,000 Venezuelans have gone to Brazil and stayed there since 2014, and many more have gone to Venezuela's southern neighbor to shop for basic goods, find medicine, or look for temporary work before returning.

Brazil's defense minister, Raul Jungmann, said in May that more than 6,000 Venezuelans cross the border every day. The influx has burdened northern Brazilian states of Amazonas and Roraima, straining both states' hospitals and health and social services.

The outflux of young and working-age Venezuelans will almost certainly add to the drag on the country's economy, exacerbating the exodus of educated people, medical professionals, and even skilled oil and gas workers.


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