Voting With Their Feet

 We’re going to do things a little differently today. We have a holiday-shortened week end a chapter from Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole a bit longer than usual so today will be all “Down The Rabbit Hole”. Here we go…

 Chapter 13/ Voting With Their Feet…

 There’s a lot of talk these days about a migration crisis at the southern border of the US. At the same time there seems to be a number of people that decry the state of things in the US and constantly harp on all the things wrong with America. The two issues, one would think, would be at odds. If there was so much wrong with the US, why are so many people risking their lives to enter America illegally? Especially since the US admits more legal immigrants annually than any other country.

 Just as puzzling is the attitude of many people toward Venezuela, it’s dictator, Nicolas Maduro, and it’s government, Chavismo, also known as 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism. During the first decade of Chavismo the entire world was enraptured with it and many hailed it as the way of the future. Now that we’ve had more than two decades of Chavismo all those voices are suspiciously quiet in their praise of Chavismo and Venezuela while, at the same time, calling for the US to open it’s borders, the same country they say has so many problems. Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has even called for a “border-less Western Hemisphere”.

 For years the entire world focused on the migrant crisis of Syria. It has had a profound effect, not just on it’s neighboring countries, but on countries all over Europe including the UK. It’s worth noting that the European Union has an open border policy. These things all scream for a closer look, however, we’re not here to delve into why so many people think the US is the place to be and the Syrian migration may have been the driving force behind the UK’s “Brexit”. Our focus here is on Venezuela so let’s take a look at their migration crisis and it’s effect both internally and externally. It’s also worth noting that up until a couple of years ago many of Venezuela’s neighbors criticized the US for not opening it’s borders.

 Before 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism the number of Venezuela migrants, worldwide, was negligible. They simply didn’t leave, and it’s easy to understand why. Venezuela is incredibly blessed with both natural beauty and natural resources. It certainly had it’s share of issues and inequalities, as all countries do, including the US. It had a poverty rate of 50% so clearly there was an underlying problem but, in hindsight, most Venezuelans would happily trade today’s 80% – 90% poverty rate, the majority of those living in extreme poverty for that 50% rate. Remember, the UN classifies “extreme poverty” as those earning less that about two dollars a day or less. There really isn’t even a category for those millions of Venezuelans earning the current minimum wage of $5 A MONTH!!

 Venezuela back then (pre- Chavismo) had a substantial middle class and was climbing out of third world status, firmly entrenched in the “emerging market” category. Almost all Venezuelans living abroad were pursuing career or entrepreneurial opportunities. Then with the election of Hugo Chavez and the arrival of Chavismo everything changed.

 As previously discussed, the early Chavez years did a lot for the poor of Venezuela and reduced the poverty rate by almost half, a commendable achievement. What was overlooked by the international community was the unsustainability of Chavez’s policies and spending. It was not overlooked by many inside Venezuela and the migration began. The mass expropriations and anti-business environment threw a bit of a scare into a number of Venezuelans, mostly business and professional people. They saw clouds on the horizon, which in hindsight just seems like common sense. High oil prices and almost unlimited credit wouldn’t last forever although, based on their behavior, the Chavistas must have thought they would.

 Now that you could actually quantify the numbers let’s have a look. In 2015 there were 695,000 Venezuelan migrants, according to the UN. Since it was spread out over a decade and a half it was hardly an alarming number, however, a good number of those left Venezuela following the “Guarimba” of 2014. What those people had in common with the pre-Chavismo migrants was they were mostly business and professional people. They left via the airport and flew mostly to the US and Europe. All that was about to change.

 The number of migrants went from 695,000 in 2015 to over 4,000,000 in June of 2019 with over 7.1 million today, blowing past Syria’s 6.7 million. The breakdown looks something like this although the numbers continue to rise:

 June 2019….

 Colombia – 1,300,000 (now 2 million)

 Peru – 768,000 * began requiring visas for Venezuelans

 USA – 351,000 * requires visa (that number is more than double today)

 Chile – 288,000

 Ecuador – 263,000 * tightened immigration controls for Venezuelans

 Canada – 258,000 * listed number is from 2013

 Brazil – 168,000 * the number would be much higher but the border crossings are in remote areas

 Argentina – 130,000

 Panama – 94,000 * on again, off again policy regarding Venezuelans

 Mexico – 40,000

 Trinidad & Tobago – 40,000

 Curacao – 16,000 * represents 15% of total population

 Aruba – 11,000 * represents 15% of total population

note : there are an estimated 28,500 Venezuelans in the Dominican Republic but their numbers are notoriously inaccurate and they are considering a ban on Venezuelans and deportations

 These are the Western Hemisphere numbers. There are Venezuelans scattered around the globe.

 More tomorrow….

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