The Growing Venezuelan Exodus

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryIt has been relegated to small articles on the back page of most American newspapers if at all. The refugee crisis in Venezuela has been growing worse since the summer. It is believed that it will reach 5 million people from that country fleeing for their lives. It means that as much as 15 percent of the total population of Venezuela will do whatever it takes to escape to find a better life. With the local currency, the Bolivar, set to top 2 million percent, and people unable to protest even for the basic necessities of life, escape to the unknown may be the only alternative for those who can escape. An estimated 5,000 Venezuelans will escape from the country every day whether they do so legally or not (most likely illegally because the Venezuelan government will not give them a passport to go anywhere). It is not only the fact that they are escaping extreme poverty, repression and an increasingly hopeless situation, but how they are doing it.

Most are simply walking through deep valleys, high mountains, and even through wide and deep rivers to get into Colombia—the closest country for the majority of Venezuelans. At the same time, a growing number are braving the forbidding tropical rain forest and the inhospitable plains between Venezuela and Brazil to get into that country. An unknown number are dying along the route, and those who make it are in desperate shape to find water, food and whatever shelter they can get. And as I said again, they have to walk to get out. They are exposed to the scorching hot sun, the high humid temperatures, deadly poisonous snakes, parasitic insects and spiders, and Venezuelan troop patrols trying to stop their own people from fleeing. In too many ways this is like the North Korean refugees trying to flee from their own country. This is hard for Venezuela’s neighbors to take in so many several million people who literally have little more than the clothes on their backs and are in moderate to poor physical health because of the conditions they have to endure. But the whole equation is that if Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro stays in power, then the refugee crisis will continue and get that much more worse.

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