- Cortesía de Oriana de Angelis / The Bubble
Food shortages, reports of widespread violence, and high inflation rates have made life for many in Venezuela remarkably difficult. The quickly deteriorating situation has ignited the mass exit of thousands, forcing many to find refuge in several countries around the world. Among the more popular destinations are Columbia, Chile, The United States, Uruguay, and Argentina.
Last year, eleven thousand people applied for residency in Argentina. And in the first three months of 2017 alone, seven thousand more Venezuelans were added onto that list. These numbers were made even more evident this past Sunday, when thousands of Venezuelans stood in line for hours to vote against the constitutional reform developed by Nicolás Maduro.
Most of these expatriates are young adults, either students or middle-class professionals. They seek to flee Venezuela’s inflation, the highest in the world (800 percent) and the exuberantly high homicide rate (119 murders every 100.000 citizens).
And while Argentina is no stranger to inflation, current rates have inflation clocking in at approximately 20 percent annually, there is no denying the relative appeal. Add to that lower crime rates and higher access to necessary services, and for some, moving to Argentina seems like a very viable alternative to the impossibilities being presented back home.
Yet the sacrifices most Venezuelans have made in order to gain access to basic goods and services are still apparent. Many have left family and loved ones behind to be part of a country, which in itself is not exactly booming.
Kennie Figueroa, a Venezuelan interviewed by the news outlet Clarín, explained “It’s not that Venezuelans want to migrate, we are being forced due to the terrible living conditions there. To go back, would be to give up our freedom”.
Another aspect making Argentina a popular option stems from its member status of the Mercosur alliance, which allows Venezuelans to obtain temporary visas quickly and efficiently. These visas last two years and provide citizens with access to the formal economy legally, and in a more streamlined way compared to other immigrant groups.
Venezuelans come to Argentina for opportunities that their country currently cannot offer. In the wake of better access to services, food, and security they have been driven to leave family members, friends, and homes behind. Independent of the political discrepancies occurring within their country, Venezuelans appear to be doing what any of us would do — making the choices and sacrifices needed to carve out a livelihood for themselves despite the partisan battles taking place back home.