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Venezuela on the Brink

January 4, 2017
Plain English Version
Venezuelans lining up to go into Colombia for food.

Venezuelans lining up to go into Colombia for food. Photo credit: George Castellanos

Can a country be rich in oil and poor in food? Yes. Venezuela is. Years of robbing the rich to pay the poor have left Venezuela in economic ruins.

Venezuelans are fleeing to neighboring countries such as Colombia and Brazil. Some of those who flee are in search of food. Some are looking for work. Some are just looking for a new place to live.

What is ahead may be the collapse of Venezuela. There may be a mass migration out of the country. A Colombian official said, “Every government agency in our country knows what it has to do. This includes the military, police and health agencies. We know it is not something that would only affect our border region. It would be the whole country.”

The borders between Venezuela and Brazil and Colombia are open. The president of Venezuela sometimes closes the borders. It shows he is in charge.

It is a migration scene familiar to what one sees in the Middle East. Even if it less dangerous. The regions along the borders are rural. There are not services. Relief agencies are not there. Tent cities are springing up. There is no sanitation, health care or schools.

Pacaraima is a town in Brazil that lies along the border with Venezuela. It was a sleepy town. Today it is a hub of commerce. Supermarkets are popping up. They are selling items such as food, medicine, and soap that are hard to find in Venezuela. Shoppers crowd the Main Street of Pacaraima. They carry bags of the currency bolivars that are worth less every day. They are trying to buy 50-pound sacks of rice.

A shopkeeper is selling the bags alongside his auto parts store. In six months, his sales went from $3,000 to $25,000 a day. “I had no idea it would be so sudden,” he said.

There are health issues. Diseases transmitted by sex are going up fast. It is from the arrival of Venezuelan prostitutes.

Everyone expects things to get worse. Venezuela is an example of a failed state. Its president, Nicolás Maduro is the reason. He followed Hugo Chávez. Both had dreams of a socialist paradise built on oil revenue. The dream is no more.

Source: The Washington Post January 1, 2017

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