#AdoptAVenezuelan Provides Tragicomic Relief

Some 1.4 million Venezuelans have emigrated in the last 20 years. (<a href="http://www.libertaddigital.com/internacional/latinoamerica/2014-07-12/nuevo-exito-del-chavismo-el-aeropuerto-de-caracas-cobra-por-respirar-1276523670/" target="_blank">Libertaddigital</a>)
Some 1.4 million Venezuelans have emigrated in the last 20 years. (Libertaddigital)

EspañolSometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying, and Venezuelan Twitter users have sought to make light of the nation’s crisis with #AdoptaUnVenezolano (adopt a Venezuelan). This new hashtag comes in the wake of measures to restrict citizens’ travel abroad, dubbed “El Cadivazo,” after the state system of access to foreign currency.

With more than a touch of irony, Venezuelans have called on foreigners to take pity on them in the face of the regime’s wide-ranging failures. At the same time, their desperation is very real, as the latest measures make it even harder for them to escape the country.

“Shortages of food, medicines, and currency. #AdoptAVenezuelan”

“#AdoptAVenezuelan: I wash up, iron, cook, and can bathe myself. “

“#AdoptAVenezuelan: If you’re from Germany, Holland, Denmark, Japan, the United States, or the United Kingdom, I’m up for adoption.”

For many Venezuelans, emigration is fast becoming the only solution to overcoming Venezuela’s problems. April 18 will see the ExpoMigra 2015 take place in Caracas, with the objective of informing residents of the capital about “the myths and realities about a possible destination, so that the challenge of leaving becomes solid and allows a good quality of life studying, working, or engaging in business.”

Saturday, April 18, will see the first emigration fair held in Caracas. (ElCarabobeño)

Many have already made the move. The Venezuelan Medical Federation recently sounded the alarm over the exit of 13,000 doctors in the last 12 years. Federation President Douglas León Natera argued that the majority had decided to abandon their country “as a consequence of labor instability, low salaries, and insecurity.”

In February, Venezuelan sociologist Iván de la Vega reported that some 1.4 million of his compatriots had left the country in the last 20 years, adding that the professional profile of those in exile “is the highest in Latin America.” De la Vega explained that Venezuela has lost “its most important capital, its intellectual capital,” with the mass emigration of scientists, technicians, doctors, and other professionals.

Tomás Páez, a professor of planning at University College London, argued in October 2014 that “almost 90 percent of Venezuelan emigrants decided to leave in the last 15 years, with an increase in the last four.”

The dire warnings issued by experts have been confirmed in part by Ombudsman Tarek William Saab, who revealed on April 9 that 60 percent of those Venezuelans who received foreign currency to pursue studies abroad in 2013 and 2014 didn’t return to the country after finishing their courses.

Although Saab argued that such students should return “to help the fatherland with their talent,” but the Venezuelans have reported that the “serious crisis in the country” is far from encouraging them to do so.

Venezuelans Mired in Misery

On March 2, Bloomberg’s Misery Index reported that Venezuela is the most miserable country in the world. She leads the list of 15 economies that feature the greatest privations for consumers, with reported inflation at 78.5 percent annually, and unemployment at 8 percent — although official numbers underestimate the magnitude of the problem.

Venezuela’s key indicators more than double those of Argentina, the second most miserable country, and outrank South Africa, Ukraine, and Greece. In terms of a “painful” quality of life, Bloomberg highlighted the key role of monetary instability and rampant inflation in the case of Argentina and Venezuela’s woes.

Washington, DC-based think-tank the Cato Institute’s World Misery Index similarly found in January that Venezuela’s is the worst economy in the world.

In February, the Central Bank of Venezuela reported that inflation reached 5.3 percent in December 2014, registering levels of 68.5 percent for the entire year. The next-worst economies are Iran (20 percent) and Belarus (16.9 percent), which remain far behind even Venezuela’s official numbers.

Industry Embroiled in Crisis

Víctor Maldonado, executive director of the Caracas Chamber of Commerce, told the PanAm Post that Venezuela is facing a widespread crisis across multiple economic sectors.

Maldonado argues that the government is unable to guarantee the legal purchase of foreign currency reserves via the state for those that want them, and that “there’s not enough confidence to encourage production in the country.”

The commercial-sector representative says that “in Venezuela there’s no boss who’s winning, and everyone’s losing,” adding that the crisis extends to the agricultural, health, foodstuffs, chemicals, plastic, and textiles sectors.

The PanAm Post similarly highlighted earlier this week the grave shortages affecting the pharmaceuticals sector due to the lack of liquid currency reserves.

Maldonado blames the Venezuelan authorities for their “poor management, poor focus, and poor economic imagination.” In particular, he says the majority of productive sectors are paralyzed due to the lack of currency reserves.

The knock-on effects, he explains, extend to greater unemployment, scarcity, and diminished growth. Manufacturing is running at half of its capability, Maldonado believes, and the country’s 500,000 private firms represent the “smallest entrepreneurial density” of any country in Latin America.

Those companies expropriated by the government are similarly in a parlous situation, he adds, “because the state doesn’t know anything about [business] and hasn’t made an effort to make them productive.”

Damiano del Véscovo, president of the Carabobo State Chamber of Commerce Federation (Fedecámaras), explains that the manufacturing sector in his region — which contains the greatest number of industries in the country — is operating at 40 percent of installed capacity. Véscovo emphasizes that the automotive sector, in particular, slumped by 85 percent in 2014, and the tire manufacturing sector is working at 18 percent of capacity.

The regional industry leader reports that the business sector hasn’t received any dollars since 2014, arguing that the failure to give firms the dollars they need will only bring diminished production, and greater scarcity and unemployment.

Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.

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