Venezuela: Emigration Nation

Jun 16, 2015

Venezuelans looking to leave their country pack a recent "Migrant Expo" gathering in Caracas.
Credit Andrew Rosati

As Venezuela’s crime and inflation keep spiraling, anti-government protests are starting up again. But a growing number of Venezuelans have decided to leave the country rather than take to the streets.

Venezuela has become an emigration nation.

That was evident as dozens of Venezuelans packed a convention center recently for the first annual Migration Expo in Caracas. It showcased support groups, study-abroad options and services to streamline the out-migration process. Many there – like 19-year-old Eleanel Meza – were unsure where they want to go. But they were certain it's time to go.

"Venezuela’s future isn’t promising," Meza said, adding he no longer feels safe there to boot. It’s forcing young people like him to try their luck abroad.

Venezuela has South America’s highest inflation and homicide rates, and they’ve spurred an exodus. Experts estimate the number of Venezuelans living abroad has risen more than tenfold since 2000, to as many as 1.5 million. Ivan de la Vega, a sociologist taking part in the expo, says it’s bound to grow.

"Under current socialist President Nicolás Maduro," de la Vega said, "the economic and violent crime conditions only look to get worse."

The vast majority of the Venezuelan migrants are moving to South Florida, which now has the largest Venezuelan community in the U.S. But others are as far-flung as Australia.