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The challenge of returning to Venezuela after years away: “The country isn’t great, but it’s a different country” | International

The challenge of returning to Venezuela after years away: “The country isn’t great, but it’s a different country” |  International

When Helena Riera left Venezuela, fed up with politics and taxes to buy food, she ran water in her home. It’s 2015 and Nicolás Maduro is starring in a scene, the latest Venezuelan tragedy called Dacazo. The Chavista leader placed a low-price order at an electrical appliance store in Dhaka, and people flocked to fight over a toaster or hair dryer. He returned to Venezuela in 2023, after living in Chile for almost eight years, and he had already adapted to the daily life of waiting for the tanker truck they had to pay to get water in Corora, Venezuela. Plains. The country he comes from is not the best, but it is different. “If things go wrong I will go back, but going wrong is not my plan. I know where I came from and I don’t have any financial strategic goals. I go back for emotional and personal reasons,” he says over the phone.

Helena may be among at least 2,000 foreigners who have left Santiago de Chile this year, according to the country’s government a few weeks ago. Above all, the flow of Venezuelans who have undergone another migration process to the United States, which puts pressure on the Joe Biden administration, in which a group touches base in their country upon their return. They are part of the uncertain income of Venezuelans, which began to be noticed in the last year, which for some experts, like Anitsa Fridez, a researcher from the Andrés Bello Catholic University, could be between 3% and 6%. According to the latest UNHCR data, seven million people have left Venezuela in search of a better life and continue to leave. By the end of 2022, the Venezuelan government announced only 31,000 returnees under the so-called Plan Vuelta a la Patria, which has organized flights for the return of Venezuelans due to the pandemic, thereby fueling the narrative of the country’s recovery. Everyone was getting out of it.

In Chile, Helena held documents and voted. Although he was a social communicator, he had odd jobs as a receptionist, set up at a coffee kiosk, or taught drawing workshops that allowed him to make a living. He had a complete emotional connection with his reasons for being in that country. Like her, her brother and sister-in-law returned from Chile this year with a different story and motivations after blaming the pandemic. “My brother was previously laid off due to downsizing before the pandemic. Then he started working for Uber, and the banks were eating them up by paying off a loan for an apartment they bought and couldn’t keep paying.

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During those years Helena saw the evolution of the country that welcomed her. “When I arrived they told the Venezuelans, ‘You do, Peruvians don’t.’ Kuliao, Go back to your country. I saw racism rising.” Back in Venezuela, he appreciates a change that he bitterly likes. “No one stops the government anymore, and that gives me peace of mind. We’ve been robbed a lot, it’s a disaster, but self-management has emerged, and no one expects anything anymore. .Like in my house where there was no water for four years, now every family solves it by calling in a tanker truck,” says the 34-year-old Venezuelan. “Now I feel like it’s a stateless country where people make a living as best they can.” One of Helena’s projects is to open an art school for children in her town. Setting up.” “Here I can do that because I have networks and family. Not being isolated helps,” she says. “I’m very happy to be able to implement this plan that I’ve always had.”

Earn dollars

In 2016, Angel Silva took a six-day bus trip to move to Lima. They said they were going to top up in Peru. Three months later, he took his wife and two children. He was working as a mechanic and heavy truck driver. He lived closely against the Venezuelan people. At one job they accused him of being a thief. During a bus ride he tried to mediate with a woman who did not want to return the change, he was stabbed, which ended in a fight, for which he was arrested. His children were able to read, they learned English from an early age, and last December he was able to save for an unexpected flight to attend his father-in-law’s funeral. Without seeing the family. He says his experience wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.

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“When I was in Venezuela, they told me to go to Peru, and they told me I was going to fill up the money, and I crashed. Now when my friends there ask me how Venezuela is, I tell them, it’s going through a change, but this government will be there. Until then, not much will change. If they want to come back, I tell them to try not to lose their documents there. The dollarization of the country is the main change he feels. When Angel left, it was a crime to have dollars without government authorization. “I’m excited to return, about the possibility of returning to Peru. I don’t think so. Of course, here I work a lot. I go to the street for work at 3 or 4 in the morning because yes or yes I have to earn dollars every day,” he says in his spare time as a taxi driver. He plans to set up a street food stall to supplement the income.

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Gelinger Colmenares did not draw a positive balance from her migration experience in the city of Yachuachi in southern Ecuador. Three years ago, she arrived in the country at age 20 and with a one-month-old baby, after her partner, who is of Ecuadorian descent, established himself. But she couldn’t get the papers, take the make-up course she hoped for, work with her own income, or put her daughter in a school that only offered dance classes. She lived in fear of the violence in a city overrun by organized crime and drug trafficking. “Everyone tells me why I’m going back, but staying in a country where I have to wait for my partner to get paid to do something is exhausting me emotionally and mentally,” she wrote on WhatsApp this week. He was returning to Venezuela. He arrived in Caracas this Friday and was greeted at the bus terminal with flowers, hugs and sweets from his family. When they decided to leave, he would live with his sister while earning money to finish the house they had left halfway in the Garabita neighborhood in western Caracas. “They tell me that everything is the same here, but it’s very difficult to see your family go through difficult situations and not be with them. For me, money is made anywhere in the world.

Kelinger Colmenares, 23, reunited with her family in Caracas after spending three years in Ecuador.Courtesy

New places

Anitsa Freitz is about to publish the results of a qualitative investigation in which she approaches the initial phenomenon of returnees. “From what we saw in the in-depth interviews conducted at the border, there is a profile of young people who left without a well-thought-out migration plan, not knowing if they had already settled in the country, and who did. “Try this with life experience in Venezuela, for example, the price of services is zero, it’s an unusual situation,” explains the researcher. This flow coincides with the tightening of restrictions in various countries in the region, which initially opened doors for them and a small illusion of economic recovery by removing some restrictions imposed by Chavismo in Venezuela. and the arbitrary progress of dollarization. , with inflation and currency devaluation.” The In recent months the situation has become more difficult for Venezuelans being deported along the borders of Chile and Peru and the United States. They are kind of vulnerable and playing the political game of some elites who use the immigration issue to give signs of xenophobia to boost their popularity. The study Freeds is doing anticipates the reintegration challenges that would mark a large-scale return.

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For Claudia Vargas, a sociologist who researches migration at Simon Bolivar University, assessing what she calls the “occupation of permanence” is key to measuring the dimensions of this flow. “There is a circular migration to see family, work, and return to the country they left behind or to other countries. This is evidenced by the increased mobility of Venezuelans through the Darien plug. The tightening of immigration policies makes them want to leave those countries, but they have to achieve what they want when they leave. 2018 In the region, which has been the lifeline of Venezuela’s second wave until the year, there is no effective, legal or economic integration of migrants, fueling a political discourse that ends in discriminatory actions.”

Vargas identifies a new wave of Venezuelans in a context in which targets are diversified and their rights are violated. The new north for migrants, the researcher points out, is the United States, and the crisis at the Mexican border as a source, followed by Spain, where Venezuelans are directing asylum requests.

A survey by Consultants 21 submitted last month found that 3 in 10 Venezuelans intend to leave the country, 48% have at least one family member abroad and a third of families regularly send remittances. The search for developed countries after failed attempts in Latin America may be the start of a trend, according to Vargas, and this year marks two Venezuelan deportations from Germany.

“The country is not great, but it’s another country,” says Samuel Ramos, who arrived from Buenos Aires two weeks ago without a return ticket. Arriving in Argentina in 2018, one dollar was worth 20 pesos, and today inflation has pushed the price to over 500. Nothing unknown to Venezuela. Samuel worked as a laborer, waiter, and bicycle deliveryman to make ends meet and establish himself as an online English teacher. “I didn’t come from Argentina because I was sick, but I wanted to come and evaluate because I’ve been away for five years. What I can do there, what I can’t do here, what I can do here, what I can’t do there”.

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