Not too long ago, Venezuela was one of the richest countries in South America with the world’s largest proven oil reserves. The highest ever oil production occurred in 1998 at 3.5 million barrels per day (BPD). That also happened to be the year that Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela.
During the Chavez government, significant changes were made in the oil industry. In 2014, the price of oil was about $100 a barrel. Then several countries started to pump too much oil as previously inaccessible oil could be dredged up with new drilling technology. At the same time, businesses globally weren’t buying more gasoline. Too much oil caused the global price to drop to $26 in 2016.
With oil prices low and the government’s cash decreasing, price controls have become an enormous problem. In the last few years, the South American country turned into one of the countries with the highest inflation in the world. According to the World Economic Forum, Venezuela’s inflation rate is in excess of 250%, more than 10 times that of any other country.
It makes so much sense bringing the question of how a country with such as a significant source of wealth can’t currently afford to feed its people?
During the ‘revolution Chavez era’, government far overspent on welfare programs, and it fixed prices for everything. Farmlands were declared state property and then they were abandoned and it made the nation dependent on selling its oil abroad.
Shortages of basic goods and services, high inflation, political crisis and the increasing violence with 27,875 murders per year, according to the Observatory of Violence Venezuelan Organization, explain why Venezuelans flee their country.
Although official statistics have not been found yet, according to recent research by sociologists at the Universidad Central of Venezuela, 1.6 million Venezuelans live abroad.
Argentina, Chile, Colombia, USA and European countries as, Spain, Italy and Ireland have welcomed thousands of Venezuelans who seek for a better quality of life.
Many of them had to leave behind their families and dreams of building a future in the country where they grew up in.
Nadeska Bravo is 26 years old with a bachelor degree in Industrial Engineering. She was born in the second biggest city of Venezuela called Maracaibo and was raised by her grandmother, due to his mother died after bringing her to this world.
‘Being miles away from my family is the most difficult to me. It has been the hardest decision I ever made in my life. My family did everything to guarantee me a great future with a successful career, so they got to send me to one of the most recognized colleges in my city, despite their low economic resources’. She said.
Bravo explained that after becoming professional in 2012, it was complicated to find a job: ‘I applied for multinationals and other companies and most of them required English as a second language, so I decided to come to Ireland for 6 months for an English course’.
Nearly 4 years have passed since she landed on The ‘Emerald Isle’. The increasing economic crisis and violence, back in her country, forced Bravo to stay in Ireland, which has become her ‘second home’.
‘I miss my family so much, it has been the 4 most difficult years in my life. I feel frustration for not being able to have a good future and quality of life in the country where I always dreamed to be a successful person surrounded by my beloved ones’. She added.
Her first job in Ireland was as an Au Pair, ‘It was a wonderful experience’, she said, even though was a ‘really hard job’, ‘ I was lucky because I got a lovely Irish family and very well educated kids, so it made my days much easier with them during one year’.
Bravo is currently doing a bachelor degree in IT and has a part-time job as barista in a cafe shop in Dublin. Despite the critical situation in her country, she is in hopes that Venezuela will go through this and will get back to be the place when ‘all the dreams can come true’. ‘I am working and studying too hard and I know I will go back to have my family there and being with all my beloved people’.
Emili Meneses is another face of the Venezuelan diaspora, she has lived in Ireland for 3 years and like Bravo, she only came to learn English. Emili is 27 years old with a bachelor degree in Financial and Bank.
‘I can say my life wasn’t that bad back to those years in Venezuela. I had a great job in an important bank and I also used to do what I love the most which are dancing Venezuelan folklore and hip-hop’.
She used to live with her two brothers and one sister. ‘I had a good life, the situation wasn’t as critical as now. I just came for a couple of months and I just can’t believe that 3 years have passed since then’.
Meneses has worked as a barista since she arrived in Dublin, she enjoyed her job, although is not the job of her ‘dreams’. ‘I have got great colleagues and I have learned a lot of things which are useful for me’.
The Venezuelan traditional food is one of the things she misses the most. ‘This is the hardest part’, she commented with a big smile. ‘Getting used to what we have here has been a challenge for me, but I am very thankful and happy because Irish people are such an amazing ‘craic’ and it makes my life much easier in this country’.
Emily not only spends her days in the coffee shop but she also does what her passion is: dancing. She is an active member of the Venezuelan Community set in Ireland which promotes cultural activities such as, Venezuelan traditional dancing and food market.
The vast numbers of Venezuelans that have left the country is a major reflection of the crisis going now. This numbers will keep increasing unless actions are taken to bring back the quality of life they used to have.