Spanish – The Caribbean islands are close to Venezuela. When the night covers the northern coasts, you can see the flashing lights of Aruba and Curaçao. The 30 km distance to them seems little, very little. From the southern shores, Trinidad and Tobago is within reach in a couple of hours. From being paradisiacal attractions, they are now the destination of death for those who push themselves into the waters away from the crisis of Nicolás Maduro’s regime.
The sea is an accomplice, and the authorities are executing those who lost their lives drowning in the hope of a better life far from the dictatorship in the last two years.
The mourning and tragedy began in January 2018 when four Venezuelans died trying to reach Curaçao. In October of that same year, two more rafters died off the coast of Aruba. The island’s Minister of Justice, Andin Bikker, reported the incident by pointing out that the whereabouts of 15 of the 20 passengers on the boat were unknown, and three others had survived, including an officer of the Bolivarian National Guard, reported Ciber Cuba.
The number increased in 2019. According to the International Organization for Migration, 80 Venezuelans have died in three shipwrecks since April. And this year, the numbers have risen, with 11 more victims trying to reach Trinidad and Tobago this weekend.
It is confirmed that there are more than 100 victims and that “the Venezuelan tragedy has no limits, not even geographical ones,” says El Mundo.
The shared tragedy
What has happened has an explanation. “Despite the bitter and tragic lessons history has taught us, humanity has not learned from a holy time that communism kills, always and everywhere. The intention of its precursors or the particular conditions of the country in which it is tried to be put into practice does not matter. The result, without exception, will be the same in all cases: misery, repression, and death.”
Manuel Llamas analyzes it in Libre Mercado. Refuting it is an uphill battle in the face of the desperate paths taken by the victims of a crisis without truce in all areas of social and personal life.
It is not by chance that the most extreme cases and with shameful accounts for the conditions of misery are Cuba and Venezuela. The average salary in Cuba is 28 USD a month. So Cubans would have to work for 36 years to be able to buy a second-hand car, allocating 100% of their salary to that objective, and more than 700 years if they aspired to acquire an average dwelling in Spain.
Meanwhile, in Venezuela, more than 90 % of the population suffers severe material deprivation to the point that per capita meat consumption has plummeted from 22 kilos in 1999 to only four kilos in 2019, while life expectancy at birth has fallen by 3.5 years, says Llamas.
Thus, it remains a simple and deceptive promise that Latin America should “sail the sea of justice, happiness, and work of Cuba” that Hugo Chávez aspired for a decade ago, according to Cubanet.
A Cuban pattern
Venezuelans’ reasons for leaving on a raft are similar to those of the Cubans. Life in Cuba is still very difficult, especially for those who live outside the capital. Freedom of expression still suffers from severe restrictions, and wages range from 16 USD to 22 USD a month, the New York Times notes.
Venezuelans are also moved by panic. Yes, the terror of poverty that increases due to the absence of bread on the table given the increase in food prices and the deterioration of the value of the national currency.
The last statistical indicator of Venezuelan migrants is four million immigrants and refugees, according to public data from the Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), quoted by El Mundo. But this number may have already been surpassed, according to the Observatory of the Venezuelan Diaspora (ODV), which before the last one reported 4,700,000 Venezuelans in 90 countries. So in proportion, it is the same number of Cubans who have fled the island and that the Nueva Sociedad Magazine, besides placing it at 10%, estimates that “there are no signs that the exodus will stop in the medium term.”
The problem is that the current migration processes have made the impact of migrants visible for both reception and expulsion areas. That is where the lack of humanity abounds.
A diaspora that cannot be denied
The flight of Venezuelans in search of a better present and future is extremely evident. The situation is so evident that Maduro has not been able to remain indifferent. In front of the United Nations Organization (UN), he accepted it, but in his own way, manipulating reality and adapting it to his interests, washing his responsibilities in the tragedy. But he did it.
Although Maduro tells the world that the population is leaving as a “direct consequence of the coercive, unilateral measures and economic aggressions imposed by the government of the United States, there has been a process of emigration of citizens, fundamentally for economic reasons,” the reality denies this.
Hyperinflation, lack of public services, deterioration of public health, school infrastructure, hunger, and blackouts make the population desperate and frustrated and push them to drastic decisions like getting into a boat with few belongings to escape their regime. This is no exaggeration.
A depressed and unhappy country
During the last four years, Venezuela has occupied the last positions in the Happiness Index of the United Nations Sustainable Development Network, and the Ernesto Illy International Foundation describes the country under socialist rule as one of the most unhappy countries in the world, where the symptoms of discontent increase and persist.
This year, it is ranked 99 out of 153. A number that translates the generalization of feelings of sadness, anxiety, and anger both in society and in the personal sphere, where the population perceives itself as one of the most corrupt nations.
And that’s not where the figures against it end. The same report argues that the situation in Venezuela “is the result of a profound economic, political and social stress” that alarms experts because the prolonged impact of sensations such as “depression and frustration” become relevant obstacles for the recovery in the most objective and behavioral variables in the economy such as the achievement of greater freedom and a better integrated social system.
With this scenario, it is absurd to consider that the Vice-Ministry for the “Supreme Social Happiness of the People” created by Maduro in 2013 served to “elevate the missions to heaven” as it was entrusted with the attention of the most vulnerable. Its inefficiency stains the Caribbean with blood.