Portuguese are leaving Venezuela

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The political and economic situation in Venezuela is forcing many Portuguese residents and lusodescendants to consider leaving the South American country where for many years they lived and thought of establishing permanent roots.

Venezuela has a large Portuguese community of nearly one million, whose majority comes from Madeira and which constituted, in a recent past, one of the most affluent of the lusodiasporas .

However a period of political instability and turmoil led an economic downturn and a chaotic social environment.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has blamed the drought on his country’s problems, but as many have pointed out, the drought has affected the entire continent, and only Venezuela is on the brink of civil war.

Economists say that even if Maduro leaves power, any new government will have to face strong challenges and an extremely slow recovery as a consequence of decades of destruction of the private economy and capacities of the State.

Food and other basics are scarce, electricity is being cut off, and public disorder is commonplace.

There are queues everywhere to purchase essential goods, such as flour, sugar, milk or salt and  it is  impossible to have access to medicines at pharmacies .

The drastic shortages are generating an violent environment with the populace pillaging shops and businesses in many cases belonging to resident Portuguese.

Portuguese traders are the ones being badly affected as they are the people who run more than 80 percent of the grocer’s, bakery shops and supermarkets in the country.

Compatriots with family in Portugal are making plan to return home, but for those with businesses, who have lived their lives in Venezuela, it is more difficult.

The disastrous consequences of the debacle of Banif and BES, the two Portuguese banks where many immigrants had their savings, has created a critical situation that some compatriots  do not even have money to leave the country and try to settle elsewhere.

For the older generation who have invested everything in Venezuela it is much more difficult than the younger segment of the Portuguese, who have obtained formal education and access to skilled jobs.

Some immigrants also take in their luggage diplomas from the Camoes Institute as there is a rush to improve Portuguese language skills while parents are sending their children to schools that teach their mother tongue.

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A situação na Venezuela é preocupante para a Comunidade Portuguesa naquele país, onde se estima residirem cerca de um milhão de nacionais portugueses e lusodescendentes, dos quais a grande maioria é oriunda da Madeira.

A agitação política e o descalabro económico, levaram em poucos anos à ruína um país que era um dos mais prósperos da América Latina, e onde os Portugueses tem uma posição dominante no comércio controlando cerca de 80 % das lojas e supermercados alimentares.

A escassez dos mais básicos produtos e a inflação causam um degradado ambiente social, com frequente rapina de estabelecimentos comerciais, em grande parte pertencentes a portugueses.

A hipótese de abandonar o país revela-se extremamente difícil para os portugueses que vivem na  Venezuela, em muitos casos há mais de cinquenta anos, e ali estabeleceram os seus negócios .

Para os mais jovens  a eventualidade de regressar a Portugal, ou emigrar para outros países, será mais viável a capacidade de adaptação, especialmente se possuírem formação académica ou profissional.

Está-se a   registar também   uma corrida ao ensino do português, por parte das camadas mais jovens ,que pretendem levar nas malas um diploma de português ,emitido pelos organismo patrocinados pelo Instituto Camões no estrangeiro .

A viabilidade de emigrar e iniciar outra vida noutras paragens demonstra -se muito mais difícil para os emigrantes que perderam quase todas suas economias com a derrocada das duas instituições bancárias portuguesas, Banif e BES.

É uma viragem da fortuna para uma Comunidade Portuguesa no estrangeiro, que era das mais abastadas  e influentes da Venezuela, que presentemente, numa conjuntura de caos político e económico , está a ser pressionada a abandonar tudo o que haviam construído com o produto de trabalho de muitos anos e canseiras.

Jay Fernandes
Master’s Degree G. Ph. from the University of Lisbon. Academic and teacher. Television , radio and press reporter / commentator

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