Elena in Ecuador
A few weeks into my stay in Quito I find myself on a bus ride where a young man is holding a box of chocolate in one hand and in the other a big stack of bills. For every chocolate you buy, he gives you an additional Venezuelan bill of your choice. I choose the nice-looking 100 Bolivares note, which in 2017 has lost 96% of its value.
Venezuela is experiencing a crisis on the economic, political and migration level. 95% of Venezuela’s exports depend on oil, thus as the world oil prices decreased significantly, so did the country’s income. This factor was combined with bad politics for the management of petrol, and a series of bad decisions from the government. Prices rose by 800% in 2016, and people lost all of their wealth. The president lost popularity as he let his people starve and was accused of ruling Venezuela under a dictatorship. Elections for a constituents’ assembly were criticized as non-democratic, and protests arose in the country, many of which turned into violence.
The devastating circumstances have led millions of Venezuelans, like the man selling chocolate on the bus, to emigrate from their homeland to other Latin American countries such as Ecuador. This is not an uncommon situation in Latin American history. For example, in the beginning of the 2000’s it was Ecuador that was in a crisis and had its people moving away to find their luck elsewhere.
Clearly, there are some cultural differences between Ecuador and Venezuela, though these are not clashing profoundly. Sharing the same language, religious believes and Latin vibes makes the integration of Venezuelans relatively smooth. However, working conditions for these migrants are not all that great, many work below minimum wage or are forced to become street vendors.
When I decided to move to Ecuador I didn’t imagine to be living with five Venezuelans. As their monthly pay-checks arrive, each of them transfers a lion share of their incomes to their relatives, hoping this money will soon allow the rest of their families to join them in Ecuador. My roommates are already part of a strong expat community, with primos and tios (cousins and uncles) all over the country. As the crisis does not seem to be coming to an end, one can expect the already large Venezuelan community to become even bigger in the future.
The fact that all its educated and hard-working people are leaving Venezuela will certainly make the country`s recovery more difficult. On an individual basis, immigration seems to be the most beneficial solution, but it is obviously not a sustainable answer on a large scale. Even more, we don’t know for how long Ecuador and other Latin countries will welcome these migration flows.