CRF Blog

Venezuela’s Crisis Has Professionals Scrubbing Toilets in Miami

by Bill Hayes

In Venezuela’s Crisis Has Professionals Scrubbing Toilets in Miami, Bloomberg Businessweek reports on the Venezuelan exodus.

Once upon a time, people didn’t flee Venezuela; they flocked to it. “Venezuela has always been a country of immigrants, not emigrants,” says Tomás Páez, a Venezuelan sociologist and author of the 2015 book The Voice of the Venezuelan Diaspora. From the 1960s on, he says, the country was a “big magnet,” attracting Europeans, particularly Spaniards, and South Americans. Among its draws were a temperate climate, an oil-fueled economy, and a history of democratic rule. The Concorde flew to Caracas from Paris. Venezuelans would hop over to Miami for a little shopping. “That’s cheap; I’ll take two” was their trademark phrase.

Then in 1999, Hugo Chávez swept into power and instituted a program of petroleum-funded socialism and strongman rule. Before his death in 2013, Chávez annointed a successor, Nicolás Maduro, to lead the Bolivarian Revolution. By then the price of oil was falling, plunging the economy into a recession made more painful by rigid price and currency controls that have caused critical shortages of everything from basic food staples to cancer drugs. The International Monetary Fund estimates gross domestic product contracted 18 percent last year and will shrink an additional 7 percent in 2017. Inflation this year is expected to average 720 percent a month. [more]