Thursday, November 05, 2009

Venezuela vs. Colombia: The People Choose Venezuela

We are told over and over again that Colombia is led by a great President and Venezuela has one of the worst. That Uribe's Colombia is on the way up and Chavez's Venezuela is about to self-destruct. One wishes there were a way to test those assertions.

Wait a second. Aren't the 2 countries right next to each other? So it might be reasonable to ask what country's people are migrating to the other country in greater numbers. Turns out the numbers aren't even close. It is a blow out. Colombians, even in a time of much improved security, are flocking to Venezuelan in huge, unprecedented numbers. Why? Because of Venezuela's "greater employment opportunities and more secure social safety net."

Venezuela vs. Colombia: The Battle Over Emigres

Fredys Villanueva has abandoned his native Colombia for neighboring Venezuela. But he's not quite like the hundreds of thousands of Colombians who have fled their country's bloody 44-year long civil war for the safety of the land of Hugo Chávez. Instead, he's like 2 million or more Colombians who have moved to Venezuela because it offers greater employment opportunities and a more secure social safety network.

After coming to Venezuela from Barranquilla, Colombia, in 2003, Villanueva, 55, found steady work with decent pay at an aluminum factory, a job that came with a free house and other benefits. "There's a health clinic over there," he says, pointing down a dusty road lined with haphazardly constructed brick houses. "The Cuban modules are nearby too," he adds, referring to the free clinics, started by Chávez, that use Cuban doctors in poor neighborhoods. "They give me free pills for my hypertension."

...As many as 75% of the more than 3 million to 4 million Colombians living there have come for economic reasons. Juan Carlos Tanus, president of the Association of Colombians in Venezuela, says that Venezuela's advantages include jobs and subsidized food and health provided in the past 10 years by Chavez's socialist government. In fact, Tanus notes, from 2002 to 2008 — even as Colombia got safer thanks to President Alvaro Uribe's offensive against leftist guerrillas — the number of Colombians emigrating to Venezuela each year rose from 21,200 to 93,000.

Why haven't we been told this story before?


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