“‘Flee as fast you can.’ A couple joins Venezuelan exodus.” That was a headline in the Wall Street Journal of October 2nd.
All they carried were two backpacks and a borrowed suitcase. The young couple, armed with Chilean visas, were bus bound for the Colombian border. They were the fortunate ones, since many fellow travelers had no such documents and gambled with the Fates.
From around 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 years from the present, and continuing today, our own Guyanese exodus continues. Slower, but just as steadily in a continual stream of the fleeing and searching for another rung on the ladder of life. That was us then; it is still us today, and now we have oil. Now there are neighbours in shoes long worn and roads still trod in what can be hard and spirit-bending, despite their own oil oceans, estimated to be more than any other country on this inhuman planet.
The Journal paints a harrowing picture compelling movement from next door, “Amid political turmoil, violence, food shortage, and a disintegrating economy, more than four million Venezuelans have left their country. It is the largest migration crisis in modern Latin American history.”
That was over a month ago, more thousands are sure to have joined the desperate, headlong flight. This tale and tragedy of epic human drama is not occurring somewhere way out there, as in the Himalayas. It is right across there, by way of travel from the docks, or Ogle, to the now not-so-distant Northwest. It is within hearing distance, even touching distance also.
Guyanese know about those manmade troubles, don’t we? We even have some of that brewing pungently currently. That is why concern and compassion must be extended, and concern and caution also weighed with our own circumstances in mind. As the oil comes bubbling to the surface so, too, would the rush of incoming Venezuelans flood from across the border. Why not? What is there to hold them back? To keep them glued to their tattered, increasingly dangerous, homeland?
Many, “who leave have little money for food and housing. Finding work is difficult. Xenophobia generated by the mass migration has spawned bouts of vigilante justice in Brazil, Peru and elsewhere after locals accused Venezuelans of crimes or of taking local jobs.”
This should be a very familiar story, even for those Guyanese who never lived permanently or illegally or part-time abroad. Their relatives, who succeeded and are now settled, sometimes share the tales of hardship and despair. But desperate migrants living in desolate times in devastated places do anything to get away from their living nightmares.
“My grandparents used to tell me, ‘Don’t go,’” said one Venezuelan. “Now they say, ‘Flee as fast as you can.’” What is it we tell one another, here in Guyana, if not something approaching the same? Go north, start over, find footing, leave the tensions and conflicts behind. Don’t look back; oil or no oil. Find your own oil well. Become your own Exxon. Is that not what some say to others amidst our own national uncertainties and social frailties?
Here is some more from the Journal on the situation in Venezuela: “Polls…show that nearly two-thirds of Venezuelans want to leave…and 95% expect living conditions to deteriorate.” That just might be slightly more than the fraction of Guyanese who wish to live elsewhere. Certainly, near universally, the outlook of Guyanese from many walks of life anticipates political conflict, which means racial clashes, which means social degradation.
“We need to be reborn.” That was one Venezuelan getting ready to depart and face whatever was ahead. Truer words have never been said, be it about there, or over here. Since Colombia is tighter and more watched, Venezuelans “are considering trying their luck in another South American country.” That must include Guyana, language barrier aside.
The Brookings Institution estimates the number of Venezuelan migrants could double to eight million in the next two years.” Many presently receptive countries will crack down. Inevitably, more than a few will end up in Guyana. Sad, that with so much oil, there is so much fear, so many tears. Both their fears and tears can add unbearably to our own brimming pools.
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