The Conversation

One Journalist's Decision to Escape From Socialist Venezuela

In a piece published in the Washington Post, former Venezuelan journalist Rafael Osío Cabrices describes his decision to leave the country with his family and become an immigrant in another land.

We were proud of the job we were doing as journalists, writing about the problems our country was facing and possible ways to solve them. We wanted to help our society to go back to the path to democracy, interrupted in 1998 by the return of army men to power, with the election of Chávez, a career military officer, who had failed to take over the government in a bloody putsch just six years before.

But the majority of our fellow Venezuelans had other plans. In 2009, when Chávez obtained the popular support to reform the constitution in order to rule forever, my wife and I accepted that we wouldn’t be able to live under an elected dictatorship, a government that also would be unable to stop the inflation and crime rates that now are among the highest in the world. As newspapers were being whittled down and journalists feared speaking against the regime, it became virtually impossible to do the work my wife and I were trained to do.

Cabrices and his family decide to move to Canada because it is easier, as a professional journalist, to get a visa there than in the U.S. However his first stop was in Florida where he awaited final word on his Canadian visa. Compared to life in Venezuela, Florida is a different world.

Even if we were (and still are) terrified about burning through our savings, Weston reminded us that another life, a good life, is possible. The first days there, my wife used to stand in front of the supermarket cases full of brands of yogurt, stressed out by her inability to decide which one to choose. For months, finding any yogurt in Venezuela had been an epic achievement.

Lest you think he is exaggerating, today I came across this video clip which shows what it is like to shop in a Venezuelan supermarket. You don't need to watch all 7 minutes (or understand what the videographer is saying) just look at the rows and rows of empty shelves.

Eventually Cabrices' visa comes through and he describes his feelings living in Montreal and looking back on Venezuela using a Star Wars reference.

As a resident of Canada, I feel like Princess Leia watching her home planet Alderaan explode from a window of the Death Star. I wish I could send some Millenium Falcon to rescue all my people. But I have my own family and future to worry about, too; the challenge of finding a decent job, for starters.

The whole piece is definitely worth reading.


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