24 Venezuelans were shipwrecked when they tried to reach Curaçao
The word rafter is commonly used to refer to Cubans who try to reach the coasts of the United States in small boats, or tires bound with boards and rope, who risk everything for the opportunity to have a better life.
A 1994 report by El Tiempo narrates the story of Roberto, who tired of eating boiled plantains for lunch and dinner for two years, only being able to afford a daily bottle of the state milk for his children, and thinking about the possibility to buy soap, shoes, eggs and medicines if he won in dollars, began to build a boat. Roberto sailed to the coasts of Miami, with the fortune of being spotted by the plane of Brothers to the Rescue, a private organization of Cubans exiles that was dedicated to fly over the Florida Strait every day in search of rafters. However, not all the Cubans rafters had the same luck.
On January 10, 2018, 24 years later after the report, the news of 4 Venezuelans dead and 20 missing when a boat was wrecked on its way to Curaçao, showed another face of the crisis. Furthermore, the tragedy is evidence of the impoverishment of what was once the richest country in Latin America, and even the fourth worldwide. They wanted the same thing as Roberto: the opportunity to obtain a better-quality life.
The Curaçao police force confirmed that the authorities found two men and two women, of Venezuelan nationality, on the Curaçao coasts, at the height of Koraal Tabak. The mayor's office of La Colina, in the state of Falcón, Venezuela, reported that although it is unknown the exact number of passengers, about 20 missing persons are estimated.
*The island Koraal Tabak is 50 kilometers away from the coast of the Falcon state*
Closure of borders: the fear of being locked up in a country in crisis
On January 5, President Nicolas Maduro decreed the closing of the air and sea traffic with Bonaire, Aruba, and Curaçao for 72 hours, with the aim of launching an operation to reduce smuggling across borders.
"I have ordered the immediate closure of all ports and airports that we use to communicate and carry out commercial and passenger exchange with Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire," said the president at the end of a council of ministers.
The closure of the border was the fact that precipitated the decision of the departure of this group of Venezuelans, according to a source consulted by the Venezuelan digital newspaper El Efecto Cocuyo. "The passengers had planned the trip since December, but it was postponed several times because they had not collected enough money to pay for the transfer. Apparently, the ban on sailing precipitated the decision”.
During the first years of the crisis, those who emigrated were young professionals who saw no future in the country. However, as insecurity, scarcity, and inflation increase, the lower classes begin to emerge in the search of a better-quality life. At the moment, although there are no official figures, it’s estimated that approximately 80.000 Venezuelans have requested asylum in other countries since 2014.
One of the most commonly used arguments to leave the country is the fear of not being able to do it later. A fear that is sustained on a real basis. Leaving Venezuela is increasingly complicated.
In 2014, the government decreased the annual amount of foreign currency for trips abroad. From that time, several airlines have decreased the number of tickets available for Venezuela, or even, suspended the general sale. Additionally, there is the difficulty of carrying out legal procedures, such as legalizing documents or taking out a passport, due to the inability of the systems of the state agencies and the increase of requirements for a Venezuelan to reach another country.
LatinAmerican Post | Camila González C
Copy edited by Marcela Peñaloza