More desperate college grads flee Venezuela

Exodus of dreamers comes with painful family separations

By Cody Weddle

CARACAS - Maria Endriago has been unemployed since she graduated from law school in Venezuela four years ago. As the deep recession worsens, the grim job market is killing dreams. But she isn't giving up. 

It took the 25-year-old lawyer about a year to prepare to leave the country. With two of her bags packed, she said in tears that this will mean "starting a new life, making new friends and making a new family."

After doing her research, Endriago decided to move to Chile. Her dad, Luis Endriago, who will be paying for the expenses of the move, said the separation is very painful, but it's a good time for her to leave. 

"I want her to take advantage of her youth, so she can develop herself professionally," the tearful father said. "This is such a hard decision for us. I never wanted to be separated from my daughter, but we don't have a choice."

Venezuelan officials haven't reported unemployment figures since April 2016. The last report set the rate at 7.3 percent. It was a decrease from the 8.1 percent in January 2016. The number has likely worsened. In the last year, many companies, both local and foreign, have closed and cut personnel. 

In the past 17 months, Venezuela has lost some million private sector jobs, according to Consecomercio, a retail industry group. Alfonso Riera, the vicepresident of Consecomercio, told Union Radio in January, that this year Venezuela has lost some 500,000 companies and there are only 230,000 left. 

But the economy is not the only reason why parents are urging their college graduates to leave. The crime rate is also frightening. Some parents prefer to say goodbye at the airport than at the cemetery, a professor who studies immigration at the Central University of Venezuela, told the New York Times late last year. 

Venezuela's first diaspora was after President Hugo Chavez moved to redistribute wealth to the poor. Demographers refer to Venezuelans like Endriago, who are fleeing the economic collapse that followed under his successor President Nicolas Maduro, as the second diaspora. And some academics refer to the exodus in its totality as the Bolivarian diaspora. 

Local 10 News' Andrea Torres contributed to this report.

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