JENSEN LA VENDE
In February, Atlas Security, a security company in Venezuela promised to pay 144 eggs as a bonus to their US$10 monthly salary in the hopes of attracting applicants. It worked.
This is the level of desperation facing a country with such high inflation that US$100 is equalled to around 40 million Bolivarian dollars. This is the motivation behind Venezuelans fleeing their starving families to come to Trinidad to earn as much as they can in order to send food back home. The Sunday Newsday sat down with a Venezuelan living in TT for the past two decades seeking citizenship, having to budget 25 per cent of her monthly salary to feed her family back home. The woman wished not to be identified out of fear that she might be victimised as she is seeking citizenship.
At her office in east Trinidad, the national said she sent up to US$200 to help her siblings and extended family but that was not enough.
“My brother, who is an engineer, said he has to work two weeks to get enough money to buy a carton of eggs. My cousin told me that she had to boil the food they feed to chickens — chicken feed — to eat...I can go in the grocery and the pharmacy and get something to eat and then I think about my family who cannot and I begin to cry. Sometimes I am in work and I think about them and I cry,” she said fighting back tears.
She lamented that a meal of rice and peas is considered a blessed meal and any piece of meat is fantasy. Eggs are the closest they can get to meat and even that is prized possession. She recalled returning to her home country last year and going to the grocery to purchase toothpaste and, after lining up for hours to purchase the item, she was not allowed to because it was not her day to shop.
According to her, the Venezuelan government was allowing citizens to purchase groceries on particular days according to their identification cards and it was not her day according to the system to purchase food. She relayed another incident involving her neighbours who travelled for six hours to collect a box of groceries sent from Trinidad and when they arrived the box of food was raided and only three items remained.
While she struggles with assisting her family back at home, she is faced with another hurdle, her ability to travel, which forms part of her job as a sales executive. She is a resident of TT, living here 20 years now and is seeking to become a citizen. Her main purpose is to continue working and travelling. Currently there are no new passports being issued in Venezuela, and hers expires in a few months.
This process is frustrating, and she feels as though she is being penalised for being born in Venezuela. She said her countrymen just want to survive and are willing to do anything to leave.
“Nobody wants to leave, if they do not, they will die. People should be a little more open-minded and not think that we are coming to steal jobs and steal people’s husbands. They should think beyond that and help each other.
“The younger ones are coming here to provide food for their families. Sending them back is sending back to die because there is no food. And then they get sick and there is no medicine so the people die.”
She added she was also tired of the xenophobia she and her comrades faced. The women are accused of being prostitutes and approached by random men when they are out in public while the men are regarded as drug dealers. She said the Venezuelans were forming their own groups to support and protect themselves as the accusations were embarrassing for them and they needed the support from each other and from TT.