THE economic crisis has reportedly reduced the population of Venezuela, as one migrant claimed there are now more Venezuelans outside the sprawling country than inside it.
Victor Manuel Peres Gonzales, speaking in Spanish, told Newsday: "There are more Venezuelans outside than in the country itself. Thousands are leaving daily. They go to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, TT – you name it. Venezuela does not have many Venezuelans."
The 35-year-old former military officer was among scores of Venezuelan migrants outside Achievors Banquet Hall at Duncan Village in San Fernando.
Gonzales, from Puerto Cabello in Valencia, said he worked in the military for five years. Owing to the economic crisis, he came to TT and now lives at Aripero.
"Right now, Venezuelans are afraid to be in the streets in Venezuela. It is chaotic, and corruption is rampant. There is no law and order. Things are so bad that children as young as four are robbing people in supermarkets. They just want food to survive."
The father of four said he worked for very little money although he is a hard worker. He is a construction worker here.
Hundreds gathered outside the centre, many desperate to register in the amnesty drive for Venezuelan migrants.
Looking at the large crowd lined up in the sun, Gonzales said: "I am very sad about the whole situation, because Venezuela was a happy place, the people were happy. That was the old Venezuela. "The country is still rich in natural resources. We have oil, gold, diamonds and so on."
Despite the crisis, Gonzales has not lost hope, saying when conditions improve, he intends to return home.
Aspiring lawyer Odalis Jimenez, 21, smiled and said she had been processed. She said Venezuelans are happy to be able to live and work comfortably here for up to a year.
Registration for the amnesty began on May 31 and ends tomorrow at 5 pm.
With hours to go before the deadline, police said they expect an influx of migrants trying to enter illegally to register. They have beefed up patrols and today at about 6. 45 am, the South Western Emergency Response Patrol arrested 20 Venezuelans including two teenagers, at a beach at Morne Diablo in Penal.
Sgt Ainsley Richardson co-ordinated the exercise and with the assistance of PCs Corey Augillera and Ryan Heeralal and other police intercepted a van full of migrants. Of the 20, 17 were male and three female.
They were handed over to Penal police, who are expected to hand them over to the immigration centre at San Fernando.