Once-rich Venezuelans live as beggars in Colombia, but they don’t want to go back

miami heraldThey left their jobs, homes and all their worldly possessions behind, and now have to beg on the streets all day just to gather enough coins to sleep under a roof at night. But many Venezuelan immigrants in Colombia still say they are better off than they were before they crossed the border.

“Venezuela… I wouldn’t wish it on even my worst enemy,” a teary-eyed Luis Alfredo Rivas, 32, told el Nuevo Herald at a bus terminal in Bogotá, where he had just arrived from the neighboring country.

Rivas explained how he made the decision to leave. “Venezuela’s minimum wage is only 190,000 bolivars per week, when a kilogram of rice costs 210,000 bolivars. What can I do there?” he asked. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.