Exiting Venezuela

Guillermo Hernandez

Guillermo Hernandez

Venezuela and my Past Life

Venezuela is a tropical country known for its landscapes, its beautiful women, and more recently, a failed state. It faces a deep economic crisis despite previously earning the highest oil revenues in the world.

I'm from a town called San Juan De Los Morros, in Guárico, an agricultural-focused state at the center of Venezuela. Guárico is, like Venezuela generally, horrible. You can see people fighting over trash in the streets. Whomever wins, eats. At least for that day.

I'm from a middle-class family that was recently affected by the crisis.

The Crisis

The Venezuelan crisis was  caused by inflation and money depreciation in currency black markets. Exchanging Venezuela's currency is illegal, and only politically connected people are able to exchange money at the state-fixed rate.

Survival

In only a couple years, my parents’ monthly salary decreased from to $400 to $40.

I began working at a copy shop to help them, but I only earned a dollar a day.

Out of necessity, I discovered freelancing and Bitcoin. I began to do jobs for people all over the world. A simple task could earn me $15, half of a monthly salary in a single day! I charged in Bitcoin because it is the only method of payment that can be sent to Venezuela.  PayPal accounts do not work. However, once clients paid me in Bitcoin, I was able to sell it on the black market for Venezuelan bolivars.

I worked several months for Unite Investing, a blockchain startup which would allow anyone to invest money from a smartphone. It was my first freelance job, but it helped me survive.

Sometimes I waited three hour for a single baguette. I even waited  6 hours for soap before discovering that the merchant was robbed and lost his inventory.

I began saving money to leave, but I was struggling.  I could only save $20 a month. I needed hundreds more to leave.

Startup Societies Foundation

Thanks to Thibault Serlet, I soon began working at the Startup Societies Foundation, earning an additional income. After a few weeks, Thibault used the Startup Societies Foundation network to crowdfund Bitcoin donations for my ticket out of Venezuela.

Many generous, anonymous people helped me. I am forever grateful for their kindness.

I exchanged the bitcoin for enough bolivars to leave and then started my journey. I began an exodus through 5 countries, for a total of 6835 Km, from Venezuela to Chile. My travels gave me firsthand experience of the people, governments and economies in Latin America.

Colombia

Colombia is similar to Venezuela, but with major political and economic differences. It was the first leg of my journey, but the distinctions were palpable. To me, the sight of paved roads was shocking!

Ecuador

Ecuador is extraordinary beautiful. Sadly, Ecuador reminds me of Venezuela 10 years ago. It’s politics are paralyzing, but still has a stable economy.  On the radio, you can find 3 kinds of radio stations: religious, government propaganda , and commercial. (5% commercial, 60% government propaganda, and 35% religious ).

However, the Ecuadorian, socialist government has pegged their currency to the dollar. It’s one of the major factors stopping it from becoming the next Venezuela. Ecuador's government cannot print dollars.

Perú

Peru has been devastated by floods. Nevertheless, the economy appears to be thriving. They have a good price system with low intervention, which keeps the prices stable and make food abundant, despite being devastated by floods 3 weeks ago. Unlike Venezuela, there were no lines for food.

Chile

After escaping Venezuela and traveling across Latin America, I felt like a Platonic hero leaving the cave.

Chile is Latin America's leading country in economic and social liberties. It is also the most transparent government in Latin America. Moreover, my brother lives in Santiago and they are very accepting of migrants. The migration officers were incredibly kind. They told me that I wasn’t in a dictatorship anymore and that I could enter a “free country”.

Arriving in Santiago was amazing. It is a huge city with the Andean mountains overlooking it. It has many cultures and people from around the world. The city is extremely clean and well organized. For me, it was like travelling to the future.  While walking downtown, I heard people speaking French, English, German and Chinese. It’s really an amazing melting pot.

I feel reborn.   I'm now living in the center of Santiago. It’s amazing merely to walk in the streets in peace.  The city is calm and unafraid. You can feel freedom in the air. The key to my liberty was exiting tyranny.

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