As Chavez Celebrates, Many Venezuelans Pack Their Bags

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“Now I don’t know what’s going to happen with Chavez in power for six more years,” explained a housewife, as now-subdued Capriles supporters begin to reassess their lives in Venezuela.

In the end, it was a comfortable victory for the socialist Chavez. With 90% of the ballots counted, Chavez had more than 54% of votes, with nearly 45% for Capriles, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council reported Sunday night. However, Capriles was still the strongest candidate Chavez has faced and there had been belief that Chavez could be defeated.

Chavez is generally adored by the poor in Venezuela while despised by the middle and upper classes. His economic policies focus on helping the poor and have certainly done a lot of good. For example, many new apartment complexes and free health clinics have been built for the lower class. However, his critics claim he has become increasingly authoritarian and don’t agree with his socialist policies. Poverty and unemployment are still widespread, despite the country’s oil wealth and social policies.

Over the course of Chavez’s leadership there has been a huge exodus of Venezuela’s wealthy, experienced, and educated. The main destinations include Panama, Colombia, and the United States. This migration will continue at a greater rate now in the wake of Sunday’s election result. Scientists, doctors, businessmen, and engineers have left in the greatest numbers. Considered from a different perspective, Venezuela’s brain drain is a gift for its surrounding countries as they receive Venezuela’s cream of the crop.

As this brain drain continues, some Venezuelans have expressed concerns that Chavez could impose Cuban-style controls on travel out of Venezuela to ease the country’s emigration problem.

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Denis Foynes

Denis Foynes was born in New York City to Irish parents in 1991. When he was 8, his family returned to Celtic Tiger Ireland. Denis has an International Politics degree from Aberystwyth University in Wales. After completing university, he decided to leave crisis Ireland and relocate to Panama.