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'Brain Drain' As Educated Young People Leave Venezuela


We're going to take a minute now to look into how the chaos has been pushing so many young people to leave Venezuela. Since 1999, when the late President Hugo Chavez took power, more than a million Venezuelans have emigrated. And many of those leaving have a masters or doctoral degree, according to research by the sociologist Thomas Paez, who studies the Venezuelan diaspora. Maria Alesia Sosa is one of those caught up in the brain drain. We reached her in Miami, where she's a freelance journalist for Venezuelan media. Maria, welcome to the program.

MARIA ALESIA SOSA: Hi, Ray. How are you?

SUAREZ: I'm OK. When did you decide to leave Venezuela?

SOSA: I've been thinking about it for, like, two years because situation has gotten worse and worse. But one day, I realized I was going to turn 30, and I was working 14 hours a day. I was earning less than 50 dollars a month. And I was not able to save money to have a car or even a house or anything. And one of the other big reasons that made me leave the country was the huge crime rates that we have there. In Venezuela, a person gets murdered every 25 minutes.

So life has been reducted to going to work and doing lines to find food and getting home when it's night 'cause it's very dangerous. So that's not my ideal of life and that also made me leave my country. And it was very painful. It was really hard, actually. My whole family's still there, and it's really hard for me. It's heartbreaking.

SUAREZ: What about people who are your friends, who are around your age? Maybe you went to school with them. Maybe you lived near them or stay in contact with them. Were you talking about that over the years with people in a similar situation to yours?

SOSA: Yes. A lot of them has left the country - a lot of them. It's very sad 'cause, after all, when this crisis gets to an end, who's going to rebuild the country? You know, young people who have studies and who can get opportunities somewhere else - they just leave the country 'cause they see no opportunities in their own country.

SUAREZ: As an educated person, you're one of the people who could be rebuilding Venezuela, as are your friends. Is this a temporary sojourn in Miami?

SOSA: My plan is this to be temporary. I want to go back to my country and be part of that reconstruction generation that - it's going to be very, very needed.

SUAREZ: But when it's all over, do you think that many of those who've moved to other places will eventually decide - I don't want to go back?

SOSA: Yes, of course, that is going to happen. We'll have to work with what we've got. And I hope a big part of that diaspora goes back because the country demands it.

SUAREZ: That's Maria Alesia Sosa. She's a freelance journalist working in Miami for Venezuelan media. Good to talk to you. Good luck, Maria.

SOSA: Thank you, Ray. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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