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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion

    Fleeing Venezuelans start over in Florida ... -headlines

    Fleeing Venezuelans start over in Florida
    Many leave home to escape the leadership of Hugo Chavez.

    Victor Manuel Ramos
    Sentinel Staff Writer

    November 28, 2005

    Jorge Barba and his wife, Hilda Martorelli de Barba, take turns minding the Dollar City store they own in Apopka, working seven days a week to make enough for the mortgage and their daughters' college.

    For some immigrants, that would be a dream life. To the Barbas it is almost an indignity. They used to make a good living as physicians. He was a pediatric surgeon who led a medical college with hundreds of staffers. She was a pediatrician with more than 20 years' experience.

    But the Barbas -- like many other upper- and middle-class Venezuelans who prefer exile to living under a leftist government -- divide their lives in halves: before and after Hugo Chavez, the populist president who has moved the oil-rich South American nation to socialist and anti-globalist policies.

    Like Cubans in 1960s Miami, Venezuelans are fleeing their homeland in large numbers. Most are finding their way to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando -- leaving their professions and social status behind and forming prominent exile communities.

    "We have freedom, but when it comes to our psyche and spirit, we feel like prisoners," Barba, 59, said in Spanish.

    They cannot work as doctors in the United States unless they study and get licensed, a costly process that could take years.

    So their days are spent selling discount items -- from batteries to gift bags to phone cards.

    Home away from home

    U.S. immigration records show a steady flow of Venezuelans with temporary visas, a rise in the number admitted as legal residents and a spike in political-asylum applications since Chavez gained power six years ago.

    About 90 percent of the nearly 8,000 asylum applications filed by Venezuelans since Chavez was elected were processed by the Miami office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In Central Florida, more Venezuela transplants are buying homes and starting businesses in hopes of turning their bolivares into dollars.

    Those who are leaving fear their country is going the way of Cuba, with which Chavez has close ties.

    The Venezuelan government, reacting to that migration, has placed limits on how much money its citizens can take out of the country.

    One Caracas-based Web portal,, is dedicated to helping young Venezuelans "explore life options in other countries." Its name translates as "I want to leave."

    "The largest community of Venezuelans outside the country is in the state of Florida," said portal director Esther Bermudez, based in Caracas, Venezuela. "It's a preferred destination because of the cultural empathy that exists between middle-class Venezuelans and the United States."

    Halving their income

    It has not been an easy transition for the Barbas, who say they went from a yearly household income of about $100,000 in Venezuela to less than $50,000 as store owners.

    The Barbas wanted to offer their two daughters a more secure future. One, a doctor in Venezuela, is studying to be licensed in Florida. The other attends Valencia Community College.

    "We felt helpless when we got here," Martorelli de Barba said. "I know there are engineers, architects and pediatricians out there cleaning houses and working as baby sitters."

    Miguel Vina, for instance, went from being a publicity executive with the oil and energy company PdVSA, which owns Citgo gas stations in the United States, to inflating toy castles for children's birthday parties in Orlando.

    He was fired, along with hundreds of others, after they joined protests seeking to overthrow Chavez in 2002. Vina, a U.S.-educated business-administration graduate, left Venezuela in August 2003 and bought a Winter Springs home.

    "It was either that, start a business here, or go back to Venezuela and face the harassment and persecution," said Vina, 52. "The president himself went on television and said it was forbidden to help the former petroleum employees in any way."

    'Status adjustment'

    Many of the engineers, businesspeople and doctors living in Florida are building a vigilant exile community, forming civic organizations and an online network of groups that keep track of news about Venezuela.

    Some of those who settled in Orlando owned vacation homes here. Many came with enough money to buy a home and start a business.

    "We have seen that every time there is an electoral event in Venezuela, there is a corresponding increase in the exodus of Venezuelans to Florida," said Carlos Antonio Suarez, an attorney with the Orlando office of Arias Tovar & Associates, a Venezuelan law firm that works on immigration issues. "The majority of Venezuelans come in as tourists, and then they seek some way to get a status adjustment."

    More, Suarez said, are seeking political asylum after they enter the United States through legal but temporary means. Some become undocumented immigrants.

    Immigration records show that more than 3 million Venezuelans have visited the United States since 1999, but it's not clear how many stayed beyond their visas' expiration dates. More than 27,000 were admitted as legal immigrants during the same period.

    The number of those requesting asylum went from only 18 when Chavez took power in 1999 to 1,204 in 2004. An additional 13,299 Venezuelans have become U.S. citizens since 1999.

    There is at least one Miami-based Venezuelan newspaper. In Orlando, there are two Venezuelan civic groups, the Sociedad Venezolana de Orlando and Casa de Venezuela, as well as a nascent chamber of commerce.

    Antonio Escalona, 60, president of the Venezuelan society and owner of a home-construction company here, estimates there are more than 25,000 Venezuelans in Central Florida, though the 2000 census counted about 4,300.

    William Diaz, spokesman for Casa de Venezuela, said his organization is focusing on fostering unity and creating networking opportunities and has a database of more than 3,000 Venezuelans who live in the region.

    It takes time, however, to feel connected here.

    Barba temporarily breaks into English to use one of the few phrases he has learned. "In this country," he says, "I am not a doctor. I'm a number. Soy un numero."
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Richard's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
    When Com. Hugo Chavez took control of the government of Venezuela and the state owned oil company PDVSA he moved cronies into senior management.

    The PDVSA's own career petroleum specialists resented that and many took part in a strike. The petroleum strike was ultimately unsuccessful and Chavez kept control firing the strikers. PDVSA now has a hiring ban on ex PDVSA petroleum specialists who took part in the strike. A great many highly skilled people are doing other jobs driving taxis for example.

    This political turn of events is unfortunate in that while refineries have similarity the operation of a refinery is as tempermental as a car. A person with experience on a specific refinery plant can get out more productivity.

    Above and beyond that Chavez is delaying plant maintenance in favor of funding social programs for his party constituency out of petroleum revnues.

    I have been in touch with some of the ex PDVSA people trying to bring them here.
    I support enforcement and see its lack as bad for the 3rd World as well. Remittances are now mostly spent on consumption not production assets. Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Nov 2005
    Saxon Tree Goddess
    why do they have to come here? cant they go to spain? when Ronald reagan fired all the striking air traffic controllers - they didnt immigrate to England...
    chavez isnt perfect- reform their own country-
    the united states is full up - we are not an underpopulated nation any more-
    I 'am sorry but I'am fed up with media stories that play violin music for every latino-
    so they have to clean houses- I did to get through college- and I didn't lament my six figure income-
    tired and fed up with the pity parties for latinos -

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Nov 2004

    Well why bother

    Why bother to come here? America is being turned into a third world country! How long do they think they will be able to have a good living here! What they left, we are becoming!
    Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God

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