- Title: Venezuelans in Argentina get to grips with crisis - again
- Date: 5th September 2019
- Summary: FINGERPRINTS SEEN ON SCREEN
- Embargoed: 19th September 2019 13:38
- Keywords: Argentina inflation Venezuelans economy
- Location: UENOS AIRES / RIO GALLEGOS, SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE / ROSARIO, SANTA FE PROVINCE, ARGENTINA
- City: UENOS AIRES / RIO GALLEGOS, SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE / ROSARIO, SANTA FE PROVINCE, ARGENTINA
- Country: Argentina
- Topics: Government/Politics,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA002AVDS5L3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Alejandro Dugarte left Venezuela for Argentina three years ago as his country was spiralling towards the worst humanitarian crisis in its history. He did not know what the future would hold, but he was certain it would be brighter.
Durgarte, an employee at a digital payments firm in Buenos Aires, is now feeling a sense of deja vu, as his adopted home teeters towards its own economic crisis, with inflation running at over 50% and the peso currency plunging amid default fears.
Argentina's turmoil hits close to home for the South American country's extensive Venezuelan community, many of whom moved here to escape rising poverty, spiralling inflation and tight controls on currency and food.
"Really, the first thing you think is to leave," Dugarte said.
"Because in a certain way one has already lived through this situation," he told Reuters from the living room of the Buenos Aires apartment he shares with his girlfriend. "It still cannot be compared to what Venezuela is like even if they compare it, but one always thinks about it and one considers going to one side where at least one has economic stability for one."
Argentina's center-right President Mauricio Macri was soundly beaten in a primary vote in August, making it highly likely that October's election will be won by the main Peronist opposition ticket, which includes divisive populist ex-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Argentina, the No. 4 destination for Venezuelan migrants, has been in recession and firefighting economic crises since last year. The shock primary result sparked a further market crash, with the peso losing over a quarter of its value against the dollar in August alone.
In response, Macri rolled out plans to delay debt repayments and imposed capital controls to protect the peso. For some expatriate Venezuelans, that brought back reminders of home, which has long been under currency controls that many blame as the root causes of the country's economic malaise.
In recent years, an estimated 4.3 million Venezuelans have fled an economic collapse in their home country that has fuelled a humanitarian crisis and shortages of food and medicine. Most have scattered across South America.
The sound of Venezuelan salsa music and scent of arepa cakes grilling have become familiar to cities across the region, including Buenos Aires. Nearly 650,000 registered Venezuelan migrants have settled in Argentina in the last few years.
Fears of political upheaval, though, have spooked some Venezuelans. Fernandez de Kirchner, the vice presidential opposition candidate who led the country between 2007-2015, was once an ideological ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Her running mate Alberto Fernandez has criticized regional demands for Maduro to step down and said if elected he would join Mexico and Uruguay in promoting talks between Maduro and the opposition.
That would represent a major policy shift that would end nearly four years of strident criticism of Maduro under Macri.
Maduro has blamed Venezuela's economic woes on U.S. sanctions and said they have led some Venezuelans to try their luck in other countries, but that the extent of the crisis and number of migrants has been exaggerated.
Venezuelans were wary of a return to Fernandez de Kirchner's leftist policies.
"To leave Venezuela, which is a country in crisis under socialism and with all that that implies and coming to Argentina which is supposedly a good thing. You come to start a new life, bet on everything for everything. Forge ahead, as we say in Venezuela, and for a similar model to return. You tell yourself: 'I'm out of luck'," said Sofia Nunes, a Venezuelan journalist who has lived in Argentina for five years and works for local news site Urgente24. She has appeared on Argentine television criticizing the situation in Venezuela.
She said she had talked to her friends about leaving Argentina, but could not imagine rebuilding her life again.
(Production: Miguel Lo Bianco, Horacio Soria)
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