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Venezuela crisis sends residents fleeing to nearby countries

Yesica Galindez left Caracas last weekend in search of a better life. Her final destination: Chile, nearly 3,000 mile...

Posted: Dec 25, 2017 5:06 PM
Updated: Dec 25, 2017 5:06 PM

Yesica Galindez left Caracas last weekend in search of a better life. Her final destination: Chile, nearly 3,000 miles away.

The live-in nurse scraped by while caring for a wealthy elderly man in Venezuela's capital, but once he left the country, Galindez struggled to find a job.

Galindez, 28, is among the thousands of Venezuelans who have decided to flee the country amid a deep economic crisis that has brought extreme inflation, social tensions as well as shortages of food and medical supplies.

CNN joined a busload of Venezuelans as they headed along the 500-mile route from the country's capital of Caracas to San Cristobal, a town on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, and Galindez's exit point from her homeland.

Buying a one-way ticket

Not only was Galindez' choice to flee a difficult one, the logistics of leaving were daunting and exhausting.

An airplane ticket was simply too expensive for her and most airlines have stopped flying to and from Venezuela.

Once one of the wealthiest Latin American countries, Venezuela is now at the bottom of most social and economic performance indexes.

The best option for many travelers is a bus ride to Colombia, but still, the journey out of Caracas costs these travelers more than half of the monthly minimum wage in the country.

A bus ticket from Caracas to San Cristobal is 250,000 bolivars, about $2.23, according to DolarToday, a website that tracks the unofficial exchange rate. Official government exchange rates are considered overvalued.

For Galindez, taking the bus to Colombia and then to Chile was much more affordable, but purchasing the ticket was almost as long of a process as the trip itself.

"I had to queue two days to get the ticket. My niece and I arrived at the terminal on Wednesday night, and slept there till we were able to buy my ticket on Friday morning," Galindez said.

A long bus ride

But there were more hurdles to jump.

After days of waiting, the bus Galindez boarded last Friday afternoon broke down shortly after taking off from the busy terminal in Caracas.

The bus company told passengers it was unable to replace the broken part and would have to find a different bus.

Venezuela's transportation system has been badly hit by the economic crisis. Several foreign automotive manufacturers, including General Motors, have left the country. Car replacement parts must be imported from abroad, making them too expensive for the average Venezuelan and for some bus companies.

"The situation in the country is so bad that there are no spare parts, there's nothing! " Galindez lamented.

Twenty hours after the original departure time, Galindez and 40 other passengers finally set out over treacherous roads on an overnight journey from Caracas to San Cristobal.

Jose Medina, another passenger on the same bus, feared this one may break down too just to leave them stranded in the middle of rural Venezuela.

But the bus made it through the night uneventfully, picking up speed as it crossed Venezuela from east to west.

Medina was traveling to meet his wife, already living in Colombia. He said his son will likely follow them.

Although unsure whether moving to Colombia was the right decision for his family, he said he wanted to "to give it a chance" because of the country's situation.

Crossing borders

When the bus entered San Cristobal, dawn hadn't broken yet and these 40 passengers, some old, some young, still had a long way ahead of them.

Their bags were handed over on the side of the road, and passengers hurried to grab a cab, or one of the many private cars for hire, that would take them the last 25 miles to the border.

Oscar Llanos drove one of these private cars. He charges 100,000 bolivars or less than $1 per person for this leg of the trip.

Llanos said he does the hour drive from the bus terminal to the border every morning before he clocks in for his shift as a mechanic.

His reasoning is simple: taking three people to the border everyday earns him more in a week than what his regular job earns him in a month.

Llanos drove through the various military checkpoints before the border with the confidence of a driver who does this often, nodding a "bien bien" to every guard that let him through.

Once the passengers arrived at the border crossing, the bridge was already bustling with activity. Long queues awaited them as they crossed into Colombia.

Galindez barely batted an eye as she realized this was the first time she left Venezuela. Once in Colombia, she got on a separate queue to get a stamp on her passport and get on another bus ride to Chile.

She was now focused on Santiago, a new city, a new job, and with it the prospect of a life she hopes to make for herself and her family, who stayed behind.

Venezuela, for her, was now in the past.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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