When you think your mind has reached the depths of desperation that encompass life under Socialist rule, something even more depressing emerges to keep you from growing numb.
The very real and sad facts are that people will do what they must, in order to survive. When their government has resorted to tyranny, and what amounts to theft from their own people, especially under a political regime that leaves them no recourse, some will use the only thing they have in the world that is truly theirs: Their bodies.
Over the past six years, approximately 350,000 desperate Venezuelan refugees have crossed over the border into Colombia, looking for a way to survive.
Many of the women are turning to prostitution, as a means of supporting their families.
In Colombia, the sex-trade industry is legal, so there’s no fear of being arrested. Illegal immigration is frowned upon, but authorities tend to look the other way when it comes to the “red light” districts in their communities.
Some of the women (and men) crossing over to enter the world of prostitution were doctors, teachers, and businessmen and women before Socialism crushed the economy of Venezuela.
They were well educated and had meaningful lives, but abject poverty in a land with very little hope of using that education has made the mind less of a commodity than the body.
The Miami Herald recently featured several stories of Venezuelan refugees who turned to the sex trade in Colombia, as a means of survival.
Dayana, a 30-year-old mother of four, nursed a beer as she watched potential clients walk down the dirt road that runs in front of wooden shacks, bars and bordellos. Dressed for work in brightly-colored spandex, Dayana said she used to be the manager of a food-processing plant on the outskirts of Caracas.
But that job disappeared after the government seized the factory and “looted it,” she said.
Seven months ago, struggling to put food on the table, she came to Colombia looking for work. Without an employment permit, she found herself working as a prostitute in the capital, Bogotá. While the money was better there, she eventually moved to Arauca, a cattle town of 260,000 people along the border with Venezuela, because it was easier to send food back to her children in Caracas.
Dayana goes on to tell of waiting in lines for four to six hours, just to buy flour, or even buying food on the black market, at jacked up prices.
Inflation in Venezuela is over 700 percent. The bolivar currency is crashing, and even the basics are hard to come by.
Still, the man who has set himself up to be the supreme dictator, President Nicolas Maduro, would rather watch his people suffer than give an inch, in what was one of the richest nations in the world, now ravaged by Socialism.
Dayana says that she can make anywhere from $50 to $100 on good nights, selling herself in 20 minute increments.
This is no way to live, but she also says she’s grateful to have some way to earn money and feed her family.
Marta Muñoz runs the Casa de la Mujer, a municipal program that focuses on women’s health and rights. She said that prostitution is something of a blind spot for local authorities who are more focused on blatant crimes, like child trafficking, rape and the abuse of minors.
“I know that some of them are being paid unfairly and being treated very poorly,” Muñoz said of the Venezuelan prostitutes. “But how do we protect them without strong public policies?”
To make that horrible situation even worse, Venezuelans make up the bulk of prostitutes in Colombia, simply because their desperation makes them willing to sell themselves for less.
Marili, a 47-year-old former teacher and grandmother, said there was a time when she would have been ashamed to admit she’s a prostitute. Now she says she’s grateful to have a job that allows her to buy hypertension medication for her mother back in Caracas.
“We’re all just women who are working to support our families,” she said. “I refuse to criticize anyone, including myself. We all have to work.”
Even brothel owners are forced into what they do by the crisis in Venezuela.
Sixty year old Gabriel Sanchez had owned an auto repair shop in Venezuela, but was forced to Colombia to open a brothel with his wife after the nation’s economic collapse.
Marili is one of his workers, and calls he and his wife “humanitarians,” for giving women like her a place to work.
There seems to be no end in sight for Venezuela’s economic pain. Last month, the Trump administration restricted Caracas’ ability to borrow money from American creditors, which will undoubtedly deepen the crisis. And yet, President Nicolás Maduro has been digging in, avoiding the economic reforms that economists say are necessary.
He has dug in because he’d rather be a ruler over ashes, than a representative of a free and prosperous nation.
This is Socialism.