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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Crisis has Venezuela’s Portuguese Returning to Roots


7Dnews London

Wed, 06 Feb 2019 11:44 GMT

Venezuelans with ties to Portugal are now crossing the Atlantic in search of a new life since trouble flared in the beleaguered South American nation in 2016, according to AFP.

Dihara Ramirez, a Venezuelan with ties to Portugal, left the country after it plunged into further crisis as President Nicolas Maduro's authority was challenged by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself acting head of state--a claim now recognised by many governments, including Lisbon.

Dihara worked as a doctor in Venezuela, but after facing obstacles obtaining medical supplies she left the country and is now working in a Portuguese supermarket.  “It was very painful to find myself unable to get hold of medicine to bring relief to people," Dihara told AFP.

Around a third of the 10,000 Venezuelan emigrants to have arrived in Portugal have settled in the northern municipality of Estarrej --80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Porto--including Dihara, whose husband's family hail from the area.

Help at hand

Since 2015, some 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their oil-rich homeland, where food and medicine shortages have become the norm. As many as 400,000 ethnic Portuguese live in the South American country but the political crisis is increasingly persuading them to return to their roots.

After Madeira island, Estarreja is the second-largest area in Portugal originally home to Venezuela's Lusophone community.

For those who make the journey to Estarreja, local business association SEMA, which helps new arrivals from an imposing oval table at its headquarters, is the first port of call.

A bakery named Venezuela and a shop named Caracas testify to the close link between the two countries, yet taking in the influx of arrivals has been a considerable test for a town of just 27,000.

"Our main difficulty concerns getting identity papers. That is a stage which takes time but is strictly necessary to integrate these people into our companies," says SEMA chairperson Jose Valente.

Nevertheless, Valente praised the Portuguese government for setting up in recent days an aid committee to speed up the process of getting the immigrants through border formalities.

Last year, SEMA found work for 513 of the arrivals. January saw another 100 or so join the local payroll in a region which is experiencing labour shortages, notably in industry, as well as restaurants, hotels and retail.

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