Economic crisis, political strife drive Venezuela brain-drain

Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:49pm EDT
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By Julia Symmes Cobb and Carlos Garcia Rawlins

CARACAS (Reuters) - After three weeks trapped inside their home, Natalie Pereira and her family made a final decision: they must leave Venezuela.

"I could see clashes from my apartment window, tear gas, every day," Pereira said, recounting violent confrontations between anti-government protesters and security forces earlier this year.

Forty-three people died and hundreds were hurt in three months of confrontations in major urban centers.

"The protests confirmed it - we had to go."

Pereira, a 33-year-old dentist now living in Texas, is not alone in making that decision.

As political strife drags on and an economic crisis brings soaring prices, tight currency controls and shortages of even basic goods, Venezuela's middle classes are increasingly seeing a future abroad.

Having largely but unsuccessfully voted against socialist leader Hugo Chavez during his 14-year presidency, they hoped for a change after his death in March 2013.

Instead, Chavez's hand-picked successor Nicolas Maduro won election, survived extended opposition protests and has consolidated his position in power for a six-year term.   Continued...

Natalie Pereira (C) cries as she says goodbye to her friend before her move to the U.S. with her family, after winning the Green Card lottery, at their home in Valencia April 6, 2014.  REUTERS/Jorge Silva