The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urges Australians to avoid traveling to Venezuela as the South American country sinks further into an unprecedented political and economic crisis.
Venezuela has been immersed in social turmoil for almost two decades now ever since a left-wing populist movement rose to power democratically in 1999. At the time, the country had been going through a long series of corrupt and incompetent governments and the populace was open to embracing a 180 shift to socialism.
Fast forward to 2017 and the socialist experiment that once was a beacon of hope has turned into a nightmare. Corruption allegations and a presidency that reeks of dictatorship have summed the country into its worst crisis in history.
The country, formerly one of the strongest economies in the region, is now seeing its citizens desperately fleeing for neighbouring Colombia.
Australia’s DFAT warns tourists to avoid Venezuela, citing “… high levels of serious crime, ongoing political uncertainty, food shortages and ongoing problems with local currency.”
Dozens of airlines have stopped flying in and out of the battered South American nation. Lufthansa, Air Canada, Avianca, Aeromexico, United, and Delta are among the companies that have suspended their flights. More are expected to follow.
The situation is so dire, even the carriers that still operate in the country, like Copa, won’t let their crew stay overnight in Venezuelan cities.
Once a tourist attraction praised for its jaw-dropping coastline and the world-famous Angel Falls, Venezuela now attracts only slightly more tourists a year in South America than Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana.
“This is a country with more oil than Saudi Arabia and yet you see people searching through piles of garbage for food, and people surviving by lining up once a week for their weekly food rations, which may only be two small bags of flour,” said ABC’s Foreign Correspondent Eric Campbell.
“I was once using my iPhone at the hotel entrance and the translator yelled out and said, ‘Put that away, if people see you’ve got a phone they’ll kill you for that’.”