Bolivia: Exodus Interrupted

emigrantsThe exodus from Bolivia recently sped up due to a looming deadline set by the European Union. Beginning on April 1, Bolivians wanting to enter Europe must now secure a visa to do so. No longer could Bolivians that want to find greener pastures, particularly in Spain, could enter as easily as before. With this deadline in mind, many Bolivians rushed to local travel agencies and airline ticket counters to purchase a seat on the next flight to Madrid, but were met with unexpected results.

Violeta, a blogger from Cochabamba, wrote in her blog Desnudate! [ES] about this mass migration from one’s homeland:

31 de marzo, fecha máxima para que los bolivianos podamos “huir” de nuestro país rumbo al sueño europeo, más precisamente a España donde supuestamente existirían mejores condiciones económicas y “mejor vida” según algunos “españobolivianos” (ahora mas españoles que bolivianos) que aseguran que nunca más volverán a Bolivia, nunca más volverán a un país de pobres, a un país sub-desarrollado, al país de las cero oportunidades.

March 31 was the last date that Bolivians could “flee” from our country towards the European dream, especially to Spain where supposedly one would find better economic conditions and a “better life” according to some “Spanish-Bolivians” (now more Spanish, than Bolivian). They are sure that they would never return to Bolivia. They would never return to such a poor, underdeveloped country, and a country with zero opportunities.

To help facilitate this escape from the country, many unscrupulous individuals took advantage of paying customers. Miguel Buitrago aka MABB wrote about this in his blog.

Making matters worst, there are plenty of people, such as travel agents, who are trying to speculate with the anguish of these people by continue selling tickets to Spain, even though there are no more places on the planes. The military has jumped in and has announced it would make available, on order of the government, airplanes to take Bolivians to Brasil so they could catch connecting flights. These tickets are supposed to cost $390 dollars, and that is on top of the between $1200 to $3000 dollars people already paid.

At the forefront of this mess, is the tanglement left by the airline Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano (LAB), which had been in financial trouble over the past year. The company had oversold flights to Madrid, and to add insult to injury, these flights that were schedule right before the April 1 deadline were cancelled due to a shortage of fuel. Many dreams were dashed and administrators of this failed airline were taken into custody.

Andres Pucci lists reasons why the airline is on its last legs [ES], such as poor administration by VASP and Tito Asbun. He also faults the current government’s lack of interest in resolving the crisis, as well as the higher prices for fuel. Customers were openly protesting these failings at the airports across the country, but the airline’s workers were also protesting past wages that have not been paid and a helplessness to improve their company. A blog written by workers of LAB recently was resurrected called OPINE acerca del Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano [ES] (Give your opinion regarding Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano. Blogger Carlos Gustavo Machicado Salas writes in Guccio’s [ES] that most likely that LAB, the oldest airline in South America, has its days numbered.

This time, last year:

Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano was also in the news, when workers took their protests to another level by occupying the runways in the airport in Cochabamba. One blogger wrote, “if a miracle does not happen soon, then the final ending is in a matter of days or weeks.” One year later, the same conclusion would be valid.

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