News just in: Socialism still doesn’t work.
We haven’t been in town 24 hours, but already we’re beginning to get a feel for the place.
The locals appear to be a lively, mirthful bunch. The women have a samba-like swing to their step… the men carry a cheeky playfulness in their remarks (remarks often directed toward the aforementioned women).
Las Paisas are colorful… welcoming… kind…
And they are happy… happy in the way only people who have seen true sadness can really ever be happy.
Their hometown, “The City of Eternal Spring,” suffered unimaginable violence throughout the 1980s and ‘90s. The road to recovery was long, difficult… and a topic for further exploration another time.
Fast-forward to the Medellín of today and you discover a city that is safe, business-friendly and verging on prosperous.
It is also one of the most desirable places in the region to live... both for Colombians who can afford to move here, and for Venezuelans who can’t afford not to.
As Caracas burned (again) last night, and global leaders argued over who is and is not the nation’s “legitimate” leader, the Venezuelan exodus continued, heads hung low.
Escapees from the socialist paradise flee to neighboring Brazil, Guyana and to Colombia, too. Here in Medellín, the Venezuelan diaspora peers in from the margins.
The displaced sell candy on street corners, beg at streetlights, and fall asleep, exhausted, afraid, children in arms, on street benches.
How quickly a situation can change…
Two decades ago, new Colombian mothers used to skip the country’s eastern border, so that their newborn babies might obtain a Venezuelan passport and, with some luck and bribery, stand a chance in life.
Today, a Venezuelan passport isn’t worth the Bolivars it takes to renew it.
Once again, “free” education, “free” healthcare and “free” money have proven too costly for everyone but the self-serving politicians promising them.
Here at International Man, we are often given to wonder what might happen if the geopolitical tides turned a little closer to home.
What if you needed to “get out of Dodge” in a hurry? What if your national currency was suddenly inflated into oblivion… and your bank accounts shuttered anyway? Or your passport confiscated?
Might you want a few gold coins in your pocket, should such a scenario arise? How about a second (or third?) travel document? Perhaps even a foreign bank account or access to funds offshore?
The plight of the long-suffering Venezuelans would seem to suggest that, when it comes to preparing for such unthinkable crises, it’s better to be five years too early than five minutes too late.
Joel Bowman for International Man