Every day before dawn, a long line of people forms outside the Spanish consulate in the Plaza la Castellana in Caracas. Venezuelans, many of Spanish descent, are desperate to get their hands on visas or passports so that they can flee to Europe. There are queues outside supermarkets, too, but they appear shorter, possibly because so many people have already left Venezuela or, more likely, because they know there will be little for sale inside.
On Thursday Nicolás Maduro will be sworn in for a second term as president after his first term saw an exodus of Venezuelans escaping economic meltdown. The UN says more than 3m people have fled Venezuela since 2014, around 10 percent of the population, while the IMF expects prices will rise a staggering 10m percent in 2019. “The best new year’s present Maduro could give us would be if he stood down now, before we cross this threshold on Thursday,” said Oscar Ospina, a worker on the dilapidated public transport system in Caracas, as he waited outside a state-subsidized supermarket in the Chacao neighborhood.
“He’s leading us into a dead end of isolation.” Mr Maduro will be confirmed for six more years following his victory in last May’s discredited election. If he completes his term he will extend the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s grip on power to a quarter of a century.