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‘We really don’t have a future’: Crisis and scarcity drive Venezuelans to flee

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro thwarted an alleged assassination attempt on Saturday from two drones carrying plastic explosives while he was giving a speech to the country’s national guard. But even before the apparent attack and crackdown, the country was mired in economic, domestic and political crisis. The NewsHour’s P.J. Tobia explains why Venezuelans are running from their homeland.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    On Saturday, there were two small explosions in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

    They happened while the president, Nicolas Maduro, was giving a speech to the country's National Guard. Two commercially available drones, reportedly carrying plastic explosives, blew up over a main boulevard.

    Maduro was quickly rushed off stage. And his military rushed off in panic. Local residents shot this video of soldiers running through the streets.

    "NewsHour" producer P.J. Tobia has more on that attack, why many Venezuelans are also running from their homeland, and what they're leaving behind.

  • P.J. Tobia:

    This is Venezuela's border with Brazil. Every day, hundreds cross this frontier, fleeing an economy in freefall, where inflation will soon hit 1 million percent.

  • Solimar Marquez (through translator):

    we really don't have a future in Venezuela, and the salary one earns is not enough at all. The bolivar is worthless.

  • P.J. Tobia:

    The poorest make the crossing on foot. Some can't even feed their children, and rely on this Catholic-run shelter for a hot meal. Venezuela is mired in crisis.

    Oil production, the country's major source of cash, has plummeted. Armed guards stand sentry at supermarket entrances, where lines snake down the block. When shoppers are allowed in, it's a desperate frenzy to get basic commodities.

  • Mariano de Alba:

    So, the situation Venezuela is really dire, because you have a country that is in the midst of an economic crisis with hyperinflation.

  • P.J. Tobia:

    Mariano de Alba was born and studied law in Venezuela. He's now an analyst at the Atlantic Council.

  • Mariano de Alba:

    There is also a scarcity of food and medicine in the supermarkets. So what happens is, you have a country where the large majority of the population doesn't have sufficient means to live.

  • P.J. Tobia:

    The political situation isn't much better, with a fractured opposition under pressure from President Maduro, who was reelected in a controversial snap election this past May.

    Despite the government's claims, Alba isn't convinced that last weekend's drone incident was an assassination attempt.

  • Mariano de Alba:

    There are two possibilities. One, either the garment is telling the truth, and this was an assassination attempt, or, two, the government is lying, as is usual, and this was a play by the government to try to strengthen their hand within the country and also to try to alleviate the attention of the ongoing economic crisis.

  • P.J. Tobia:

    On Sunday, the government claimed that it had made some arrests related to the

  • Nestor Reverol (through translator):

    We have so far six terrorists and hitmen detained, various vehicles confiscated. Various raids have been executed in the capital of our country, where important evidence has been collected of criminal activity.

  • P.J. Tobia:

    Maduro has suggested that the U.S. might have had some involvement in the attack, a charge the U.S. government denied. He also blamed Juan Manuel Santos, the outgoing president of neighboring Colombia. More than a million Venezuelans have fled there.

    Alba says, as long as the military sides with Maduro, he will retain power. But in a country once ruled by Hugo Chavez, who came to power in a coup, that's not a sure thing.

  • Mariano de Alba:

    The government cannot match the speed of hyperinflation to adjust the salaries of the members of the military.

    So — and it is not only that the members of the military who are suffering this, but also their families. So, over the last, I would say, six months, we have seen credible reports in the press about growing discontent within the military.

  • P.J. Tobia:

    For average Venezuelans, that discontent is already acute. And they're voting with their feet.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm P.J. Tobia.

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