[LINK] "Venezuelans Find Jobs and a Home in Panama"
In the context of the Venezuela-Panama disputes that Noel Maurer mentioned earlier at his blog, Eric Sabo's BusinessWeek article describing how Venezuelan professionals are migrating to Panama in large number is interesting. (It's also sadly telling that Venezuela, at least in some economic sectors, is becoming a notable source of migrants.)
Leonardo Zambranok left Venezuela in 2011 to take a marketing job with Procter & Gamble (PG) in Panama. Watching the latest wave of violent protests back home, Zambranok thinks he made the right choice. “Everyone said I was making a big mistake,” says Zambranok, 27. “Now it’s more insecure than ever, and you’re starting to see young people want to move away like crazy.”
An exodus that began under Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez has continued under President Nicolás Maduro, who vowed to extend his predecessor’s socialist policies after winning election a year ago. Panama has emerged as a primary destination: Last year, 233,921 Venezuelans entered the country, up from about 147,000 in 2010. They’re mostly young, middle-class job seekers driven by their country’s shortage of basic goods, quickening inflation, and antigovernment demonstrations that have claimed at least 41 lives since February.
With close cultural ties, more open immigration laws, and plentiful jobs, Panama City, the capital, has dozens of Venezuelan-run restaurants, yoga studios, and bakeries. Cable TV packages include Globovisión, historically an antigovernment Venezuelan channel.
At pickup soccer games in the capital, Zambranok says the talk is about hardships at home and opportunities in Panama. “Our culture is about relationships, where you know a guy who knows a guy who can help you,” Zambranok says. He shows a photo of a friend, taken amid recent food shortages, standing in front of mayonnaise jars at a Caracas supermarket. “This is big news when you can get mayonnaise. It’s absurd.”
[. . .]
Wedged between Colombia and Costa Rica, Panama has lured workers with economic growth that has averaged about 9 percent per year since 2008. Unemployment is 4.1 percent, a record low. A $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, scheduled for completion in late 2015, will create more jobs and has prompted investments in banks, mining, and real estate, including a new Hard Rock hotel. “We’ve had to open up our immigration policy to attract more skilled labor,” says Panama Finance Minister Frank De Lima.
Panama’s immigration agency recently announced it had legalized about 50,000 foreign workers since 2010 in a series of open registrations. Of the 5,072 foreign workers approved in April, 603 were Venezuelan, the fourth-highest after immigrants from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.