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Rich or penniless, Venezuelans flock to Madrid

AFP  |  Madrid 

Fleeing the political, economic and humanitarian crisis in their country, Venezuelans have arrived in in their thousands, some of them penniless, others so rich they are buying sumptuous flats.

Fran Leal, 36, came to from in northern two months ago with his wife and two children.

"Do you have a small suitcase? I'm going to Toledo, I've found a job," he asks as he enters the Casa Venezuela, an association that helps struggling Venezuelans in

An electrician, he is going to the city south of to work illegally for six months.

"I don't have a choice as I don't yet have ID papers and I have no more savings," he says, as the crisis in deepens with Juan Guaido's self-proclamation as

Unlike Leal, has not found a job since he arrived three months ago.

"Before the crisis, I wasn't a millionaire but I lived fine, I had a great car and everything I needed," he says at a Venezuelan opposition protest in

He says he saw children die of dehydration in the hospital in where he worked.

Spain's statistics agency says some 255,000 Venezuelans have settled in the country.

But that figure is likely to be closer to 300,000 if illegal immigrants are taken into account, according to Tomas Paez, of the

Venezuelan asylum requests have nearly doubled in over the year, with close to 20,000 in 2018, according to the interior ministry.

But only 29 were successful last year, the ministry says, as it is hard for those who migrate for economic reasons to get asylum.

As a result, Madrid has started giving some Venezuelans humanitarian visas.

At the other end of the scale, many rich Venezuelans have also emigrated to Spain over the past year to escape the crisis and insecurity.

Cesar, a 42-year-old who declined to give his surname, arrived in Madrid in 2014 with his wife and daughter after an armed group tried to kidnap his brother.

"We lived permanently with bodyguards, we would move around in armoured cars. We couldn't go out in the evenings," he says.

"Here, we're enjoying what we no longer had in Venezuela: going out, eating out," says the of a consultancy in Madrid, which still has an office in

Unlike those who are struggling, he was able to get an express residency permit after getting a "golden visa" for which one must invest at least one million euros (USD 880,000) in Spanish companies or 500,000 euros in

bought three flats in the district of in Madrid for 800,000 euros.

Such has been the affluence of Venezuelans in this upmarket area that it has been named "Little Caracas" by Spanish media.

Controversial due to the difficulty in verifying the origin of the funds used, the "golden visa" is very popular among rich Venezuelans.

Last year, 249 such visas were given to Venezuelans in Spain, nearly 20 percent more than in 2017, according to the foreign ministry.

Angel Garcia Loriente, a agent who specialises in luxury purchases, says he sealed five deals with Venezuelans in 2018 for a total of 9.7 million euros.

They are clients who want flats "in elegant buildings," he says.

According to Juan Carlos Gutierrez, the of Venezuelan opposition figure who also has wealthy Venezuelan clients, they have fled "insecurity."

They also "want to enjoy their money as it is impossible to run a successful business in in the current conditions.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, February 10 2019. 09:35 IST