Venezuela Needs Political Change to Bring Migrants Home, Poll Shows

(Bloomberg) -- A political change in Venezuela would be the biggest incentive for the nation’s migrants in the US to return to their homeland, according to a recent poll seen by Bloomberg News.

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More than 65% of Venezuelans say they would go back to their country if the opposition wins this year’s presidential elections. Less than 15% say they would do so if President Nicolás Maduro secures a third term, even if the economy significantly improves, according to a poll conducted by public opinion firm GBAO for Colorado-based nonprofit organization PAX sapiens.

A massive exodus from Venezuela and the crisis it unleashed in major US cities spurred the Biden administration to engage in direct talks with Maduro last year. In late September, the two sides reached a secret deal that triggered the resumption of direct deportation flights and the easing of some sanctions, in an attempt to improve Venezuela’s economy enough to slow the flow of migrants to the US border.

The PAX sapiens poll found that Venezuela’s economic stabilization in and of itself will be insufficient for a return of migrants in the US. More than 58% of them would be likely to go home if its economy significantly improves, while just 14% would do so if that happens but Maduro remains in power, the study shows.

The poll was conducted between Oct. 17 and Nov. 14, after news of the agreement between the Maduro government and the opposition to work toward freer and fairer elections this year.

PAX sapiens is a philanthropic foundation established by Marcel Arsenault that is meant to invest in projects that “can deliver long-term, sustainable peace,” according to the website of Real Capital Solutions, an investment firm he founded and leads as chief executive officer.

About three quarters of the 444 migrants surveyed said they would vote for opposition leader María Corina Machado, who is banned by Maduro from running for public office, if they could. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

Flights carrying Venezuelan deportees from the US have effectively stopped since Maduro ratified Machado’s electoral ban in January, prompting the Biden administration to threaten Venezuela with renewed sanctions. The US has been able to send back about 1,800 people since October, according to non-governmental organization Witness at the Border.

Without political change, migration is expected to continue and some analysts estimate that another two million Venezuelans could leave the country if Maduro is reelected.

“Migration has not stopped, nor will it stop,” said Benigno Alarcon, director of the political studies center at Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas. “In fact, without a political change, there will be another significant migration wave.”

(Corrects location of nonprofit headquarters in 2nd paragraph.)

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