Mnuchin Says He ‘Wouldn’t Minimize’ Chance of Tariffs on All Chinese Imports

Treasury secretary, attending a meeting among G-20 finance ministers and central bankers in Latin America, adds, ‘if Europe believes in free trade, we’re ready to sign a free-trade agreement’

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin meets in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Friday with Brazilian Minister of Finance Eduardo Guardia.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin meets in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Friday with Brazilian Minister of Finance Eduardo Guardia. PHOTO:FERNANDO BIZERRA/EPA-EFE/REX/SHU/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

BUENOS AIRES—U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he “wouldn’t minimize” the possibility that the U.S. will impose tariffs on all $500 billion worth of goods that the U.S. imports from China, amplifying a threat President Donald Trump made in a television interview earlier in the week.

Mr. Mnuchin was speaking ahead of a meeting among G-20 finance ministers and central bankers here.

Mr. Mnuchin stressed that the administration’s goal is to achieve a “more balanced” trade relationship with China, by getting the Asian country to open its economy and permitting U.S. exports there to increase.

The Treasury secretary pointed out several sectors where U.S. sales to China could rise, including energy, agricultural products and technology.

“China has a large, growing population that will consume more products” and that likes American products, he said, while cautioning that U.S. companies shouldn’t be pressured to share their technology.

Mr. Mnuchin also talked about the administration’s willingness to sign trade agreements with the European Union and Japan, always with the objective of opening up markets and permitting what he called “real” free trade.

“If Europe believes in free trade, we’re ready to sign a free-trade agreement,” he said, adding that any agreement would have to eliminate tariffs, along with other barriers and subsidies. “It has to be all three issues,” he said.

During the meeting with reporters Saturday, the Treasury secretary played down comments Mr. Trump made earlier in the week about the Federal Reserve and currency markets. Mr. Trump said in a tweet and in a television interview he wasn’t happy that the Fed is raising short-term interest rates, which he said is undermining administration efforts to rev up U.S. economic growth. It was unusual because the White House usually refrains from commenting on monetary policy.

Mr. Mnuchin said he and the president still “fully” supported Fed independence. He also said the U.S. isn’t trying to interfere in foreign-exchange markets after Mr. Trump accused China and the European Union of manipulating their currencies to make their economies more competitive.

The president has threatened tariffs on $500 billion in Chinese imports before. On July 6 on Air Force One, the president told reporters tariffs could eventually hit $550 billion in imports from China.

When asked during Friday’s CNBC interview, “Will you ever get to 500, though?” Mr. Trump responded that he is “ready to go to 500,” referring to the approximate dollar value of Chinese goods exported to the U.S. last year.

“I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country. We have been ripped off by China for a long time,” he said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. imposed levies on $34 billion of Chinese exports of machinery, components and electronics. Also scheduled are tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese electronics and other components.

The U.S. has identified a further $200 billion in Chinese goods the U.S. may target for tariffs, for a total of $250 billion. Anything further, Mr. Trump has said, depends on the extent to which China retaliates.

Write to Jeffrey T. Lewis at

Violence in Nicaragua escalates as UN slams Ortega’s government

Pro-government forces in Nicaragua have launched an assault on the opposition stronghold of Monimbo as deadly unrest escalates. The regime of Daniel Ortega “acts despicably,” activist Bianca Jagger told DW.


Watch video03:38

Bianca Jagger speaks out on conditions in Nicaragua

Heavily armed police and paramilitaries attacked the Nicaraguan town of Masaya on Tuesday as the government moved to suppress months-long unrest against President Daniel Ortega.

Nicaraguan Archbishop Silvio Baez said that pro-government forces moved against the Monimbo suburb in Masaya, a known opposition stronghold.

“They’re attacking Monimbo! The bullets are reaching the Maria Magdalena parish church, where the priest is sheltered,” Baez tweeted. “May Daniel Ortega stop the massacre! People of Monimbo I beg you, save yourselves!”

Silvio José Báez


¡Atacan Monimbó! Las balas están llegando hasta la parroquia María Magdalena, en donde está refugiado el sacerdote. ¡Que Daniel Ortega detenga la masacre! ¡A la gente de Monimbó les ruego, salven sus vidas! @Almagro_OEA2015 @CIDH @PauloAbrao @AmbCTrujillo @USAmbNicaragua @OACNUDH

US State Department official Francisco Palmieri criticized the latest attack, allegedly by pro-government militants.

“We strongly urge President Ortega not to attack Masaya,” he tweeted. “Continued gov’t-instigated violence and bloodshed in #Nicaragua must end immediately.”

Francisco Palmieri


We strongly urge President Ortega not to attack Masaya. Continued gov’t-instigated violence and bloodshed in must end immediately. The world is watching.

The unrest in Nicaragua seems set to escalate, however, with the UN’s human rights office accusing the police and the government of killings, torture, and unlawful imprisonment on Tuesday.

UN News


“Absolutely shocking” death toll in Nicaragua shows urgent need for the government to stop the violence and start negotiating a political solution says @antonioguterres 

Thousands of Nicaraguans have protested since April. More than a hundred people have died in clashes with the authorities.

Nicaragua must end demonstrator killings and seek political solution in wake of ‘absolutely…

The United Nations Secretary-General has called on the Nicaraguan Government to end violence against demonstrators which has cost an estimated 280 lives, and begin a national “political dialogue” to…

Government forces repeatedly opened fire on protesters, including students, over the weekend. While the death toll varies depending on the source, it is believed that between 280 and 360 people have been killed since the protests against leftist President Daniel Ortega first started in April.

Read more: Will Nicaragua be the next Venezuela?

“The great majority of violations are by government or armed elements who seem to be working in tandem with them,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told the Reuters news agency. According to Colville, most of the protesters were peaceful though some of them were armed.

Separately, the EU offered to mediate, with the bloc’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini telling the government in Managua it expected “an immediate end of violence, repression and arbitrary detentions.”

‘A bloodthirsty government’

Speaking to DW on Tuesday, Nicaraguan-born human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger said that the international community needed to take “effective measures” to stop the violence.

“This government cannot continue and we need Daniel Ortega to go,” said Jagger, who serves as a goodwill ambassador for the Council of Europe, is a senior representative of Amnesty International USA, and the founder and head of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation.

The 73-year old activist previously drew public attention through her acting career and her marriage to rock star Mick Jagger in the 1970s.

“The government of Daniel Ortega acts despicably,” Jagger told DW in an interview conducted in both English and Spanish on Tuesday. “It’s a bloodthirsty government, a despicable government that wants to kill anyone who opposes it.”

“What I feel at the moment is that there is a slaughter, every day there is a slaughter against innocent people who are unarmed,” Jagger added. “Why are we allowing that to happen?”

Read moreBishops travel to besieged city of Masaya to ‘prevent a massacre’

New terrorism law

Daniel Ortega is a former Marxist guerilla leader who first took power in 1979 and stayed in office until 1990. He ran for president in 2006 and, after winning the election, assumed power once more in 2007. His wife, Rosario Murillo Zambrana, serves as vice-president.

72-year-old Daniel Ortega (center) poses with two anti-riot police officers (picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Venegas)72-year-old Daniel Ortega (center) poses with two anti-riot police officers

A government-sponsored pension reform sparked first protests in April this year, but the rallies soon escalated into an anti-government movement, with authorities responding with deadly force. The leaders are demanding early elections or the resignations of Ortega and his wife.

Last week, police arrested opposition leader Medardo Mairena and accused him of being a “terrorist” who organized and ordered an “attack” that killed police officers and a protester. This was followed by lawmakers passing a new anti-terrorism law on Monday, with critics saying its vague definition of terrorism could be used against peaceful protesters.

dj/jm (Reuters, dpa)

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Justin Trudeau responds to groping allegations: ‘I don’t remember any negative interactions’

July 2 at 1:08 PM
Watch Trudeau’s response to groping allegations

A reporter asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau July 1 about a claim that he groped a young, female reporter in British Columbia in 2000. 

Between snapping selfies with steelworkers for Canada Day on Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came up against some uncomfortable questions.

At an event for steel and aluminum workers at Regina in western Canada, a reporter asked Trudeau, 46, to address allegations that he had groped a young woman at a music festival in British Columbia 18 years ago.

The self-described feminist, who has said he has “no tolerance” for sexual harassment, said he did not recall the event.

“I remember that day in Creston well. It was an Avalanche Foundation event to support avalanche safety. I had a good day that day. I don’t remember any negative interactions that day at all,” he said, nodding and smiling to reporters.

The allegations first appeared in a community paper called the Creston Valley Advance in 2000. An unsigned editorial suggests Trudeau, then a 28-year-old teacher, groped a young, female Advance reporter covering the Kokanee Summit Festival in Creston, British Columbia.

The annual festival was raising funds for the Avalanche Foundation, in which the Trudeau family became active after Michel Trudeau, the prime minister’s brother, died in an avalanche in Kokanee, reported the National Post. The Creston editorial did not include details of the alleged groping incident but wrote that the reporter involved felt “blatantly disrespected” and that Trudeau allegedly apologized a day later for “inappropriately handling” her. Response to the editorial at the time was “muted,” a former publisher of the paper said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets revelers during Canada Day festivities in Leamington, Ontario, on July 1. (Geoff Robins/The Canadian Press/AP)

The name of the reporter involved remains unknown. According to the National Post, she is no longer in journalism.

The Advance’s publisher at the time told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. this week that she recalled talking to the reporter involved in the incident.

“My recollections of the conversation were that she came to me because she was unsettled by it,” she said. “She wasn’t sure how she should proceed with it because of course we’re talking somebody who was known to the Canadian community.”

The Advance’s editor at the time, Brian Bell, also told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that he was sure whatever allegedly happened “was definitely not welcome and definitely inappropriate.” He added that the reporter involved “was of a high character” and that “there’s no question in [his] mind that what was alluded to, written about in that editorial, did happen.”

These allegations against Trudeau recently resurfaced when popular political commentator and Trudeau critic Warren Kinsella  tweeted a picture of the editorial June 6 with the hashtag #MeToo. His tweet was later picked up by various outlets, including Breitbart.

The resurgence of these allegations has plagued the image of the liberal leader known for his strong record on women’s rights.

In 2014, as the leader of the Liberal Party, Trudeau suspended two male members of parliament who were facing allegations of sexual harassment from other female members of parliament. Reports later emerged that Trudeau planned to permanently expel the two male MPs, but the men resigned from the party before an official announcement was made. More recently, in 2017, Trudeau’s party proposed new legislation to tackle workplace harassment as allegations of sexual misconduct emerged against some of the country’s leading politicians.

In discussions about sexual harassment, the prime minister has frequently referred to his time at McGill University, where he worked as one of the first male coordinators for the student  society’s sexual assault center. “I’ve been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful, to be respectful of people’s space and people’s head space as well,” he told CBC this year. “This is something that I’m not new to. I’ve been working on issues around sexual assault for over 25 years.”

When the groping allegations were first revisited in early June, a spokesman for the prime minister’s office, Matt Pascuzzo, reiterated this message: “As the PM has said before, he has always been very careful to treat everyone with respect. He remembers being in Creston for the Avalanche Foundation, but doesn’t think he had any negative interactions there.”

Opinion: AMLO’s election a turning point in Mexico’s history

Mexico’s new left-wing president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has all the political means he needs to reinvent the country, for better or for worse. For now, it’s best to be optimistic, says DW’s Claudia Herrera-Pahl.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador voting (Reuters/E. Garrido)

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, also known as AMLO, will have an enormous amount of political power. Not only did he and his Morena party make history by capturing more than half the presidential vote for the first time in modern Mexico in a competitive election, they also won several state governorships, the influential post of Mexico City mayor and, if predictions hold, the majority of both chambers of congress.

The results, however, did not come as a surprise: AMLO and Morena benefited from the vast dissatisfaction of the Mexican people, exhausted and seeking a way out of the misery in which they live: a people fed up with the ever-increasing numbers of fellow citizens who disappear; a people that no longer want to live in a country where women, journalists, environmental activists and politicians are targeted for murder; a people fed up with violent cartels that dominate the vast regions where the drug trade and other crimes take place undisturbed. Millions of people in Mexico want to escape this vicious circle of poverty, corruption and violence, and they have pinned their hopes on AMLO.

No chance for AMLO’s competitors

His rivals didn’t stand a chance. They represented three parties that for decades have failed to find solutions to the problems that plague Mexican society. Despite his great experience, Jose Antonio Meade was dogged by infighting in his long-ruling PRI. Ricardo Anaya, the relatively young candidate for the PAN and PRD — two parties that are actually ideologically far apart — was regarded by many as ruthless, a man certainly not suited to leading the country out of the dead-end street it is stuck in.

Herrera-Pahl, ClaudiaMexican journalist Claudia Herrera-Pahl heads DW’s online Spanish news service

Lopez Obrador, on the other hand, is regarded as a messiah. He has made many promises, too. He wants to put a stop to organized crime’s rising influence, curb Mafia-like government bureaucracy, end impunity, be an advocate for the poor, fight for justice, commit himself to democracy and national sovereignty and, of course, be tough in the face of US President Donald Trump.

AMLO will have to unite Mexico’s various political groups if he wants to make good on his promises, in particular to reduce the huge gap between rich and poor. That likely means giving up the neoliberal policies that made Mexico one of the region’s most economically dynamic countries in recent years. AMLO and Morena will have to make clear but also balanced decisions if they want to maintain Mexico’s position in the international community. Concerning the economy, they are focusing on the domestic market, fixed prices in agriculture and a revision of the opening of the oil market for private industry. One should not forget how Mexico makes the largest part of its foreign currency: exporting industrial products, the “remesas,” or remittances, Mexican migrants send home to their families, oil and tourism. Every single day, 70 percent of Mexican exports go to the US.

Mexico needs peace and economic success

Abandoning this economic model would be a fatal mistake and would ensure the failure to fulfill AMLO’s key election campaign promise: to reduce economic inequality. To prevent a further deterioration in US-Mexico relations, continued cooperation in important areas like immigration and cross-border crime is vital.

Mexico needs peace. These days, the universities are empty because young people prefer to make easy money in organized crime. Last year alone, more than 26,000 people were murdered in the country. AMLO must change that if he wants to show that millions of Mexicans were right in supporting him. There will not be a run-off ballot, so the dye is cast. There is no second chance — Mexico has reached a crucial turning point in its history.

Hope dies last, and that is true for Mexico, too. AMLO deserves a bit of confidence. But anyone who has hopes of eliminating the humanitarian crisis in the country should not forget that whatever he does will affect all 123 million Mexicans, and not just his voters.


US opens new housing at Mexico border for migrant children, amid outcry

Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the US-Mexico border in six-weeks. Despite wide condemnation, the Trump administration defended the policy, saying it was just enforcing the law.

A family is detained at the Mexico-US border (Getty Images/J. Moore)

Due to an increasing number of migrant children in government custody, officials in US President Donald Trump’s administration confirmed on Friday that a temporary encampment near the US-Mexico border in Texas had been built.

The new shelter, which consists of large tent structures, opened on Thursday and has the capacity to hold 360 children. The temporary camp is located near an official border crossing point, some 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of the Texan city of El Paso.

According to Kenneth Wolfe of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the shelter was designated for “minors referred by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to HHS for our unaccompanied alien children program.”

A boy from Honduras being taken into custody by US Border Patrol agentsA boy from Honduras being taken into custody by US Border Patrol agents

DHS confirmed on Friday to the Associated Press that some 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 through May 31. DHS did not provide a breakdown of the separations by age, but the reasons were illegal entry, immigration violations or possible criminal conduct by the adult parent.

The startling figure is a result of a new directive from Attorney General Jeff Session, who on April 6 announced a “zero tolerance” policy on immigration that would refer all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution.

Cases that involved families were typically sent for civil deportation proceedings. These allow children to remain with their parents. The new directive eliminates that option and has led to the separation and internment of the children in temporary shelters.

Read more: Caravan of migrants tests Trump’s anti-immigrant policies

Widespread outrage

The Trump administration has come under fire for both the criminalization of all immigration cases and the family separations. Stories of weeping children, including infants, torn from the arms of frightened parents, flooded the media and a chorus of church groups, politicians and children’s advocates called the practice inhumane.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi decried the policy as “barbaric” and said that President Trump had the power to stop it.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans distanced themselves from the White House, saying they were not comfortable with family separations. “We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” Ryan said on Thursday.

In a pointed critique, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops called the practice of separating babies from their mothers as “immoral” and not the answer.

Read more: Could President Trump actually fulfill his anti-immigration promises?

A family being taken into custody at the US borderA family being taken into custody at the US border

Sessions: bible backs the rule of law

But the administration has been unapologetic, saying that their goal is merely to follow the law, blaming Democrats for having created the situation in the first place.

In response to the criticism of the Conference of Catholic Bishop’s, Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the bible to defend the controversial policy.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said.

The comments sparked outrage and a heated exchange between journalists and the White House press office. But spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not flinch.

“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” she said. “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”

Read more: Super Bowl ad about German immigrant stirs controversy

Congress to tackle immigration

The outrage has put pressure on Republicans to present immigration legislation. By Friday, Republican leaders were said to be putting the finishing touches on two bills in the House of Representatives. One of the bills would be a hard-right proposal and the other one a more moderate compromise.

The compromise bill would provide citizenship to young immigrants brought to the US illegally as children, and reduce the family separations.

Trump caused confusion when he said on television on Friday that he would not sign the moderate bill. The White House then drew back from his comments and indicated the president was ready to consider both.

Watch video02:37

Risking the dangerous journey to the US

jcg/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.


Guatemala death toll jumps to 62 as quake strikes off coast (VIDEOS)

Guatemala death toll jumps to 62 as quake strikes off coast (VIDEOS)
A 5.2 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Guatemala. The seismic event comes just hours after the eruption of the country’s Fuego volcano which killed 62 people and forced thousands to flee their homes.

The quake was recorded 65 miles (105km) south of Champerico, a district along Guatemala’s southwestern coastline, according to the US Geological Survey. With the earthquake’s epicenter out at sea and close to an oceanic trench known as the Middle America plate boundary, it’s not immediately clear whether any damaged has been caused to homes or infrastructure on land.

The quake comes as explosions could be heard coming from Guatemala’s Fuego volcano throughout the day Monday, covering local communities in volcanic rock and ash. At least 62 people are now feared dead in what is the largest eruption seen at the site since the 1970s.

The incident has prompted Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales to announce a state of emergency.

“We have 1,200 people doing rescue work,” Morales told the media Monday. “Again we call on all people to not share false information. Do not speculate because that only complicates the situation more.”

READ MORE: Thousands flee lava & ash fallout after deadly Guatemala volcano eruption (VIDEOS)

In an update Monday, the country’s meteorological agency reported that several moderate and strong explosions came from the mountain causing plumes of ash to rise more than 15,000ft (4,600 meters) into the air.

While activity at the volcano has decreased since Sunday, the agency warned of fast-moving flows of gas and volcanic material in ravines close to the mountain. The seismic activity also increases the potential for the ground in the area to be unstable.

More than 1.7 million people have been affected by the disaster, with 3,265 forced to flee their homes, according to national disaster agency Conred.



En este momento se realiza un sobre vuelo en las comunidades Finca La Reunión, El Porvenir, Candelaria y Las Lajas.
Fuente: Dirección de Comunicación Social de la CONRED.

Aerial footage released by the government of Guatemala reveals the devastation caused by the eruption. In footage shot from a helicopter, areas of countryside and residential houses are seen buried beneath heaps of burning ash and soot.

Gobierno Guatemala


| Panorama de las áreas afectadas por la erupción del volcán de fuego.

Both the military and police force have now been drafted in to look for eruption survivors.


A historic exodus is leaving Venezuela without teachers, doctors and electricians

June 3 at 4:14 PM

Kory Hernandez, 24, takes care of students while she substitutes for a missing teacher in a southern suburb of Caracas. Hernandez’s children study at the same school, Aquiles Nazoa Elementary. (Wil Riera/For The Washington Post)

An unruly 9-year-old bolted from his classroom, prompting a volunteer teacher to chase him down the hall. He would normally be hauled straight to Romina Sciaca’s office. But the guidance counselor was gone — part of a wave of staffers to flee Aquiles Nazoa Elementary School.

This collapsing socialist state is suffering one of the most dramatic outflows of human talent in modern history, with Aquiles Nazoa offering a glimpse into what happens when a nation begins to empty out. Vast gaps in Venezuela’s labor market are causing a breakdown in daily life, and robbing this nation of its future. The exodus is broad and deep — an outflow of doctors, engineers, oil workers, bus drivers and electricians.

And teachers.

Volunteers replace teachers fleeing Venezuela’s crisis

So far this year, 48,000 teachers — or 12 percent of all staff at elementary and high schools nationwide — have quit, according to Se Educa, an educational nonprofit group. The vast majority, according to the group, have joined a stampede of Venezuelans leaving the country to escape food lines and empty grocery store shelves.

At Aquiles Nazoa — a school named after an ill-fated poet — Sciaca was the first to go, heading for Chile a year ago. Reinaldo Cordero quit a few months later, leaving behind his second-grade class and a salary that hyperinflation had shrunk to a black-market worth of around $29 a month.

Esperanza Longhi — who also taught second grade — quit in February. She’s at home, packing for Peru. To get there, she’ll go through Ecuador — the same country where Maryoli Rueda, who used to teach third grade, recently moved.

14,000 percent hyperinflation

Kory Hernandez talks with a student at Aquiles Nazoa Elementary School. (Wil Riera/For The Washington Post)

A view of Hernandez’s classroom wall that reads “Touring Venezuela.” (Wil Riera/For The Washington Post)

Principal Deliana Flores has tried and failed to find qualified replacements. As droves of teachers leave, some grades in Venezuelan schools have gone months without classes. At Aquiles Nazoa, the third grade stayed home for two weeks. Desperate, Flores is plugging holes with unpaid volunteers — basically school moms such as Kory Hernandez, 24.

But it isn’t really working.

Hernandez dragged the 9-year old back into the classroom by his shirt sleeve, then sunk into her seat and sighed.

“Quiet,” she said helplessly, as her class erupted in open rebellion .

“Please,” she said. “How are you ever going to learn?”

Clothes are hung up to dry at the Jose Manuel de los Rios Children’s Hospital in Caracas in April. The crisis in Venezuela has hit hospitals hard, with doctors fleeing the country and medicines difficult to find. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

Think of Venezuela like one big factory where the societal assembly line no longer works — partly because there are fewer and fewer people to run it.

During the first five months of the year, roughly 400,000 Venezuelans have fled the country, following 1.8 million who left over the last two years, according to the Central University of Venezuela. Yet even those numbers may not fully capture the scope of the exodus. Aid workers dealing with the crisis in bordering nations say an average of 4,600 Venezuelans a day have been leaving since Jan. 1 — putting the outflow during this year alone at nearly 700,000.

The Venezuelans are running from a nation broken by failed socialist policies, mismanagement, corruption and lower global oil prices — the country’s principal source of cash.

“It’s not just about a few doctors leaving anymore,” said Tomas Páez, a migration expert at the Central University of Venezuela. “It’s about [understaffed] hospitals closing down whole floors.”

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans — especially from the upper classes — began leaving the country following the rise of left-wing firebrand Hugo Chávez, who became president in 1999. But in the past year, Venezuela’s economy has fallen off a cliff, prompting a more drastic exodus. Experts say the outflow is set to surge in the aftermath of the reelection of President Nicolás Maduro on May 20. Denounced internationally as illegitimate, the election removed any real chance for change. Amid food shortages, hunger is pervasive and growing in a country that was once Latin America’s richest per capita. Without medicines, treatable diseases such as HIV and malaria have become rampant. With hyperinflation soaring toward 14,000 percent, it now takes five days work at the minimum wage to buy a dozen eggs.

 The value of local salaries is falling by the day. In the middle of 2017,  an average teacher’s salary was worth nearly $45.

Today, it’s worth about $8.

“If we continue like this, Venezuela won’t even be a Third World country anymore,” said Flores, the school principal.

A view of a residential complex where people are using light from cellphones or candles during a partial blackout in Caracas’s La Carlota neighborhood on May 14. (Wil Riera/For The Washington Post)

Massive gaps in the labor force are undercutting critical services here. Inside the darkened halls of a Caracas subway station on a recent afternoon, for instance, passengers climbed broken escalators and filed past closed ticket booths. The conditions reflect the shrunken workforce; last year, 2,226 subway employees — more than 20 percent of the staff — abandoned their posts, according to Familia Metro, a Caracas-based transit watchdog group.

“There’s a huge lack of people in operations and maintenance now,” said Ricardo Sansone, head of Familia Metro. “They have no people to sell tickets at many stations, so passengers are often not even paying to use the subway.”

At the Jose Manuel de los Rios Children’s Hospital in Caracas, 68 doctors — or 20 percent of the medical staff — quit and left the country over the past two years. The hospital’s cardiology department is now only open for a morning shift, since three of its six specialists are gone. There are 300 vacant nursing positions. Personnel shortages are so bad that the facility can only staff two of its seven operating rooms.

“It now takes eight months to a year for a surgery appointment,” said Huniades Urbina, a senior staff pediatrician.

This year, thousands of blackouts have hit Venezuela, darkening  cities for weeks at a time. A lack of imported spare parts to fix the poorly maintained power grid is one problem. But so is “the flight of our trained workers,” said Aldo Torres, executive director of the Electricity Federation of Venezuela, an association of labor unions.

“Every day, we’re receiving dozens of calls from colleagues saying they’re going to Colombia, Peru and Ecuador,” Torres said. “They’re being replaced by people who are mostly not qualified.”

A large billboard for Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s president, sits atop a building in Caracas on May 20, the day of presidential elections. (Wil Riera/Bloomberg)
‘I can’t wait anymore’

Seven miles down the road from Aquiles Nazoa Elementary School, the campus of Simón Bolívar University is oddly quiet. Once considered the MIT of Venezuela, a university that churned out some of the best Latin American engineers and physicists is now in danger of becoming a ghost town.

In 2017, 129 professors — nearly 16 percent of the staff — quit, the vast majority to leave the country. It’s no surprise, officials here say. Using the black market rate for dollars, a professor’s salary here now tops out at about $8 a month, because of hyperinflation.

 Thirty professors retired last year but have not been replaced, in part because of a lack of qualified candidates. The university is so short-staffed that three departments — languages, philosophy and electronic engineering — are about to close.

Yet as Venezuela’s young people depart in droves, Simón Bolívar also does not have the demand it once did. Three years ago, electronic engineering had nearly 700 students. Now, it’s down to 196.

Jesus Perez, 20, is one of the students who are just giving up. He was studying to be a computer engineer. But over the past six months, he’s lost 10 pounds from a lack of food. “I can’t wait anymore,” he said. “I have to leave. So far, 15 of my friends from school have left the country since February.”

He’ll go to Peru, a country that two decades ago was far poorer than Venezuela.

What will he do?

“I don’t care,” he said. “Be a waiter, clean floors. I can’t ask for much.”

Children play during a break at Aquiles Nazoa Elementary School. (Wil Riera/For The Washington Post)

A 40-minute bus ride away from Aquiles Nazoa Elementary School, Deiriana Hernandez sat on the floor of her one-room home, puzzling out her homework.

A student at the school,  she is on her third teacher in one year. One of them retired. Another quit to leave the country. Her latest — “Mrs. Kory” — is a volunteer  who only recently finished her high school equivalency degree.

Venezuelans are fleeing the country in droves, including teachers

 Deiriana  recently spent two weeks at home because her school could find no one to teach third grade. With a volunteer teacher, she can at least go to class. But she and other students are slipping behind.

Their grades are falling, and behavioral problems are worsening. Deiriana is 9. But she can barely read.

She was looking at a list of 16 words now, and instructions to separate them into four groups — animals, colors, cities, plants.

She scratched her head and called for her mother.

“You don’t understand?” said her mom, Yanelis Blanco, 26.

Blanco was nervous.

Kory Hernandez stands in the door of a classroom at Aquiles Nazoa Elementary School. (Wil Riera/For The Washington Post)

“She’s behind for a third grader,” the mother said. “She doesn’t read correctly, has lots of grammatical errors when she writes. It’s a terrible thing that her teachers constantly leave.”

Deiriana’s classmates are also leaving. Last year, her class had 24 students. Now they’re down to 19.

Two days after Deiriana labored over her homework, her mother received news from the school.

Mrs. Kory had quit.

For Deiriana, it’s back to staying at home, where her family is discussing another big change. Unable to put enough food on the table, her father is thinking of going to Peru to look for work.

“At least maybe that way we can pay for private schools where teachers, I imagine, are being paid better and given incentives to stay?” Blanco said. “I don’t know.”

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