CARACAS, March 2 (Reuters) - Just after dawn, dozens of Venezuelans gathered at the dark bus station in Caracas. They lugged one big suitcase each, as well as blankets, toilet paper, cheap bread and jugs of water. Weeping wives, confused children and elderly parents hugged them over and over until it was time to check tickets and weigh bags, then hung back, waiting hours for the bus to leave. When it finally pulled out, the passengers looked down at their loved ones, pounding on the windows and blowing kisses as they speeded out of this crumbling capital city.
On board the bus, web developer Tony Alonzo had sold his childhood guitar to help pay for his ticket to Chile. For months he had been going to bed hungry so that his 5-year-old brother could have something for dinner. Natacha Rodriguez, a machine operator, had been robbed at gunpoint three times in the past year. She was headed for Chile, too, hoping to give her baseball-loving son a better life. Roger Chirinos was leaving his wife and two young children behind to search for work in Ecuador. His outdoor advertising company had come to a bitter end: Protesters tore down his billboards to use as barricades during violent rallies against authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro.
Bus - Story - Nation - Fall - Hundreds
Their bus tells the story of a once-wealthy nation in stomach-dropping free fall, as hundreds of people flee daily from a land where fear and want are the new normal.
By the time dawn rises over Caracas, hungry people are already picking through garbage while kids beg in front of bakeries. Come dusk, many Venezuelans shut themselves inside their homes to avoid muggings and kidnappings. In a country with the world's largest proven crude reserves, some families now cook with firewood because they cannot find propane. Hospitals lack supplies as...
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