Venezuela

South Florida shippers provide lifeline to Venezuela

Rafael Landa (left) and Pedro Behrens, who run the Doral shipping firm Letterr Express, in front of medical shipments bound for families in Venezuela.
Rafael Landa (left) and Pedro Behrens, who run the Doral shipping firm Letterr Express, in front of medical shipments bound for families in Venezuela. WLRN.org

The forklift’s working overtime at Vikom Export, one of the hundreds of shipping companies nestled in the warehouse labyrinths of Doral, just west of Miami.

Almost all of Vikom’s shipments go to Venezuela — and they’ve doubled since last year.

“Food, baby formula, medicine, adult diapers” says Vikom owner and Venezuelan expat Elisaul Herrera as his phone rings off the hook in his office. “Every month it’s more, more cargo. Increases constantly.”

Venezuela’s once oil-rich economy has collapsed under disastrous socialist rule. Imports of basic foodstuffs such as bread, meat and fruit are in a free-fall. So thousands of émigrés moving to South Florida to escape increasingly food and medicine shortages back in Venezuela are picking up the slack.

“There is nothing in Venezuela, nothing,” says Marianela Mendez, who lives in Coral Gables and edits an expat website, MiamiDiario. “On many days my family there can’t even find bread to buy.”

This is a strange new world for the shipping firms. In the old days, Venezuelans came to Miami, bought out our malls and shipped their purchases, from furniture sets to luxury goods, back home. Retailers here nicknamed them Dame dos, or “I’ll take two.” Now the shipments of rice and medicines have taken on a humanitarian aspect.

To read more, go to WLRN.org

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