By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- About 4 million Venezuelans have left the country since 1999, trying to escape hyperinflation, a worthless currency, starvation and high crime after 19 years of Communist mis-rule, but as the pace of the exodus picks up, some are also trying to take an iconic piece of their country with them: small tiles from the large Carlos Cruz-Diez monumental mosaic on the floor of the lobby of the departure section of the Simon Bolivar International Airport, the oil-rich nation’s largest.
Travelers and visitors started noticing pieces of Op Art’s pioneer Cruz-Diez’s “Cromo interferencia de color aditivo” – installed in 1974-1978 and taking up more than 2,600 square meters- missing. The trend began in earnest five years ago, at about the same time Maduro took over, according to La Verdad, a newspaper from Vargas state, where the country’s main international airport is located.
National Assembly opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano took issue with the damaging of Cruz-Diez’s work Monday in a series of tweets, asking travelers not to take that special part of Venezuela with them, and reminding readers that maintenance is not precisely the forte of Maduro’s administration.
“Venezuela brethren, that piece of us that you are taking motivated by love is part of our land. We want it to be here when you return. When all this horror comes passes away. This beautiful work, deteriorated but still beautiful, which now bides you farewell, we want it to be there telling you welcome when you return”, Solorzano wrote in a series of tweets.”This terrible, oppressive regime will not restore it, will do nothing to repair it. On the contrary, for them it is as if any trace of culture and free thought that is destroyed, much better.”
The government admits that the last time it performed maintenance work on the historic mosaic was in 2007.
It was also five years ago that Venezuelans started emigrating en masse, with the exodus accelerating in 2017, after months of violent street protests. The Organization of American States says already 4 million Venezuelans have fled the country, while Caracas-based consultants “Consultores 21” says the figure is closer to 4.1 million in a country of 31 million people, or more than 13% of the total population.
Neighbors Brazil and Colombia have been forced to take extraordinary measures to stop, stem or at least re-direct the tide, ranging from mass deportations in the case of Colombia, to moving migrants (most of which lack even a Venezuelan passport, which is prohibitively impossible to acquire for most) thousands of miles inland from the border, to the megapolis of Sao Paulo, which is as far from Caracas as the Venezuelan capital is of Miami.