It is a strange, surrealistic even, time to live as a scientist in Venezuela. The laboratories stand empty, students do not attend classes and the precious equipment is in decay. Venezuelan population is struggling to put food on their tables – and scientists are no exception. In the capital, Caracas, they roam the streets searching for any food supplies, just like anyone else. Reduced to beggars, they are forced to abandon their research.
A lot of the country’s scientific elite chose to emigrate. However, abroad, they struggle to find jobs in their fields. Many have to do low-skilled jobs, such as washing or cleaning. Those, who are luckier, give lessons in their specialty or Spanish. And yet, despite everything, many are hopeful they could still come back home and continue their work soon, report replyua.net
This is not the first time Venezuelan scientists feel abandoned and forlorn, though. In 2003, late president Hugo Chavez fired thousands of engineers and oil specialists following a massive strike. As a result, many scientists emigrated to other oil-producing countries, where their skills were in demand. It is more than evident that the situation is repeating today, albeit at an altogether more horrifying scale. Protests under president Maduro seem to be reaching a boiling point, magnified by shortages of food supplies and basic goods.
According to some estimates, about 60 percent of scientists have already left Venezuela. Some of those, who are staying, say they have not received any funding whatsoever for over a decade. In the last few years, any research and experiments, that were nevertheless conducted somehow, came to a complete halt.
Employees at the country’s Institute for Scientific Research complained that they were unable to subscribe to the international scientific press since 2016. In 2018, only two students applied to join its postgraduate program. To compare, the number was eighty-three in 2014. The institute buildings need maintenance, but no funds are allocated for them. Sometimes there is no electricity and the Internet speed is very bad, scientists say. To survive, they live off whatever savings they have got left, or try to find some part-time jobs. Still, the scientific community remains hopeful that the change of regime could alter the situation for the better.