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Venezuelan students flock to Ireland and cash in on currency controls

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Venezuelan students are looking to Ireland to escape poverty - and make a killing on the foreign exchanges markets.

Ireland’s honorary consulate in Caracas is besieged daily by hundreds of students looking to enroll in Irish colleges.

Once they have an enrollment letter stamped by the consulate they can then buy currency at better rates and sell it for profits worth up to 500 times the average monthly wage in Venezuela according to reports.

The Las Vegas Sun says that students queue for days in order to receive a stamp from the Irish consulate that confirms their status as students bound for Irish colleges.

Some will travel to Dublin - described as the ‘safest city in Venezuela’ by one commentator recently - while others will use their student status to trade currency on the black market.

And reports of criminals exploiting the currency ruling have also emerged with one report even claiming that an official Irish government stamp was counterfeited.

Ireland’s language schools are the magnet drawing young Venezuelans as the Irish economy recovers.

Journalism student Daniela Rodriguez, 26, told the paper that she has been queuing for three days in the hope of escaping to Ireland.

She said: “I’ll blindly go anywhere, I know nothing about Ireland. Here you kill yourself just to get nowhere, but outside Venezuela in two years your effort pays off.”

Anitza Freitez, a Caracas-based demographer who has studied migratory trends, said: “It’s very sad that having invested so much in institutions to develop quality human resources we can’t take advantage of them to add dynamism to the economy.

“The number of Venezuelans living abroad jumped 12 percent between 2005 and 2010.”

Venezuelan ties with Ireland stretch back to Venezuela’s 19th century war of independence according to the report when one of Liberator Simon Bolivar’s closest aides was an Irish military officer named Daniel O’Leary.

Venezuelans now rival Brazilians as the biggest foreign student population at many Irish language schools.

Seda College in Dublin told the Las Vegas Sun that it had received 7,640 unique visitors to its website from Venezuela in January, equal to a third of total inquiries for all of 2013. MeQuieroIr.com, or “I Want To Go,” a Venezuelan website that provides information to people looking to emigrate, also reported record traffic this month at twice the normal levels.

Website founder Esther Bermudez, who moved to Montreal in 2007, said: “This isn’t like previous waves we saw after elections. Interest in leaving seems more sustained, less emotional, as people come to grips with the structural crisis the country is facing.”

The paper adds that once students have their papers stamped by the Irish consulate they can navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth created by a decade of rigid currency controls and buy hard currency at the official 6.3 bolivars per dollar exchange rate - 12 times cheaper than on the black market. 

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