In Disbelief

My husband's first wife lives in Baruta.  I have three grown stepdaughters who live in the U.S.  For the past 25 years, the first wife has lived off of the child support.  And then when the daughters got older, moved to the U.S. and went to college, they started to support her.  Years ago, my husband and his mother paid $40k for the first wife's apartment.

Because VE is in the news all the time, occasionally the topic of the mother comes up.  The oldest says their mother is doing great, and hasn't been effected by the climbing inflation.  They send her $300 a month to live on.  She trades that on the black market.

So she's getting roughly 54.000 Bs a month.  I read online that execs there make around 42.000 Bs/month.  Is that true?  That would be really nuts if $300 could turn to that much a month.

In addition, apartments in her building are selling for roughly 15.000.000 Bs.   Based on the official exchange rate, that would put her $40k apartment at around $2.4 million?  Can that be true?

Considering she grew up in poverty, that's quite an improvement.  So the girls are worried about her.  They pay to fly her back once a year for about a month to visit.  They say she can't get out because she can't get a travel visa this year.  Will she ever get one?  What seems to be the hold up?

So my stepdaughters will wind up supporting their mother for the rest of her life, that's no surprise.  But it would seem like a smart move if she sold her apartment and moved here to live with one of them.  $2.4M would make them all quite comfortable.  But she hasn't mentioned doing that.

Am I correct to assume that there would be restrictions on leaving the country with the proceeds from her apartment?

We don't have any hard feelings for her, and the better off she is, the less of a financial burden she is on my stepdaughters.  But it seems really odd that the worse most in that country have it, the better off she is.  True?

Hello CaliNative,

As a father, and divorced man who paid child support for 4 children for 25 years I really am surprised at your statement, "For the past 25 years, the first wife has lived off of the child support." Just because a relationship ends with the mother of one's children does not mean the relationship and responsibility one has for his children ends at the same time.

Each parent has an EQUAL responsibility for the financial support and wellbeing of their children. Money that gets spent on raising one's children doesn't know which pocket it comes out of, it is spent. If your husband weren't paying support then their mother would have taken it all out of her pocket, now wouldn't she? Once the support is paid, according to law, they payer has no say whatsoever as to how it is spent or administered; and that has been created to be that way for a very good reason. Such statements are extremely judgmental and express an underlying attitude of resentment.

I never once missed or was late with a child support payment, and never once complained about making them even though I walked away from the marriage bankrupt and with nothing but the clothes on my back. I didn't once question WHERE the money was going or how it was spent, because after all it was for MY children. If part of my payments were used for my ex-wife's mortgage payment, then so be it. After all MY children had a roof over their heads. If my ex-wife was eating the food that she purchased with my payments, well then so were MY children. If my ex-wife was using part of my payment to purchase clothing for herself, she was probably taking money out of her own pocket to pay for other things for the benefit of MY children. So what's the problem?

Do you look at your own family income in the same way? Your money and my money? It's really no different you know. When money is earned by a couple it goes into a "common" pocket (family income) and when it gets spent on necessities they are common expenses (family expenses). As long as it gets paid do you worry about who paid the electric bill, be it you or your husband? Is that somehow different in any way? I think not!

If your step daughters are no longer minors, then if they are sending money to help support their mother then that is entirely their business. They are doing so of their own free will and nobody, not me or you has any right to pass judgement on their decision. I'm sure they would not be doing so unless they saw a need to do so.

I am very happily re-married now, the child support payments are long behind me since my children from that marriage all range in age from 29 - 43 years. I have a 7 1/2 year old son and I'm semi-retired, living on a small pension and what little extra I earn from teaching part-time. In order to economize I buy a monthly food hamper (cesta básica) which contains most of the monthly needs. Some of the quantities are greater than my wife, son and I can use up in the month, so we send off the excess, beans, rice, sugar, cooking oil, cleaning products, etc., to my wife's step mother who raised her from infancy and has always been more of a biological mother than her late mom even after she divorced my wife's father. Do I complain about sending those items, well to be honest I don't even think twice about doing so. I'm glad that I am able to give my (stay at home) wife the opportunity to repay some of the love and kindess she received from this woman. Also, it's my (adult) wife's decision, one which I would never presume to cast judgement on.

Just a thought.

James        Expat-blog Experts Team

I think you read way too much into what I wrote. I am in no way critical of the mother. Because of the black market exchange rate, she and the girls were always able to live very comfortably, even with a live-in nanny. She didn't have to work and I am not critical of that at all.

My disbelief is regarding the disparity between the official exchange rate and the black market rate. The financial troubles in VE are in the news here daily. It seems like those with access to US dollars are fairing spectacularly better than the other citizens. Again, not critical of the mother. She seems to be in a sweet position of having millions in assets and a constant flow of dollars.

I never said anything about how she spends her money. It's really the economy that makes me curious and not her so much. And of course we are concerned if my husband's daughters flew there to visit right now but wouldn't say that to them. We would assume that they and their mother know better than we do what the danger level for them would be.

And trust me, if the mother could cash out for 2.4M, and bring her funds to the states, we would be overjoyed for my stepdaughters. We put them through college and now they do well for themselves. However, their lives would of course improve if they received some of that money and we would be happy for them.

If their mother goes broke, they would be strained to support her and that would be a hardship we wouldn't wish for them

Well given the current political situation in Venezuela it is not at all surprising that there would be a great disparity in the official exchange rate and that of the black market. After all it is also used by organized crime to finance their operations and launder money. I'd actually be surprised if there wasn't a huge difference under the circumstances.

I'm glad that you bear no ill-will towards their mother. If there is any financial "burden" on the girls it is surely one they've taken on themselves, so it's really not worth worrying about. Are they complaining about it? In the remote possibility that they might be, then the best thing you can do is to counsel them to re-evaluate their concepts and perhaps reduce or cut the payments they are now making voluntarily, but that's for them to decide.

Regarding their mother coming to the USA, that would be entirely up to her to decide. Perhaps she's not adversely effected by the political strife in Venezuela and is quite content to remain in the country and "weather out the storm".


I came here to ask some questions. I was looking for answers and have received only your negative assumptions and lecture. It is still a shame that you continue to write so much still without answering any of my questions.

Best to you.

James wrote:

Well given the current political situation in Venezuela it is not at all surprising that there would be a great disparity in the official exchange rate and that of the black market. After all it is also used by organized crime to finance their operations and launder money. I'd actually be surprised if there wasn't a huge difference under the circumstances.

Didn't that answer the question?

And yes, ALL South American countries (leftist governments) have very strict monetary controls, taking money out of the country is extremely difficult, nearly impossible in fact. That is probably exactly why the mother is not anxious to leave Venezuela in the first place.


I'm aware of how the disparity happened, having followed the story since the days when Chavez fixed the rate.

Economists are claiming that there will be an "economic tsunami" there next year and that there is a 95% chance that the country will default on its debt by 2016. It seems as though things will continue to get worse before they get better.

It makes me wonder if it will take civil war there to oust Maduro and return the country to prosperity. Obama befriended Casto the same week he imposed new restrictions on VE. I wonder if he's trying to further isolate the nation so that Maduro is left alone and will be forced out.

I read this morning that he is thinking of placing govt restrictions on how much airlines can charge for seats, and also an analyst's opinion that the remaining airlines would leave if he did that, further trapping Venezuelans there.

It seems like a desperate situation from the news perspective but not so much according to what my stepdaughters say. So I am a little curious.

Their mother always thought the states were terribly dangerous because of what she would see on CNN, so I am aware that the news can make a situation seem much worse.

Well if Obama is thinking that befriending Cuba and possibly imposing sanctions on Venezuela are going to in any way "isolate" them he's not only forgetting totally about the fact that they are a full member of MERCOSUR and as such have trade and residency agreements with almost every other South American nation, but he's highly overestimating the effects that any such sanctions would have as a result of MERCOSUR ties. Any financial hit that Venezuela could possibly sustain as a result of US sanctions would easily be made up for in increasing trade with other bloc nations. Since all of the South Amerian countries are lead by leftist governments it is also quite likely that they'd view sanctions against Venezuela as an affront and such actions could have a detrimental effect on diplomatic relations with all of South America.

About the only South American  nation that wouldn't object strenuously would be Colombia, since they are so dependent on US financing.

Perhaps Maduro will bring in some controls like those you mentioned for airlines. That's a real possibility and actually wouldn't be such a bad idea for Venezuela, since airfares all over South America are absurdly overpriced. It may cause US carriers to walk away, but Brazilian and other South American airlines would jump in to take up the slack, price controls or no.

Clearly things are likely to get worse before they get better, but nothing justifies a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the US government. Like it or not, Obama has to realize that it was, after all supposedly a democratic election, and as such he's going to have to look for some diplomatic solution to whatever the US government perceives as being wrong with Venezuela, or risk the wrath of ALL South American nations.


He's already put us at odds with many countries, not just the ones in South America

Sad, but too true!

I will answer the questions you are asking. 

$300 US a month for a person here is a lot of money; especially if they exchange it on the black market at a rate of 1 Us to 180 bs or more.  There are currently 3 different rates here for exchanging BS to dollars.  This does not include the black market.  If a person is lucky they can buy US dollars at 50 bs to 1 US.  But that is usually only a small amount like 2,500 US or if a person has a business they may luck out in getting more.  So for most us living here access to US dollars is difficult to obtain so many people buy the dollars on the black market.  Which is why the person you are referring to is making around 54,000 bs a month or more.  Just to let you know minimum wage here is just over 5,000 bs per month.  So this person is making almost 11x the amount of min wage.  An engineer for an oil company here makes anywhere from 8,000 bs to 20,000 bs.  Many items have risen in price now so getting 54,000 bs per month will be a great help in dealing with the problems in the economy here.  Although, many basic items such as milk, corn flour, toilet paper...etc. are still regulated so unless one is interested in buying other items such as named brand US clothing or other imported items then they will use up the 54,000 bs pretty fast.  For example a US imported t-shirt runs for about 3,000 bs to 8,000 bs or more depending on the name.... but you can always buy no named brand items which are way cheaper.  So depending on the persons spending/ living style 54,000 can let them live like a king or simply allow them to buy expensive items. 

As for her house/ apartment, it would be possible to sell it for a large sum of money but in Bolivares as few people will buy in the place in US dollars.  Also it would be extremely hard to exchange the money from Bolivares to US dollars unless it was through the black market which would be a loss in price since she would have to exchange the place at 180 bs to 1 US.  And that is if she can find someone willing to sell their US money.

There are no restrictions to leave the country.  Anyone can leave the country if they wish to.  But it is hard to find tickets to the US unless the person can pay in US dollars.  For a while now only one airline SBA has been selling tickets in Bolivares.  But it is very difficulty to get one and the price usually ranges from 60,000 bs upwards for a return ticket to Miami.  Then one would have to pay in US dollars for any connecting flights. 

Also if a Venezuelan is travelling to the US or another country they are entitled to US money at an exchange rate of 11 bs to 1 US dollars.  Depending on the city/ country will determine the amount they can get.  (Usually it is about 2,500 US per year)  I am sure if she visited your family in the US she got this money every time or another country outside of the US.  And if she did not use up the money then she could sell it on the black market again. 

Getting a US visa is possible to get here.  There were a few problems in the past with people getting their first US visa but I believe that is fixed now.  As you said she has a house/ apartment here so I doubt there would be any problems getting a US visa.  Although, the website is in English so she may need help filling out the forms unless she is good with computers and can use a translator.  As long as this person have enough ties to Venezuela then I do not see a problem getting a Visa. 

Hope this helps.

Thank you for the wonderful sharing you have all posted here.

maraming salamat.

I am going to put my 3 cents...and is about what Jei2912 said:
"Also if a Venezuelan is travelling to the US or another country they are entitled to US money at an exchange rate of 11 bs to 1 US dollars.  Depending on the city/ country will determine the amount they can get.  (Usually it is about 2,500 US per year)  I am sure if she visited your family in the US she got this money every time or another country outside of the US.  And if she did not use up the money then she could sell it on the black market again."

I have heard that before that people said they get that money, it sounds like they are getting it from free and it will be nice if they clarify that is your own money, just that the amount is what the Venezuelan government allows depending where they are going...


If she is still getting 300$ that will mean around 120.000 bolivares (the actual rate for today is 1$ == 4.23). That is similar than what Top Executive makes (with 20+ year of experience).

Forget about the official rate in Venezuela (that rate is only use for Government and its corruption threads). If you see a flat on her building that costs 15000000, today that flat's cost in dollars is 15000000/400 = 37.500 dollars. Probably, if you check again, that price should've risen by now to pair itself with the galloping inflation rate the country is going through.

I send my mom 100$ monthly and she lives better that lot of people.

And you are right, unfortunately the worst the country do, the best she will do.

Consider that a minimum wage  salary is around 7000 bolivares per month.

Your husband's ex-wife is getting 120.000 per month!!! I mean -> 17 times what most of the people do working at least 40 hours per week every week.

Ok, I'm going straight to the point, since people since to talk about everything but the facts.

Even if she sells the apartment, she would not be able to exchange that money and get $2.4 million. However, if she has contacts and know how to do it, it would have to be an online transaction, because she won't be able to leave the country with all that money. Besides all said, legally, it doesn't matter if she buys the dollars, or earns it, or the money is given to her, she would have to declare that money to the entity in charge of the money exchange in Venezuela, therefore, she would have to explain why she has that amount of money, and could be subject to money laundering or fraud due to the restrictions and laws imposed by the Government. If you can see the disparity of inflation and cost of living, as of 18 January 2015, another person posted that plane tickets to Miami were abround 60000 bsf., as of today prices have increased twice and more.

Another fact is, selling an apartment in $$ is illegal, if she has the ways good for her, but is a bit risky to do so. They may be denying her from a Visa since she has family living in the United States, and due to the situation in Venezuela they might think that she will overstay her tourist visa, as many people is doing nowadays.

So, it all depends in what she is able to do with the money, and what she can do regarding her apartment.

So if I were to move to Venezuela could I withdraw money from an ATM in dollars  and exchange it on the street for 180 to the dollar?  And if $300 is living good I'd be living 3 times that?  Is it really difficult to buy food?  I spent a month in Nicaragua in the 80's when the USA was trying to destroy their country and saw lines of people buying groceries. And walking home with tears in their eyes because they couldn't get what they needed after standing in line for 4 hours or more.  The official exchange rate then and there was 70 Cordobas to the dollar, but selling on the street openly at 40,000 to the buck.
Worth a try or not?

No, ATMs ONLY dispense bolivares. I wss just talking to my father and told me food is very scarce, and you can't find it easily without long hours in line.