Desperate Interstellar Migrations

A NY Times article, Hungry Venezuelans Flee in Boats to Escape Economic Collapse, is useful grits for the Traveller mill.

The dark outlines of land had just come into view when the smuggler forced everyone into the sea.

Roymar Bello screamed. She was one of 17 passengers who had climbed onto the overloaded fishing boat with aging motors in July, hoping to escape Venezuela’s economic disaster for a new life on the Caribbean island of Curaçao.

Afraid of the authorities, the smuggler refused to land. Ms. Bello said he gruffly ordered her and the others into the water, pointing toward the distant shore. In the panic, she was tossed overboard, tumbling into the predawn blackness.

But Ms. Bello could not swim.

There’s a lot of ways this can be remodelled into a space-based scenario, none of them good.

“Ah yes, one of those classic Traveller situations where ‘almost made it’ equals ‘terrifying death by asphyxiation in the cold and the dark, and your forgotten, frozen corpse is abandoned, alone, forever.'”

“It was worth the risk,” said Ms. Bello, 30, adding that Venezuelans like her “are going after one thing: food.”

That’s one good reason why someone who family hasn’t left the homeworld in 3,000 years will dare to face a cold and uncaring cosmos.

And as Mr. Chávez’s Socialist-inspired revolution collapses into economic ruin, as food and medicine slip further out of reach, the new migrants include the same impoverished people that Venezuela’s policies were supposed to help.

There are plenty of Red Socialists in the Six Subsectors: with the large East Indian population, I recommend looking into the ongoing Naxalite uprising for inspiration.

“Parents will say, ‘I would rather say goodbye to my son in the airport than in the cemetery,’ ” he said.

This actually would make a great backgrounder for a PC: just rewrite “airport” to “starport”.

…after President Hugo Chávez vowed to break the country’s economic elite and redistribute wealth to the poor, the rich and middle class fled to more welcoming countries in droves, creating what demographers describe as Venezuela’s first diaspora.

These are the guys — ‘refugees with money’ — who you want to assist in their relocation. At the going market rate, naturally.

Now a second diaspora is underway — much less wealthy and not nearly as welcome.

These are the passengers that can’t pay full price: respectable liners will be careful to give them a pass.

“Leave them for those gutter-level Free Trader types to deal with.”
“Or the slavers.”
“Same difference.”
— Corporate crewmen, watching the impoverished crowds
from the company starport lounge.

Desperate Venezuelans are streaming across the Amazon Basin by the tens of thousands to reach Brazil. They are concocting elaborate scams to sneak through airports in Caribbean nations that once accepted them freely. When Venezuela opened its border with Colombia for just two days in July, 120,000 people poured across, simply to buy food, officials said. An untold number stayed.

The PCs could definitely help with the elaborate scams.

Or, they may merely get their cargo off-world — with the pilot swearing up and down that the ship “felt heavy” during lift-off. So, after a lot of laughter and mockery, the crew finally agrees to double-check the cargo hold, where a surprising discovery awaits them.

“Umm, just how long can life support hold out?”
“Well, I personally am going to live to see the next starport. Whether these stowaways do is an entirely separate question.”

“The earnings of these people are low,” Mr. de la Vega said of the recent migrants. “The only option left to them is the nearby countries, ones they can get to on foot, or by rafts, or go on boats with tiny motors.”

…or by barely spaceworthy starships…

The exodus is unfolding so quickly that since 2015 about 30,000 Venezuelans have moved to the border region that includes the Brazilian state of Roraima, officials say. Now the Brazilian Army is bolstering patrols along highways and rivers, bracing for even more arrivals.

“We’re at the start of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in this part of the Amazon,” said Col. Edvaldo Amaral, the state’s civil defense chief. “We’re already seeing Venezuelan lawyers working as supermarket cashiers, Venezuelan women resorting to prostitution, indigenous Venezuelans begging at traffic intersections.”

Some are paying smugglers more than $1,000 a person to reach cities like Manaus and São Paulo, officials say, while others just manage to cross the border into Brazil. In Pacaraima, a small Brazilian border town, hundreds of Venezuelan children are now enrolled in local schools and entire families are sleeping on the streets of town.

In addition to space, the situation can easily fit to a politically balkanized world. Refugees fleeing warzones works as well. Unofficially balkanized worlds — China through much of its history, the Holy Roman Empire, the powerful baronies and counts of Medieval France — will work as well.

“They all say, ‘You are from Venezuela. You are from a rich country that has everything,’ ” Ms. Bello said of her encounters on the island. “And I say, ‘No longer.’ ”

Things change, man, things change. PCs may well have personal experience on this…

There is also Ms. Bello’s brother Roger, whose 19-year-old girlfriend, Yaisbel, is six months pregnant. He, too, said he would go to Curaçao to support his child. Yaisbel said she would stay behind but take a loan from smugglers to pay for her boyfriend’s journey, using her mother’s house as collateral. Hopefully, she said, her mother would never find out.

“I am just watching her stomach,” Roger Bello said. “Before the child is here, I will be in Curaçao.”

Scenario: a PC secretly uses the starship as collateral for a loan, without telling anyone else.

And when he can’t pay up…

You know, imagining how the crews of the Empty Quarter would react to this, I keep seeing the title of an old short story, A Sound of Thunder, followed by a garbage bag being tossed out of an airlock.

Please don’t pull this kind of stunt in that sector. Why needlessly die young when you don’t have to?

Even the smuggler seemed distraught at the misfortune bringing him profits.

“I would prefer that the crisis ended and my business was over,” the smuggler said after they had left. “I would prefer a thousand times that there was no crisis and we could live in the Venezuela from yesterday.”

The smarter Emptyheads understands where this smuggler is coming from.

That’s why, after they have made their bundle, they get their people together as soon as they can, and jump on a liner to Anywhere Else.

(And, at their new home… “Of course I’m not from the Quarter… do I look like a violent, ignorant, impoverished fanatic to you? Seriously?”)

Jesús Ramos knew he would have to swim ashore from the smuggler’s boat. So he spent his last weeks in Venezuela doing laps in the sea in front of his home in La Vela, his mother recalls.

His friend William Cordero, 29, went too. He spent that month applying for a business license for the salon he planned to open with all the money he expected to make in Curaçao. He had already bought a sign.

“My Faith In God Barbershop” it said.

But the boat carrying the men never made it.

The two friends, along with three other migrants and a captain, vanished somewhere off the coast of Venezuela last year. No wreckage was found. The only evidence that their journey even occurred is a few selfies sent from their smartphones just before they departed. The men posed on the side of the skiff with big smiles.

Bullets kill believers as surely as they do unbelievers… and God can always say no to prayer.

I’ll let others rant and rage, when God chooses justice over mercy. When it’s time for me to die — as, unlike the Rapture-inclined, I know that I won’t get off this world alive — I pray to Christ that I will die with gratitude to God, for the gifts of life, of salvation, and the opportunity to help in the redemption of the world, in making it a better place than before I was born.

“My preoccupation is what kind of people are entering Curaçao,” said Nelson Navarro, the island’s justice minister who argued that the increase in Venezuelans coincided with a 15 percent rise in crime, particularly armed robberies. “In Venezuela, they don’t hesitate to shoot a police officer, but here, this is news.”

Alex Rosaria, a legislator on the island, worries that the migrants will further strain Curaçao, where unemployment is at 11 percent.

“We have only a limited capacity to deal with refugees,” Mr. Rosaria said.

Nobody likes poor and violent migrants. Nobody.

Not even in the 51st century.

For now, the task has been left to the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard. Rob Jurriansen, a Dutch naval officer who heads operations in Curaçao, says his small fleet intercepted only a tiny fraction of the migrants, perhaps just 5 to 10 percent of the boats coming from Venezuela.

The Navy — Imperial, System, or otherwise — always gets to clean up the mess.

Now he says officials in Netherlands, the former colonial power that is still formally tied to Curaçao within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, fear they will also get stuck with the bill of caring for a migrant tide.

Nobles don’t like these kinds of unexpected and unplanned-for problems.

If you’re lucky in the Empty Quarter, it’s indentured servitude until you earn a legal residence permit. Or involuntary service as a colonist in an untamed continent or planet. Perhaps forced expulsion to your homeworld… or to anywhere else that will accept a payoff in return for expelled immigrants.

(“What? You were expecting welfare benefits? This is the Empty Quarter, not the Imperial Core!”)

If not… well, that’s best left to the imagination.


About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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