How to Get Money to Venezuela (and support capitalism)

You likely know that Venezuela is a disaster right now. I could post about the causes, but most of us know what happened already and the actions being taken by their socialist government will not make things better. Many people are starving.

Planet Money’s spinoff (and equally good) podcast The Indicator did a show on Venezuela. Like all Indicator shows it is under 10 minutes long. Listen to The Measure Of A Tragedy if you are interested. The short version is that the median salary is also the minimum wage and if you spent 100% of your salary on the cheapest food you could find, you would only have enough to buy 900 calories a day. Tragic.

I accidentally figured out a way to get real money (US Dollars) to people inside of Venezuela.

One of my side interests is learning Spanish. In 2016, I started taking conversational lessons with a teacher in Venezuela via the company iTalki. iTalki connects teachers with students and is based out of Hong Kong. Classes are held via Skype and Google Hangouts.

I use my PayPal account to pay iTalki, which takes a 15% cut. The rest goes to the teacher. My teacher is able to receive the funds via a credit card attached to her PayPal account. That credit card was purchased on the black market. Those dollars can be converted to the local Bolivar currency to be spent at the stores on your assigned shopping day or taken to the black market to buy goods.

Because the Venezuelan government sets the price for items and often that price is lower than the cost of production, the country has many shortages of essential goods. Basic economics. This gives rise to the black market, where those with the means can acquire things they need.

Expats can now send money directly into Venezuela, via the Western Union and MoneyGram, but the official exchange rates are far less than the rates one can get on the black market.

How To Help

Create an account on iTalki and add some money. I recommend using PayPal, as I had issues using my local credit union credit card, probably due to the fact iTalki is in Hong Kong.

This is my referral link. After you schedule your first class, we both will get $10 in credits, which comes from iTalki, not the teacher.

If you are not interested in learning Spanish, you could always donate those lessons to someone you know learning Spanish or perhaps a local school. They have gift cards to make it easier.

The “Find a Teacher” tab allows you to search for teachers by location. Pick Venezuela. The hourly rates are mostly around $5-$12. A deal for us and survival for them.

Someday the current government of Venezuela will collapse completely and when it does, I hope the current generation of entrepreneurs teaching Spanish online have a greater voice in shaping their future.


Photo by Andrés Gerlotti

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Critical MAS is the blog for Michael Allen Smith of Seattle, Washington. My interests include traditional food, fitness, economics, and web development.

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