Starting this fall, Delta Air Lines will suspend direct weekly flights from Atlanta to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.
According to the International Air Transport Association, the Venezuelan government owes airlines $3.8 billion. These airlines have been prevented from converting their earnings from bolivars, the currency in Venezuela, into dollars, because of a hold by the government.
Georgia State University international business professor Pedro Carillo moved to Atlanta in 1982 and worked for the Venezuela Foreign Service for more than 20 years.
"The situation at the airports are terrible, the equipment old and not well maintained and on top of that, the government is incredibly irresponsible with its foreign debts and monetary obligations," Carillo said.
Carillo said he believes the documented corruption and violence of President Nicolás Maduro's government led to Delta Air Lines' action, and he said he’s surprised Delta Air Lines didn’t suspend flights earlier.
“You felt intimidated as soon as you arrived. It was a feeling of total, absolute intimidation,” Carillo said. “Even though I love my country and miss my country every day, the last two visits were very traumatic because the only thing I could think was how soon can I get out of here?”
Carillo said his family members are still in the country, and he doesn't advise anyone to travel there, but with fewer airlines in operation, he is concerned it could be harder for family members to return to Atlanta.
Tomas Lefkovits moved to Atlanta from Venezuela in 1995. He said he used to fly on Delta Air Lines every few months and remembers flights were always full.
“I was surprised that they lasted so long,” Lefkovits said. “I’m a businessman. If I don’t get paid, then I don’t make a profit, then I won’t continue business.”
Coca-Cola temporarily suspended operations last year because of a shortage of sugar.
In a statement, Coca-Cola said, "Operations of the Coca-Cola System in Venezuela, led by our local bottling partner Coca-Cola FEMSA, are currently running and producing. Though the socioeconomic situation of the country is complex, the Coca-Cola System in Venezuela is committed to maintaining its operations and satisfy the needs of our consumers."
On July 16, nearly 6,770 Georgia residents who are also citizens of Venezuela cast votes in a symbolic referendum at two polling locations in Alpharetta and Norcross against President Nicolás Maduro’s call to rewrite the country's constitution.
“I am in pain just like almost everybody else from Venezuela,” Lefkovits said. “It harbors in your soul and you’re constantly thinking about those poor kids who are murdered every day and the ones who die from lack of pharmaceutical products and starvation and those who are digging in the garbage for food.”
The United States has imposed sanctions on top officials in Venezuela, adding President Maduro on Monday.
"All assets of Nicolas Maduro subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with him," a statement from the United States Treasury said.
Members of the community are collecting donations and shipping supplies through their Facebook group Venezolanos En Georgia. The group can be reached at 678-754-1062.