(28 Dec 2017) Jorge Gutierrez leaps onto a packed city bus in Colombia's capital city Bogota, proudly announcing that he comes bearing gifts from his home in Venezuela.
He holds up a thick wad of bolivars, the currency of crisis-riddled Venezuela that barely maintains any value as inflation soars.
He asks for a small donation in exchange for each 100 note.
"Do you know what I can buy with this?" Gutierrez says, as the bus rumbles down a street in Bogota. "Absolutely nothing, gentlemen."
This creative stunt has become a common scene in Colombia as a record number of Venezuelans pour across the border in search of a better life.
With few jobs to go around, many of them show up as panhandlers in Colombia's mass transit. Others sell sweets and offer up country's traditional food called arepas.
Shortages of food and medicine in Venezuela are driving residents away in droves as the oil-rich country under the rule of socialist President Nicolas Maduro remains locked in an economic meltdown.
Venezuela is a country of 30 million people that sits atop the world's largest oil reserves, but global crude prices dramatically fell three years ago, crashing the economy and sparking social unrest. Critics blame the crisis on nearly two decades of mismanagement by the socialist leaders.
Economists say this year inflation will top 2,000 percent, making it difficult for residents to afford basic goods and services as their shrinking incomes fall far short.
An estimated 550,000 Venezuelans have migrated to neighboring Colombia, which shares a porous 2,000-kilometer (1,242-mile) border. A surge of 200,000 Venezuelans crossed over in the last six months, which officials say threatens to overwhelm Colombia's limited resources.
"No country is prepared to deal with an emerging phenomenon of this magnitude," Julio Saez Beltran, an adviser of Colombia's Ministry of Health said.
By contrast, just over 100,000 foreigners lived in Colombia in 2010, officials say.
Eager to find work, Gutierrez crossed over in October.
He also carried a backpack crammed full with 2 million bolivars that he had saved.
The stash of bills, however, amounted to just 20 US dollars, so he kept it. And when no job offers came his way, he started asking for handouts on busses. On the commonly used black market, 1 US dollar equals about 100,000 bolivars.
"In my hand I have 2,400 bolivars," Gutierrez shouts to the crowded bus, explaining Venezuela's dire economy. "A pound of sugar costs 80,000 or 90,000 bolivars... The salary of a Venezuelan is 40,000 weekly."
And it works. Giving away a few bolivars in one day earns him the same amount equal to his entire bag full of cash. He even sends money back to home family in Venezuela.
Despite his meager success, officials fear the mass migration of Venezuelans will take a toll on Colombia, a country already struggling to provide its population with basic services.
Officials fear the migration isn't slowing with no end in sight to Venezuela's deepening troubles.
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