By Brian Ellsworth and Anggy Polanco
SAN ANTONIO, Venezuela, May 19 (Reuters) - Crouched on a sidewalk near Venezuela's border with Colombia, construction worker
Unable to cover even the most basic of expenses amid hyperinflation,
"People aren't voting anymore because they know that it's rigged. If we had any hope that this would change, we wouldn't be migrating," said
"The situation in Venezuela is critical," said
Venezuela's opposition has called on supporters to sit out Sunday's vote due to concerns of fraud but tens of
They are flocking to border towns like San Antonio, where they anxiously push through streets crowded with informal vendors under
Maduro challenger Henri Falcon, who is breaking the boycott to face his rival, insists that a massive turnout by discontented Venezuelans would bring about change.
Many among the opposition, however, believe Falcon is legitimizing a rigged process, which governments around the world including the United States and Latin American neighbors have condemned.
Maduro, who insists the election is free and fair, has warned migrants they would face difficult circumstances abroad and recently said some are now "cleaning toilets."
He has said that Venezuela's situation has been caused by an "economic war" led by U.S.-backed adversaries.
The Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
'WE KNOW WHAT'S COMING'
In April, Maduro launched a program called "Return to the Fatherland" meant to raise money for Venezuelans who sold their possessions to emigrate, then wanted to return.
In San Antonio, migrants carrying tatty bags with their belongings did not believe the government would help them or that the vote represented an opportunity for change.
"The situation is just too difficult. Money doesn't buy anything," said Alejandro Lugo, 25, a bodyguard who planned to settle in
"On Sunday there are elections. We all know what's coming. They know the results already," Lugo said.
The border is closed over the weekend as a security measure during the election, so migrants would have to wait until Monday to cross or cut through dozens of illegal paths.
The United Nations has estimated that 1 million Venezuelans left the country between 2015 and 2017.
Some 13,000 per day leave in search of a new life from the Venezuelan state of Tachira, the most heavily trafficked border crossing state, according to Venezuelan military sources working in the area who asked not to be identified.
Another 50,000 leave and return the same day or shortly after, the sources said.
Emigrees who carry on get their passports stamped, then walk across the Simon Bolivar bridge with suitcases and backpacks to reach Colombia or continue on by bus toward Ecuador or Peru.
The exodus of the last year has put a strain on neighboring Latin American countries, where Venezuelans are routinely seen sleeping on the streets.
Maduro halted vehicle traffic over the bridge three years ago. Sweaty pedestrians now line up in the heat to get through Colombia's border
Some cross to buy goods that have run short in Venezuela such as diapers or flour, while others smuggle goods to the Colombian border city of Cucuta, one of the few remaining ways to consistently make a living.
"Here your money won't buy anything, no matter how much you make," said Wilma Morales, 50, a lawyer, waiting to cross the border on her way to Peru. "For
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Anggy Polanco Editing by Leon Wietfeld, Alexandra Ulmer, Toni Reinhold)
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