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This gay military pilot from Venezuela was forced to become a sex worker

This gay military pilot from Venezuela was forced to become a sex worker

This soldier from Venezuela was given the Sabre de Honor before becoming a sex worker | Photo: Supplied

The overweight Arab man hushes the crying baby as he signals to Carlos to snort the cocaine racked up on the nearby glass coffee table.

‘He’ll be asleep soon,’ the man says, jaw gurning and eyes twitching.

‘Help yourself while I put him to bed.’

This was only Carlos’s third client since deciding to become a male escort in Spain, and it wouldn’t be his last.

Others would try to hit him, choke him, abuse him. He would have to force himself to do things sexually which he would never have done by choice.

But Carlos is a decorated military pilot, a straight-A student. He dreams of flying planes and becoming a scientist for his country, so why is he doing this?

Because his family are starving to death.

Because they are scared to leave their home and his little brother can’t go to school because there are no more teachers or buses.

And if he doesn’t make enough money to buy them passports and plane tickets, he doesn’t know if he’ll ever see them again.

Carlos is from Venezuela – the world’s most recent example of a failing state.

Venezuela is a failing state

Once tipped to be the most powerful country in South America, since 2013 Venezuela has spiraled into an economic meltdown. The country is plagued by corruption and mismanagement – despite being one of the most resource-rich states on the planet.

It means its people are fleeing the country before they starve or are killed by an ever-more paranoid police militia.

For Carlos that meant deserting to Spain in 2016, where a series of betrayals and manipulations forced him into a life of prostitution.

Just six years ago, before he sold his body to older men, his president awarded him with the Sable de Honor (Sword of Honor).

Becoming a soldier and pilot

From the age of 11, Carlos was primed to fight for his country. He attended the Libertador military high school in Maracay before being accepted at the Universidad Militar Bolivariana de Venezuela in Caracas.

It was there where he received the prestigious Sable de Honor from the late Hugo Chavez in 2012, after finishing top of his aviation class.

But now he’s forced to support his family – his mom, 47, and brother, just 13 – by offering paid-for sex to British tourists and locals on Spain’s southern-most coast.

He is joined by several compatriots, most of them military, who have also moved to Marbella for lucrative sex work.

‘After Chavez died in 2013 everything went to shit,’ Carlos explained.

‘I tried to speak to my colleagues and superiors but everyone was too scared to say anything in case they got arrested for being part of a conspiracy. I knew things were only going to get worse.’

Before deserting the air force, Carlos moved to Caracas. He trained as a pastry chef part-time while learning English and French, hoping he could land a job in Europe.

‘The situation was getting worse every day. If I got an opportunity to leave I was going to take it. I had to think about my mother and my brother.’

Why has Venezuela failed? 

Venezuela’s economy – once the envy of the Latin American world – was already in dire straits following years of increased corruption under Chavez.

When Maduro took over in 2013, he lost his grip on the military. The military then took control of lucrative drug and food trades and gold mining.

The new president found his government unable to pay for subsidies and welfare programs.

He started printing money, causing rapid inflation and making everyday goods unaffordable.

‘My salary was worth nothing and there wasn’t even enough food at the military base,’ Carlos said.

As businesses shut down, Maduro printed more money, sending food prices skyrocketing further and worsening inflation.

There was a surge in violence on the streets as resources became scarce and black markets blossomed.

Inflation was around 25,000% last year while the country’s GDP contracted by more than 10%.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Venezuelans are moving to the likes of Madrid, Malaga and bordering South American countries.

Escaping to Spain

Sensing what was to come, Carlos jumped at the chance to escape when he was offered a job at a ‘boutique cake shop’ in Marbella in 2016.

The owner, in his late 50s, said he was ready to open but needed a baker.

‘He told me to come ASAP because the shop was ready, he seemed genuine so I flew to Spain in July 2016.’

But when he arrived, the cake shop did not exist yet.

Carlos said: ‘I was stranded and alone in Spain with no money.

‘The shop owner said it would be up and running soon and that I could stay with him for free if I had sex with him.

‘I had no other choice.

‘I was scared and I had deserted from the army so I could never go back home, I could be jailed for five years.’

Carlos added: ‘I stayed five months in that house. Some weeks he gave me €20 or €30 ($23-34) for baking cakes for his clients.

‘It wasn’t enough for me or my family, who were getting more and more desperate in Venezuela.’

He applied for asylum in Spain and for permission to work. After five months he was still not granted the latter.

Becoming a sex worker

‘I met two Venezuelan guys who kept telling me to become an escort,’  he said.

Both had fled Maduro’s regime to ply their trade in Europe.

‘At first it was unthinkable, my mother did not pay for my education for me to become a prostitute. I had other goals.’

But as his own desperation and the plight of his family across the Atlantic grew, Carlos caved.

‘I needed to do something,’explained the soldier. ‘My family needed me and I had six months in Spain without earning any money.’

In January 2017, he moved into an apartment with three other escorts – all from Venezuela – in the centre of Marbella.

‘I remember my first client was a Swiss businessman, he gave me €60 ($68) for half an hour.’

Most of Carlos’ clients – who range from young men to old men and even straight married couples – come from Grindr. He is also listed on several professional escort websites.

Rising trend of Venezuelan escapees

And he’s not the only Venezuelan to seek out sex work to send money home.

Trawling through the escort websites and hook-up apps, you see a sea of South Americans offering their services.

‘I know at least a dozen or so who left Venezuela to become escorts around here,’ confirmed Carlos, who charges €150 ($170) per hour.

Carlos’ roommate, who was an army cadet in Venezuela, told me how he made €2,000 ($2,300) in a week during the summer.

‘There is a lot of money to be made here in season,’ the escort, who also asked to remain anonymous, added. ‘Especially from the British and the Arabs, they will pay hundreds for you for just one night.’

What will happen to Carlos’ family?

In Venezuela, the unemployment rate has soared from around 7% in 2016 to an estimated 33% last year (the government won’t release the real figure).

And the country’s minimum wage stands at three million bolivars per month – which, following the devastating hyperinflation, equates to just $1.14.

It’s no wonder that despite finally receiving permission to work, Carlos, and others, have followed the money and stuck to escorting.

‘It’s like a drug, I don’t know if I will stop anytime soon,’ he confesses.

‘Why would I work all day in a shop for €50 per day or less, when I can get 150 for one hour?’

He is hoping to save enough to fly his mother and brother over, both Jehovah’s Witnesses.

‘My mother almost killed me when I told her I was gay – she actually made me see a psychiatrist to “cure me” – so if she knows about me being an escort I think she might actually do it.

‘But it is putting food on her plate, so I don’t care if she finds out.’

High price to pay

Carlos has been sending back around €300 ($340) a month but it is not enough.

‘The food, if there is any, gets more expensive every day.

‘My brother rarely goes to school because all the teachers keep leaving and there are no buses to take him.

‘They are basically housebound because they are too scared of the military police to go outside.’

He makes up to €2,000 ($2,300) per month, much higher than the €800 ($909) minimum wage – but he makes it clear it’s not a glamorous lifestyle.

‘It’s fast money but it’s not “easy”, most of the men are older, I have to take pills to be able to perform. Sometimes I have to sleep with women.’

And he’s faced dangerous situations.

Men have tried to be violent, hitting him and choking him.

‘You have to be strong to do it… some clients want to use you, they feel they are powerful and that they own you because they pay you.’

But when asked if he ever regrets leaving his home country, the answer was clear: ‘No.’

He added: ‘I am building a new life here. I am free here, that is not something I will ever give up.

‘You can’t put a price on freedom.’

See also:

Meet the gay man who fled Venezuela and is now changing the world with his ‘artivism’