The Washington Post has a heartbreaking story about the desperate exodus out of Venezuela. As people try to avoid starvation and the death of their children from lack of food and medicine, formerly well-off Venezuelans who led middle-class lives at home are now reduced to scraping by in neighboring countries by working menial jobs.

The citizens of what was once South America’s richest nation per capita are now confronting a devastating reversal of fortune, emerging as the region’s new underclass.

As their oil-rich country buckles under the weight of a failed socialist experiment, an estimated 5,000 people a day are departing the country in Latin America’s largest migrant outflow in decades.

Venezuelan professionals are abandoning hospitals and universities to scrounge livings as street vendors in Peru and janitors in Ecuador. Here in Trinidad and Tobago — a petroleum-producing Caribbean nation off Venezuela’s northern coast — Venezuelan lawyers are working as day laborers and sex workers. A former well-to-do bureaucrat who once spent a summer eating traditional shark sandwiches and drinking whisky on Trinidad’s Maracas Bay is now working as a maid.

And for some, the situation is significantly worse:

In Trinidad, the International Organization for Migration, a United Nations body, has received 23 suspected cases of trafficked Venezuelans in the past three months — compared with no Venezuelan cases last year, according to Jewel Ali, the organization’s local director.

They include victims like Luz — who said she lost one of her three children in April after the hospital in her Venezuelan town ran out of medication to treat her daughter’s bacterial infection. When she was approached to come to Trinidad, the offer seemed too good to be true.

“But I told myself, I’m going anyway. I’m not going to lose the chance for my kids to be better off just because I had some doubts,” she said.

The ordeal — five weeks spent captive and repeatedly filmed being raped — had “damaged” her, she said. At one point, Luz said, she and a friend were tied up and raped side by side.

“We were looking at each other,” Luz said, tearing up. “We would cry. And I would tell her, ‘Sister, be strong, you have a daughter.’ I would just keep repeating that.”

An estimated 1.8 million Venezuelans have fled their home country in the past two years. another 2 million are expected to follow this year. But the real question is how the 25 million who don’t leave are going to survive. CNBC reported yesterday that inflation is expected to reach 1 million percent this year:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said this week that the Latin American nation is “stuck in a profound economic and social crisis” and that inflation will hit 1 million percent by the end of the year. The Fund compared the situation in Venezuela to Germany in 1923 and Zimbabwe in the late 2000s, where the collapse in demand for money led to historically high prices and dramatic social issues.

One month ago I pointed out that a cup of coffee in Caracas cost 1 million bolivars. Now the price is up to 2 million per cup. But the former bus driver who runs the country, President Nicolas Maduro, has a plan to deal with this: remove five zeroes from the currency. Even the country’s former finance minister under Hugo Chavez thinks Maduro is nuts:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has refused to recognize the country’s hyperinflationary problem and has no plan to address it, a former finance minister, who served under the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, said in an interview…

Maduro, who says his country is the victim of an “economic war,” this week said the government was cutting five zeroes off prices, a move that critics say will do nothing to rein in soaring prices or ease chronic shortages of food and medicine…

“What the government needs to realize is that hyperinflationary situations are created by governments,” he said, adding that indicates the root problem is indiscriminate expansion of the money supply.

This level of stupidity would be funny if not for the horrible realities faced by people living still there and those trying to escape. Meanwhile, here at home in the U.S., young progressives are giving an unknown Democratic Socialist the rock star treatment despite the fact that, her degree aside, she doesn’t seem to know much about economics or even how she would pay for her own proposals. What could possibly go wrong?