When news of Fidel Castro’s death broke around the globe, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was quick to chime in with condolences over the passing of his friend, extending “solidarity and love.”
Acabo de hablar con el Presidente RaúlCastro para transmitir la Solidaridad y Amor al PueblodeCuba ante la partida del ComandanteFidelCastro
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) November 26, 2016
I have just spoken with the President Raúl Castro to convey solidarity and love to the Pueblo de Cuba following the departure of the Comandante Fidel Castro
It’s rather amazing that Maduro had any time to mourn the passing of his friend. After all, one might imagine that the government of Venezuela would be rather busy at the moment, what with a new diaspora taking place before their eyes. Yes, as the New York Times describes in a lengthy report this week, hundreds of thousands of starving Venezuelans have fled on foot, on bicycles, in rafts and small boats, seeking someplace where they don’t necessarily want to find freedom, but just some food.
Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s richest countries, flush with oil wealth that attracted immigrants from places as varied as Europe and the Middle East.
But after President Hugo Chávez vowed to break the country’s economic elite and redistribute wealth to the poor, the rich and middle class fled to more welcoming countries in droves, creating what demographers describe as Venezuela’s first diaspora.
Now a second diaspora is underway — much less wealthy and not nearly as welcome.
Well over 150,000 Venezuelans have fled the country in the last year alone, the highest in more than a decade, according to scholars studying the exodus.
In some ways the NY Times report is worth a read, even for as long as it is, if only for the heartbreaking interviews and first person stories of the refugees who have managed to escape. Even worse are the tales told by those waiting for their relatives who left on rafts but never arrived at their destinations. The driving factor for all of them was to simply get to someplace where they might be able to find something to eat and perhaps a job which pays them something – anything – in a form of cash with some value. Inflation in Venezuela is over 500% currently and is estimated to hit 1,600% next year. Their currency is basically worthless and only those with connections to the government can locate any food.
What’s missing from the Times article (curiously enough) is any mention whatsoever of a single name: Nicolas Maduro.
To steal a line from Billy Joel, Maduro didn’t start this fire (which was really ignited by Hugo Chavez) but he’s clearly done nothing to put it out, either. After the food supplies began running out, the people started an effort to recall Maduro from office. He promptly shot that down. The legislature then attempted to begin impeachment proceedings but the President managed to squelch that effort as well. When starving people standing in lines at empty grocery markets rioted during an appearance by the President and essentially chased him out of town, he responded by making it illegal to try to buy too much food at one time.
Yes, Maduro probably did feel a great deal of kinship with Castro. The two are very much alike. Venezuela has fallen further under the shadow of socialist tyranny and its people are literally starving in the streets and dying as they attempt to flee the country. This is how socialism always ends and it’s a horror show from start to finish. The next great diaspora is underway and it’s Venezuela’s neighbors who will bear the burden of saving these people from their tyrant.