Taking the Boats

“Where there’s socialism there are boat people.” Wall Street Journal editorial

“Desperate Venezuelans are trekking through the Amazon hinterlands to make it to Brazil. And, like Cubans, they are taking to boats, risking their lives to make it to the nearby Dutch colony of Curacao.” Ibid

“Western credulity about socialism is eternal.” Ibid

Fidel’s Venezuelan Legacy

Boat people flee the country that imitated the Castro model.

Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2016, p. A 16

People line up to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM) outside a Banco de Venezuela branch in Caracas, Venezuela November 25, 2016. People line up to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM) outside a Banco de Venezuela branch in Caracas, Venezuela November 25, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

Fidel Castro’s death has elicited a flood of commentary about his legacy, including predictable tributes to his alleged achievements in health care and education. Readers interested in a more accurate accounting should read current headlines about life and death in Venezuela.

Except for Nicaragua in the 1980s, Venezuela has more wholly adopted Castro’s economic and ideological model than any other Latin American nation. The late Hugo Chávez took his cues from Castro on everything from his fondness for army fatigues to his 10-hour speeches. Chávez also adopted the Castro model of seizing private property, suppressing the independent media, hounding political opponents and making cause with rogues in Damascus and Tehran.

For a while Venezuela escaped some of the inevitable consequences thanks to a flood of petrodollars. That’s over. Inflation is forecast to reach 1,640% next year. Caracas is the world’s most violent city. Hospitals have run out of basic medicines, including antibiotics, leading to skyrocketing infant mortality. There are chronic and severe shortages of electricity, food and water, as well as ordinary consumer goods like diapers or beer. Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s handpicked successor, has put his leading political opponents in jail.

And there’s hunger. An estimated 120,000 Venezuelans flooded into neighboring Colombia to buy food when Mr. Maduro briefly opened the border in July. Desperate Venezuelans are trekking through the Amazon hinterlands to make it to Brazil. And, like Cubans, they are taking to boats, risking their lives to make it to the nearby Dutch colony of Curaçao. Where there’s socialism there are boat people.

For years Caracas supplied Cuba with cheap oil. Havana returned the favor by providing the Chavista regime with much of its security apparatus, including thousands of military advisers and intelligence agents. Few doubted Castro’s skill in holding on to power, and Mr. Maduro and his lieutenants have the same determination.

Not long ago young leftists were hailing the achievements of Chávez’s “revolution,” much as a previous generation celebrated Castro’s. Western credulity about socialism is eternal, which perhaps explains the tearful eulogies for Castro. Those less easily suckered need only look at Venezuela’s desperate boat people to know the truth of Fidel’s legacy.

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