Obama should send thank-you note to Chávez

When Doral made history by becoming the first Florida city to elect a Venezuelan mayor earlier this week, my first reaction was to run to my Twitter page to spread the news alongside a short comment: Gracias, Hugo!

Just as Florida should extend eternal gratitude to Cuba’s dictator, Fidel Castro, for the tens of thousands of middle-class professionals who fled to Miami after the 1959 Cuban revolution, Florida authorities should erect a statue to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for triggering the flight of a good chunk of Venezuela’s middle class over the past decade.

There are an estimated 244,000 Venezuelans living in the United States, up from about 91,000 in 2000, a year after Chávez took office, according to US Census figures. Doral has the largest concentration of Venezuelans in the United States, prompting many of its residents to refer to it jokingly as ‘Doralzuela.‘

Perhaps more interestingly, a majority of Venezuelans in the United States are   highly educated. Among Venezuelan-American residents aged 25 to 34, nearly 57 per cent have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, much more than the US national average, according to the 2010 Census figures.

Doral Mayor Luigi Boria

While some Venezuelans came before Chávez was first elected, many have reached top positions in the US academic world. Ironically, while not one single Venezuelan university is currently listed in the Times Higher Education Supplement ranking of the world’s best 400 universities, a Venezuelan academic — Rafael Reif — was appointed earlier this year as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the world’s five highest-ranked universities. Many other Venezuelans are teaching at Harvard, Columbia and other top US schools.
The mass exodus of middle-class and professional Venezuelans in recent years also has been a boon to Miami’s real estate industry. Venezuelans, as well as Brazilians and Argentines, have been among the main buyers of houses and apartments following the 2008 housing crisis.

Not surprisingly, a recent Miami Herald story quoted Philip Spiegelman, principal of the International Sales Group, a Miami condominium marketing firm, as saying that the joke of the day at a November 15 real estate conference in Miami was that Chávez should be named “Salesman of the Year” because of the high numbers of Venezuelans who purchased real estate in Miami this year.
In a telephone interview, Luigi Boria, Doral’s new mayor, told me that Venezuelans make up about 22 per cent of Doral’s residents.
Boria, a businessman who owns a computer export firm, moved to Florida in 1989, but most Venezuelan residents of Doral arrived more recently.
“They have come because of the persecution, the fear and insecurity they feel in Venezuela,” Boria says.

“And many more are likely to come in the near future. My own brother and his family are talking with immigration attorneys and trying to move here.”
Much the same exodus of middle and upper-class Venezuelans is aimed toward Panama, Colombia, and other Latin American countries, where the Venezuelan diaspora is growing by the day. There are at least 97,000 Venezuelans living in Spain, 37,000 in Italy and 36,000 in Portugal, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
As a result of the flight of Venezuelan oil executives and engineers, Venezuela’s oil production has plummeted from 3.4 million barrels a day when Chávez took office to about 2.5 million barrels today, according to independent industry estimates.

Much like what happened with Cuba’s sugar industry after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Venezuela’s oil industry has been decimated by the outflow of human capital.

My opinion: Venezuela’s populist fiesta — in which Chávez has won reelection thanks to giving away his country’s oil bonanza in cash subsidies to millions of people, while at the same time destroying the economy and killing the country’s industries — is resulting in a mass exodus of talented professionals. The trend will haunt Venezuela for years to come.
But for the United States, Spain, Panama and other countries that are receiving this pool of highly-skilled and often wealthy immigrants, it’s a blessing.

President Barack Obama could use the occasion of Boria’s election as the first Venezuelan-born mayor in Florida to send a heartfelt “thank-you” note to Chávez.
© The Miami Herald, 2012. Distributed by Knight Ridder/ Tribune Media Services.

Latest in Features, Sunday

default placeholder

Passport application blues

I was dreading the process of getting my passport renewed since the beginning of this year. I do not know if there are other countries where folks feel anxiety at getting such a task done because of the fear of the long wait.

20160623Stabroek News Cartoon June 23 2016

Thursday’s Cartoon

Thursday’s Cartoon

default placeholder

Government and GPSU: politics without vision

About a week ago, with ‘tears in their eyes’, some of the executive members of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) shared with the Stabroek News ‘their bewilderment at the lack of movement on the part of the administration to begin the collective bargaining process despite making several public statements about its importance’ (GPSU alarmed at gov’t lack of engagement on public service wage talks).

Saieed Khalil

An Ounce of Prevention: Nipping Domestic Violence in the Bud

By Saieed Khalil   Author’s note: On Saturday June 25th, the University of Guyana’s Diploma of Social Work Class of 2014-2016 in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protection, will be hosting a walk to raise awareness of domestic violence.

default placeholder

Pope Francis losing support in Argentina

Pope Francis is very popular around the world, but there are growing signs that his popularity is dwindling in his own country, Argentina.

default placeholder

Public financial management: 1966 to present (Part IV)

This is the fourth in a series of articles on public financial management in Guyana’s post-Independence period. The three previous articles covered developments from 1966 to 2001.

default placeholder

Bryan Hunt

Bryan Hunt has proven that you don’t have to dress like a diplomat to excel at being one. During the period that he has been here, particularly over the fourteen months that he performed the functions of the head of the US Mission, his steady and deft hand has helped to monitor both Guyana’s general and local government elections and stabilize relations with Guyana after accusations by the previous government against Ambassador Brent Hardt of interfering in Guyana’s internal affairs.

default placeholder

The anguish of each belongs to us all

Recently I read two poems which I want to share without much commentary – partly because they speak for themselves. The first is by Primo Levi, the Italian chemist and resistance fighter, who survived the Auschwitz death camp and thereafter wrote books of astonishing grace and hope about agonizing tragedy and ultimate evil.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: