Venezuelan Chavez haters are running on empty

There is an interesting story in the Houston Chronicle today that focuses on rich Venezuelans who are fleeing their homeland to come to Houston, many with hopes of plugging into the city's oil industry.

The story points out that:

More than 10,000 Venezuelans now live in the Houston area, estimates Wladimir Torres, 51, publisher of the monthly newspaper El Venezolano de Houston. That's up from the 1,592 Venezuelans counted in the 2000 census.

... But the Bayou City also has attracted thousands of these immigrants because they expected to find jobs here, particularly in Houston's oil sector, where former employees of the (Venezuelan) state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, can utilize their experience.

The article attempts to compare the expatriate Venezuelans to the Cubans who immigrated to the states when Castro came to power. However, the comparison is flawed, as the story itself illustrates:

Like the middle- and upper-income Cubans who fled after Fidel Castro took over more than four decades ago, Venezuelans left everything behind. While Cubans left on rafts and were nicknamed balseros, or rafters, Venezuelans holding U.S. visas boarded planes for their new homes.

... As with their Cuban counterparts, most Venezuelan immigrants speak English, are educated and have enough money to start businesses here. And like Cubans, many Venezuelans settled in the Miami area, where they had once traveled to for shopping trips or to visit family members who long ago migrated to the United States.

... Many of these recent arrivals are flocking to the Katy area, which Venezuelans now refer to as "Katy-zuela."

They can afford $80,000 to $190,000 houses because many arrive with their life savings.

They choose the Katy area because they approve of the school district and many work in the energy sector in west Houston.

Heck, most folks already living in the U.S. can't afford to live in Katy or to plop down $190,000 for a house after "leaving everything behind" in their prior home.

These are well-off folks that I really can't waste much pity on, other than the fact that they had to endure the airline system to get to the states. The big question in my mind is why they didn’t stay in their home country to help make it better. I suspect greed is a factor; they don't want to give up their high-end lifestyle for an opportunity to improve living conditions for everyone in their country. These are the same kind of people who complain about paying public school taxes precisely because they can afford to send their kids to private schools.

Can't they see that a rising tide raises all boats? If they stay behind and help build the social and economic infrastructure of their own country, even at the expense of a few thousand dollars a year in income and less trendy clothes for their kids, then down the road they, too, will be better off – in terms of better public services, less crime and more opportunity for all.

Instead, they are welcomed by U.S. authorities to gringo land -- and I'm sure these fleeing upper-crust Venezuelans called more than a few of us dirty gringos before arriving -- and are forced to live in a high-end suburb of Houston, a real hardship by even U.S. standards (right). Meanwhile, every week, some body comes floating across the Rio Grande, a victim of the harsh U.S. immigration policies in force for the underclass of Latin America.

The irony is that the same social structure the upper crust of Venezuela, now living in exile in Houston, had in place in their native land is likely still in place in Houston -- complete with servants from the lower classes of Latin America who live in fear of deportation daily.

From the Houston Chronicle story:

So many Venezuelans are moving to the Katy area that Yris Mariela Munoz, 32, and her husband, Jose Munoz, 35, plan to take their second Sabor Venezolano food truck there.

For now, they park their food truck along a busy west Houston intersection and sell beef-stuffed arepas, cheese-filled empanadas and crepelike, sweet-corn-topped cachapas to Houston's newest wave of immigrants.

Every day, dozens of Venezuelan customers drive up in their luxury cars and SUVs and stop for a meal that will remind them of home. They wash down heavy meals with even weightier discussions about their nation's political and economic woes.

I rest my case.

It seems to me that these aren’t people in exile in the true sense of the word; these are people on vacation in their second homes overseas.

Beyond giving us a glimpse of the effete nature of the opposition to Chavez, the Houston Chronicle article also (unwittingly I suspect) draws out the battle lines over the current recall referendum in Venezuela. The mainstream press has attempted to paint the situation, at least for readers in the states, as a showdown between a "dictator" (allegedly Chavez) and the good people of Venezuela, who are in the grips of this "tyrant’s" reign.

Well, if this Chavez is such a tyrant, then why is he allowing all these rich people to leave his country (openly, with visas)? Wouldn't he want to keep all their wealth in place for his own purposes?

And if Chavez is this cruel dictator as portrayed by the U.S. press, then why is it only the rich that are fleeing? I haven't read about any "Venezuelan boat people" landing on Texas' shores in recent years.

No, the truth is that Chavez and the participatory democracy movement he is spearheading in Venezuela are shaking up the status quo, redefining the meaning of privileged in that country. So the privileged are fleeing to a country that will still embrace their form of privilege -- to a point.

I just suggest these SUV-driving, Chavez-hating, gated-community dwelling expatriate Venezuelans stay out of Houston's barrios and ghettos -- because their privilege won't mean jack shit there either.

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