As unrest in Venezuela continues, the impact on the people there is largely ignored by media more focused on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
If you live in Florida, however, you’re keenly aware of the plight of our near-neighbors to the South because many in the middle class are fleeing the land now ruled by Nicolas Maduro.
Just as with Maduros’s strongman predecessor, “21st century socialism” has dealt many in Venezuela a heavy blow.
Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott, both Florida Republicans, have repeatedly called for attention to the plight of people arriving on Florida’s shores.
Both men have also called attention to the protests. In the immediate aftermath of Hugo Chavez’s takeover, many who had the means to flee did so. They settled in Miami, just as so many did after the Castro regime completed the takeover of Cuba after President John F. Kennedy took office.
Many of the new arrivals in Florida have less resources than those who came in the first years after Chavez. Sen. Rubio, obviously touched by a plight similar to that of his own parents and other Cubans, has repeatedly called attention to the food shortages, outrageous inflation, and stifling of dissenting voices in Maduro’s realm.
Recently Cuban dictator Raul Castro arrived in Venezuela to mark the anniversary of Chavez’s death. Castro has good reason to keep up good relations with fellow socialist Maduro—Cuba benefits from Venezuela’s oil. That is the case with a number of other like-minded socialist countries. Castro’s visit was met with approval from those who are part of the government-nurtured collective. It was met with protests by those outside the Maduro circle of largesse and cronyism.
As Venezuela and Cuba’s flags were hoisted on Castro’s arrival, the Cuban flag fell in a moment of irony for freedom seekers.
Gov. Scott has even appealed directly to President Barack Obama, asking him to meet with some of the families who have come to Florida. The president reportedly would be traveling to Florida for a vacation.
Whatever Congress and immigration authorities can do should be done. We have read reports of members of violent gangs being given asylum here and we have also made note of the watering down of regulations to even permit those who have had certain associations with terrorists.
Venezuelans speak a language that is familiar to many Americans; those who are coming here are seeking freedom, not a handout.
We should be smart enough to enable these people to be here legally. These are people who are giving up everything because they have lost the right to even speak out in their own country where there is no First Amendment like our own.
Republicans in Congress should immediately begin a carve-out of some kind to address this matter. We should also be raising our voices to express support for those who are tired of bread and food shortages, unjust imprisonment, and political persecution.
Meanwhile when we open relations with oppressive regimes, as Obama has been wont to do, it would be a good idea to do so with requirements rather than simply handing over the farm with no strings attached.
Venezuela is a major trade partner with the U.S. and we currently have a trade deficit with that country as we do with other oppressive nations. That should constitute leverage.
Although Democrats routinely claim immigrants among their supporters, the party has largely been mum about the immigrants from Venezuela, and the ongoing political persecution in that country and others in Latin America, and has done little to stem the tide of political refugees. On the contrary, progressives have been more tolerant of oppressive regimes in recent years.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/March 8, 2014)
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