Friday, September 10, 2010

Venezuela's Land Redistribution is Taking a Very Human Toll

As Chavez continues to eviscerate the Venezuelan economy through corruption and mismanagement, the expropriation of private lands has remained somewhat on the back burner in terms of topics of discussion between my clients and me.  While I have had more than one client whose farms have been stolen by the government, no one I have personally met has lost his or her livelihood as a result.

Unlike the rapid-fire expropriation of all private property in Cuba undertaken by Mr. Chavez' puppet master Fidel shortly after lying his way into power through flat out denials of his communist agenda, Mr. Chavez' expropriations have been very much in his own personal style:  haphazard, inconsistent, and driven by little visible strategy.  Instead of the immediate redesignation of private property as state property, the Venezuelan government seems to be parceling out private property as a means of ensuring continued support by the poorest Venezuelans.

To me, from my point of view as an attorney focused on investment based immigration, the human elements of my job tend to deal more with families: the threat of kidnapping, the random violence, the constant governmental meddling which impacts the lives of entrepreneurial Venezuelans.  To date it hasn't been about the impact of these expropriations.

That's changing, and it is visible via the increasing number of still-affluent Venezuelans with still-prospering business quietly making their way to my office to begin the complex process of planning the big move.  They've had it and they are reluctantly coming to terms with the fact that they cannot continue to build their empires, large and small, on the slippery, muddy foundation of Chavizmo. Being one of the very few immigration attorneys who will NOT initiate an investor petition until my client has addressed pre-immigration tax planning via an expert like the brilliant Steven Cantor, these are busy days full of big decisions for my Venezuelan clients as we discuss everything from schools to housing to business transition plans.  They don't want to leave their beautiful country, but just like my father reluctantly left Cuba as it slipped toward catastrophe, they are leaving their beautiful country, in what looks an awful lot like a slow-motion sequel.

Perhaps Mr. Castro's admission to The Atlantic that the Cuban economy is a failure would have tempered Mr. Chavez' emulation of the Cuban Revolution had it been made years ago, but it's too late now.  Despite his mentor's eating crow pie, for Mr. Chavez this is now completely about one thing: Mr. Chavez.  Megalomania is never pretty, but fueled with petrodollars and protected by a military regime, it's particularly ugly in Venezuela.

Today it's farms and banks, tomorrow it will be grocery stores and pharmacies...we know the drill.  One can only hope that like in The Emperor's New Clothes, all Venezuelans, rich and poor, will call Mr. Chavez on his smoke and mirrors and reveal him as he really is.  Now THAT is a terrifying image...(-:

For a great Herald Editorial discussing this subject, click: HERE



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