life’s a crapshoot – migrant surge at the US border – Venezuela

Migrants from Latin America waiting in line on the banks of the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas.  Huddled masses indeed.

Look at this photo. While I’m enjoying gourmet food in France and merrily taking photos of snapdragons, hundreds of thousands of migrants are illegally crossing into the U.S. Thousands more are in northern Mexico waiting to cross.

Lucky. Unlucky. Life’s a crapshoot. I could be one of them, you could be one of them. One of them could be me or you. Where we are born and to whom can largely determine our destiny. But not always. There are other factors.

While on my lunch hour yesterday, I was looking at these migrant photos on my computer screen. My Franco-Vietnamese colleague (born in Saigon, himself a refugee back in the 1970s), came over and said – “Where are they coming from?”

“Ecuador. Mexico. Guatemala. Venezuela.” I replied.

“Venezuela used to be the richest country in Latin America,” he said.

And that got me thinking. What destroys a country? What kills the hopes and dreams of its citizens and forces them to flee with nothing more than a knapsack on their back in search of safety, shelter and aspiration for a better life? For their children’s lives?

Where will he end up? Why must he leave home to attain a better life elsewhere?

What happened to Venezuela? Curious, I googled. Government mismanagement. Widespread corruption. Soaring debt. Hyperinflation. Massive unemployment. Autocracy and political persecution. U.S. sanctions.

Home to the world’s largest oil reserves, the petrostate Venezuela was blessed and cursed with oil. Between 1972 and 1997 alone, as much as $100 billion in state oil wealth was embezzled by the ruling elites and institutions.

That’s what happened to Venezuela. Greed. Oversized egos and delusions of grandeur … and utter incompetence. If it’s not a natural disaster, it’s men who wreak destruction on the lives of ordinary women, men and children; we’ve seen it, over and over. I’m thinking Vladimir Putin. The murderous, hardline Iranian regime who kill, imprison and torture girls and women who don’t wear the obligatory hijab. The depraved Talibans of Afghanistan.

It’s not true that migrants-immigrants-refugees-asylum seekers want to voluntarily leave their homelands. Given the choice, they’d rather not. It’s dire straits, desperation, persecution and the likelihood of death that force them to. It’s not their fault that their countries and economies are run by gangsters, narcissists and psychopaths.

The migration of people is the oldest phenomenon in human history. (In the near future, we’ll have climate refugees). My maternal great-grandfather fled Russia for England because of persecution of Jews; same for his Belarussian wife. Same for my maternal grandfather, decades later, who fled Riga, Latvia with his six brothers. My own parents left England in the 1950s for economic reasons and opportunity in Canada. I left Canada for France.

Thanh left Saigon with his mother and eight siblings to escape communism and the never-ending war. My friend, Kaiss, left Iraq because of multiple wars, largely initiated – illegally – by the American administration. The Pentagon’s “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign – “an attack so massive and sudden that the enemy would be stunned, confused, overwhelmed, and paralyzed” – killed his father (along with 7,000 other innocents). He died like a dog in the street. One of Kaiss’s brothers is confined to a wheelchair for life, a paraplegic.

We’re all migrants. Many with deep scars.

8 thoughts on “life’s a crapshoot – migrant surge at the US border – Venezuela

  1. Just to set the record straight, Venezuela’s fall from grace is of its own doing. It goes back to the socialist dictatorship of the late Hugo Chavez and the Cuban revolutionary Chez Guevara who worked to undermine the then legitimate government. When Chavez died of cancer ( my hope is that it was the miserable death he deserved) Nicolas Maduro took over to keep Venezuela firmly in the grip of an oppressive socialist regime. So, no one can blame the US for their problems. The last election saw a moderate come close to winning, but when it comes to stolen results, Maduro & Company are at the head of the class.

    • No one blames the US for V’s problems. I stuck “US sanctions” at the end of a list of V’s own, self-inflicted problems.
      Sanctions are tricky. While their aim is to punish a country and its officials, in the end it’s ordinary citizens and businesses who are deprived of all kinds of financial transactions such as credit loans, mortgage payments, fund transfers, etc.

      • Vietnam was a war to stop the spread of Communism in SE Asia..if you think that was a bad goal, then you and I have political differences. When peace finally came it was a relief…subsequently NVN, while still a communist nation, is far from the revolutionary communism of Ho Chi Minh, Mao and Stalinist human rights criminals. Washington and Hanoi now share many common values, while respecting each other’s differences. Our common goal is to stop the spread of Chinese communist aggressions.

        As for Iraq, it turned out that we were misled by Cheney, Bush & Co.
        now, since you appear to think ill of the USA, please tell me of any other country that has done more for global well being, human rights and economic security…
        We are partners with the Western alliance to protect the West from aggressions by Russia, China, and Iran..our new axis of evil.


    C. Brown may not necessarily “think ill of the USA” but some American policies have been problematic. I still do not understand why President Biden followed through with the previously arranged former guy’s agreement to pull out of Afghanistan!

    Anyway this is a massive topic, I just thought the two cited articles above make interesting reading: why the Americans won’t be sending long range missiles (the British had to step in) and the horrendous treatment of people in Guantanamo, Cuba.

    • ‘Problematic’ is an understatement, Jeanne (but a good diplomatic word). So many deaths of innocents.
      I agree, why did Biden pull out of Afghanistan knowing full well the consequences?
      Yes, I saw those torture drawings in The Guardian. Horrendous.
      I’ll read the Politico article.

      American Foreign Policy, led by right-wing neocon hawks have, frankly, been a disaster. Trillions of dollars spent, millions dead, wounded or traumatized on both sides, carnage and chaos sowed in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.

      The image of Colin Powell holding a fake vial of anthrax while giving a pro-war presentation to the UN Security Council in 2003 remains indelible (there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq). Only one country publicly opposed that war: France.

      The Bush Administration’s decision to disband the Iraqi army shortly after the fall of Saddam in 2003 subsequently led to the making of ISIS. The Libyan intervention in 2011 resulted in the murder of Gaddafi and hundreds of thousands of migrants coming up from all over Africa to pass through the henceforth unprotected Libya to make their way to Europe in tiny, overcrowded boats. Why did they kill Muammar Gaddafi? For a very specific reason:

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