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President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela never misses an opportunity to tell the world about his quest to destroy the rich. ”I said one day that being rich is bad. Yes, and I’ll repeat it, being filthy rich, being bourgeois is bad…” To the world he is leading a socialist revolution, attempting like a modern day Robin Hood to steal from the rich and give to the poor. But as it turns out, when it comes to wealth, Chavez knows what he’s talking about. Last week a furor arose in Venezuela and across the region when one of the strongman’s daughters uploaded a picture onto social media showing her fanning fistfuls of dollar bills, which are difficult to acquire in currency-controlled Venezuela. Evidently this is not the first time she has reveled in the privilege of being a dictator’s daughter, including snapping a now-famous photo with pop star Justin Bieber in 2008. The latest incident has focused public attention in Venezuela on the lifestyle of President Chavez’s family, which, according to Primera Noticia, a Peruvian news show, includes elaborate parties, expensive trips, beach homes, and country estates. According to a story by Mexican newspaper La Razon – citing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration report to which they had access members of the Chavez family also have bank accounts in the United States worth $137,000,000. The strongman’s success is not repeated in the general population. Massive shortages, rampant inflation, and the destruction of the productive sector of the Venezuelan economy (due in part to the expropriation of businesses) have left the Venezuelan economy in shambles. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have lost their jobs; an estimated one million have left the country. Chavez’s socialist policies and calls for the Venezuelan people to sacrifice don’t apply to his own family. This post written by Joel D. Hirst, a Human Freedom Fellow at the George W. Bush Institute. Find him on Twitter: @joelhirst
Before joining the George W. Bush Institute, Joel Hirst was a recipient of the prestigious International Affairs Fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he researched the Cuba/Venezuela-sponsored Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas. He worked for six years with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives in Uganda, focusing on post-conflict transition in Lord’s Resistance Army–affected areas. In Venezuela, he worked for four years on democracy promotion, elections, civil society, and human rights. Prior to this, Hirst worked as a humanitarian relief worker with World Vision in countries such as Pakistan, Venezuela, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Honduras, and Nicaragua. He writes and appears frequently in the media.
To find out more about Joel, you can also visit his personal website.Full Bio