The Bolivarian Diaspora

July 18, 2009

(Este post está en español aquí)

Somehow I missed this article “The Bolivarian Brain Drain” in Newsweek at the beginning of the month. It details how the revolution is forcing the best and the brightest of the country to emigrate and more do not leave simply because they can’t.

Sadly this is all true, Venezuelans did not use to emigrate, they would always come back, but now:

And now after a decade of the so-called Bolivarian revolution, tens of thousands of disillusioned Venezuelan professionals have had enough. Artists, lawyers, physicians, managers and engineers are leaving the country by droves, while those already abroad are scrapping plans to return. The wealthiest among them are buying condos in Miami and Panama City. Cashiered oil engineers are working rigs in the North Sea and sifting the tar sands of western Canada. Those of European descent have applied for passports from their native lands. Academic scholarships are lifeboats. An estimated million Venezuelans have moved abroad in the decade since Chávez took power.”

And how about these draconian statements:

The number of papers published by Venezuelans in international scientific journals fell from 958 to 831, a 15 percent drop in just the last three years…An estimated 9,000 Venezuelan scientists are currently living in the U.S. – compared to 6,000 employed in Venezuela…Up until 2003, researchers at the company’s Center for Technological research and Development generated 20 to 30 patents a year. Last year it produced none, even though its staff has doubled.

and then the obvious conclusion:

“For the nations of the Bolivarian Revolution, this means some dark days are likely to be ahead. Even the wealthiest nations could ill afford to lose their best and brightest

16 Responses to “The Bolivarian Diaspora”


  1. [...] La Diaspora Bolivariana Julio 19, 2009 (This post in English here) [...]

  2. GeronL Says:

    I saw an article about the fall of food production because huge farms and ranches being chopped into tiny peasant plots and given to people who have no idea how to run them.

    How would anyone with common sense think this work?

  3. Mark E. Smith Says:

    Geront, in most cases the land which is being chopped up was not under cultivation and was just lying fallow.

    As for how it can work, when the Soviet Union fell, their economy collapsed. Everyone there has a tiny plot of land and people had no choice but to grow their own food or starve. Russia no longer has to import food. It does take a while for people to learn, but it can be done.

    If productive farms are chopped up and given to people who don’t know how to farm, there will be a temporary loss of productivity. But many “productive” farms are monocultures that destroy the soil and can only produce crops with the aid of fertilizers. With biointensive farming methods, the soil is restored, a fraction as much irrigation is needed, and yields are usually four to ten times as great.

    Where the soil has been depleted by monoculture, poor people who cannot afford to buy fertilizers have to first restore the soil, sometimes by planting crops which are not profitable, before they can be productive.

    It is easier to teach biointensive farming methods to people who aren’t already set in their ways, and those whose survival depends upon producing food will do a better job of it than those who are merely interested in making greater profits.

    Failures in Africa have been due to corrupt governments and inadequate communications. Where information cannot flow freely, people cannot learn about biointensive farming.

    As for the brain drain, the U.S. economy is in a very precarious state. If it collapses, there will be many Venezuelans who’ll wish they had stayed home. Any Venezuelan scientists, engineers, professors, and other professionals who found work with the State of California, are being paid with IOUs instead of money right now. If they’re lucky, their families back in Venezuela may be able to send them some money to tide them over until they are paid.

  4. HalfEmpty Says:

    I advise buying a doom-villa. All is lost, the top-soil is for shit and we’re dancing in a dark corner with peak-oilz. Also deh flu, don’t forget the flue. And WTF is going on with the Rays?

  5. Kepler Says:

    Miguel,
    I wrote something about patents in Venezuela in Spanish some time ago:

    http://desarrollosostenibleparavenezuela.blogspot.com/search/label/patentes

  6. Roberto Says:

    Mark: You are correct in saying that avoiding monocultures, etc. is a good way to regain soil quality and increase food production, and variety as well.

    Unfortunately, our government has chosen the “African” model you mention in it’s application of land use policy, which is poor at best.

    Your statement that “in most cases the land which is being chopped up was not under cultivation and was just lying fallow”, is slightly ingenuous. The largest landholder, before the new land policy, was (and still us) the government. The patently obvious manner in which it has applied this policy using political prejudice is a testament to it’s malice. Add to this the abandonment of the new tenant once the VTV crew is gone, and you have compounded the problem further.

  7. island canuck Says:

    Mark E. Smith said:
    “Failures in Africa have been due to corrupt governments and inadequate communications. Where information cannot flow freely, people cannot learn about biointensive farming.”

    That just about defines Venezuela in 2009!

  8. Ken Price Says:

    Mark Smith:

    I have to disagree with many of the points in your post. In particular, the fact that: “If productive farms are chopped up and given to people who don’t know how to farm, there will be a temporary loss of productivity. But many “productive” farms are monocultures that destroy the soil and can only produce crops with the aid of fertilizers”.

    Organic farming is a great concept, for those that can afford the resulting products. But, when you’re trying to feed the great mass of consumers, and in particular, the great majority of consumers who want clean, safe and cheap food, “organic” comes pretty close to last in the list of desires.

    Mexico is an example of the results to be expected when Venezuelan farming ideas are implemented. For many decades Mexico had the “ejido” system, where land use was limited to 100 hectares, and the ejidarios could only use the land, not sell it or mortgage it. They never really owned the land, they could just use it. In the vast majority of cases, the ejidos produced only subsistence crops, and Mexico became a major importer of foods.

    When those rules were finally suspended, Mexico became a major supplier of specialty foods to the USA. As in Mexico, I suspect that Chavez is more interested in controlling the rural population rather than in food production.

  9. paul Says:

    MARK SMITH IS AN IDIOT- BUT THANKS FOR MAKING ME SMILE MARK
    for anyone who is interested there is no problem getting into or staying in Venezuela- there is no que to get in. I left 2 years ago one of the last of my group

  10. vdpsc Says:

    I don’t believe there are Veneuelans In the US that are counting on their families to send them Bolivars so they can survive. Complete nonsense. They’re probably more like my sister and her husband who escaped 2 years ago and who have since started a business and family here. They are well educated and hard working and economic engines for the US now.

  11. moctavio Says:

    Mark: Most of the land was not lying fallow but was very productive indeed. Most of those occupying it have left. If failure in Africa is due to corruption, imagine what will happen here where corruption is so rampant, Chavez’ family has become one of the largest (and illegal land owners in the State of Barinas)

    The Government was and is the largest land owner in the country and when you cant own the land, there are no incentives. The model is simply idiotic and it shows.

    And you are dreaming that if the US economy collapses, which aint going to happen, Venezuelans would be able to send anything to their relatives. If what you says happens oil will go down in the dumps and a country whose self production has been destroyed by Chavez will be even worse than before, just look at what is happening this year because of the dependence on oil and the ever dropping oil production. Venezuela is being Africanized by the robolution and only blind fanatics like you can believe this is not the case.

    You are also extremely US centric, Venezuelans are going everywhere, the US is not precisely the easiest country to emigrate nor is it the top choice for everyone. Venezuelans of European descent (European grandparents) from Spain, Italy and Portugal can get EU passports and Canada and Australia welcome trained people with open arms. They know better.

  12. Gringo Says:

    One reason that Mark Smith can make such fatuous claims about Venezuelan agriculture – such as fallow versus productive agricultural land- is that reliable statistics on Venezuelan agriculture are very difficult to come by. A measure of the lack of success of Bolivarian Revolution’s approach to agriculture is the difficulty in obtaining agricultural production statistics. It’s almost as bad as it was to try to obtain information about air crashes in the USSR: bad news is to be suppressed.

    Miguel Octavio has cited Carlos Machado Allison on more than one occasion as an expert on Venezuelan agriculture. In Venezuela, one has to have the expertise of a Ph.D. with decades of experience in his field to ferret out the agricultural production statistics that are readily available in an ordinary country to anyone with a modicum of education and common sense.

    Regarding the Venezuelan diaspora: I was neutral about Chavez- viewing him as the consequence of decades of corrupt rule- until I met Venezuelans at a former work place in the US.

    (To get the full articles on Carlos Machado Allison, just click on the titles. In rereading those old articles, it was amazing how valid they are today. I recommend rereading some older posts.)

  13. Kepler Says:

    Mark E. Smith,

    You are out of touch with reality.
    The US may be in real real shit and yet it is a developed country, whereas Venezuela is a very underdeveloped one living out of oil it exports to, above all, the US.

    Miguel already mentioned about the very heavy urbanization of Venezuela.
    Venezuela is more urbanized than the US and actually about 75% of the population lives in a strip of land within 100km of the coast (and not all of the coast).

    Actually, Ow (yes, Ow, believe it or not) in Oil wars blog has presented a good analysis of the Banco de Venezuela report of 2008.
    He, a former supporter of Chavez, has seen the light. Smith, take a look there.

  14. Bilis Negra Says:

    Mark E. Smith,

    I work for the State of California. Your claim that I am “being paid with IOUs instead of money right now” is false. I am receiving my full salary.

    Regarding your final comment about the collapse of the US economy and that our families and friends in Venezuela (I guess there won’t be any) will send us money… let’s say you’re just making a silly joke (and I think you know it). If you haven’t realized that the damage chavismo has done to Venezuela may be irreversible, and that the US has all the resources and incentives to overcome this crisis you’re out of touch with reality…

    Now, would you mind cutting the B.S.?

  15. concerned Says:

    This article was dead on with the aftershocks from this mass exodus of experience and technology to be felt for years to come. The only bright spot is that the ones who do not plan to return to Venezuela under current conditions, would return without Chavez and his paranoid blacklists. Without Chavez, there is hope for the future. The longer he remains only adds to the list of people bought to continue in control. And much worse…The growing pockets of drug dealers that will float the government during the low crude prices in return for zero interference. Venezuela’s main export used to be black and liquid…Now it is white and powdered.

    You only need to pass through one of the marinas to view the increasing number of new multi-million dollar yachts to see where the supporters spend their dollars. Real estate is a risk, but the yachts are a portable asset where they can live out luxurious lifestyles. These owners were either rewarded lucrative government contracts in exchange for support (when the government still had money), are new players in the drug traffic, or they made immense fortunes in the currency exchange. There is NO other legitimate income in Venezuela to compensate for a 10 million dollar yacht. ALL of these visible supporters and the more modest non visible millionaires will continue to protect the goose that is laying the golden eggs. The losers…everyone else.

    The only response to the bullshit from the troll Mark Smith is his last comment about sending the money…”If they’re lucky, their families back in Venezuela may be able to send them some money to tide them over until they are paid.” …Alias Mark is not talking about the laughable bolivar which the only use outside of the country is for toilet paper (sometimes in country when toilet paper can not be found on the shelves)… If this were reality, he would be talking about sending dollars which would be coming from the ones mentioned in the above paragraph.

  16. Mark E. Smith Says:

    I sincerely apologize. I live in California and it turns out that we’re in much better shape than I’d thought.

    Schwarzenegger announces California budget agreement

    http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2009-07-20/news/politics-city-county-government/schwarzenegger-announces-california-budget-agreement

    That’s wonderful news, and if you read the article and see the details, you’ll see how wrong I was. I’m happy to admit it.


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