Cheat-Seeking Missles

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Voting With Their Feet

WSJ has a fascinating story this a.m. (subscribers only, probably) about Venezuelan oil workers who have gotten out of el Dodge because of Chavez, who is giving literal meaning to the pronunciation of his name, Hugo.

The 45-year-old engineer is part of a swelling colony of Venezuelan expats who say they were driven into exile by a hostile government. Many assert they were purged after a long strike in 2002 at Petróleos de Venezuela SA, the state-owned oil giant known as PdVSA. More recent arrivals initially found work with private oil companies operating in Venezuela in 2003, but lost their jobs this year when Hugo Chávez wrested control of the companies' holdings. They call themselves the "twice fired."

Frigid, remote Alberta has become one of the world's fastest growing enclaves of Venezuelans, rivaling such warm-weather spots as Weston, Fla., outside Miami; and Sugar Land, Texas, near Houston. There are now 3,000 Venezuelan-Albertan families, up from 800 or so last year. Some Albertans now call Evergreen, a Calgary housing development, "Vene-green" because of the 100 families who have bought split-level homes there, and dangle Venezuelan flags from car rearview mirrors. ...

The loss of so many skilled oil workers has hit PdVSA hard. (See related article on page A8.) Since Mr. Chávez took power in 1999, Venezuela's oil production -- according to U.S. government statistics -- is down to 2.4 million barrels a day, from 3.1 million barrels a day, despite high prices. (Venezuela has consistently accused the U.S. of undercounting PdVSA's production in recent years.)

Back in the day when despots could seal their borders better than we can, they could keep their scientists, engineers and skilled workers well shackled. Chavez isn't having the same luck, and his ineptness reminds me of African nations on the way to statehood that crumbled when their skilled white populations fled.

Chavez' days may well be numbered. But we said that about Castro more than once.

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