Lifestyles of the Rich and Socialist: From Chavez to Castro, leaders who lived the high life
Socialist leaders come to power promising to equalize society.
But, in the words of George Orwell's "Animal Farm," their followers soon learn "some are more equal than others."
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American democratic socialists have faced scrutiny for their own indulgences under the capitalist system -- for instance, Sen. Bernie Sanders has three homes and a proclivity for private jet travel.
But American socialists' luxuries pale in comparison to those of history's most infamous socialist and communist leaders around the world.
Hugo Chavez brought socialism to Venezuela and once said that it is "bad" to be rich. Yet his family lived in opulence even as the rest of the country has in recent years descended into starvation and violence.
Chavez, despite not being wealthy when he was democratically elected as president of Venezuela in 1998, was worth between $1 billion and $2 billion at his death, according to global risk analysis firm Criminal Justice International Associates.
Chavez's daughter, Rosinés Chávez, once posted an Instagram photo of herself with celebrity Justin Bieber, and another of her posing with U.S. cash – even as ordinary Venezuelans saw their life savings wiped out by million-percent inflation caused by the government printing too much money.
Ordinary Venezuelans are angry.
“Claims of social justice and equality are ridiculous ... The elites led by Chavez have stayed wealthy through corruption and theft of money,” a Venezuelan college student named Roxana told Fox News in texts translated from Spanish.
“In Venezuela, there is a very particular word to refer to family and friends who benefit from government money. They are ‘enchufado’ [‘well-connected’].”
But on her end, Roxana says she finds it hard to get decent food and she constantly fears being attacked – Venezuela now has a murder rate two times higher than Detroit’s.
'Socialism in Venezuela loves poor people so much, it multiplies them.'
Surveys also show the average Venezuelan has lost 24 pounds due to lack of food.
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Roxana mentioned a common joke in her country about the rise in extreme poverty: "Socialism in Venezuela loves poor people so much, it multiplies them.”
The Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, throughout his reign, claimed to live in a humble fisherman’s hut.
“The fisherman’s hut was really a luxury vacation home,” Castro’s former bodyguard, Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, writes in “The Double Life of Fidel Castro.”
According to the bodyguard, the Cuban dictator obtained more than 20 fancy properties throughout the island.
Castro also frequently relaxed on a 90-foot yacht decorated with exotic wood imported from Angola. He also had nearly endless beachfront property to himself.
Castro eventually made it to No. 7 on Forbes’ list of richest world leaders, which estimated his wealth at $900 million. Castro denied being so wealthy.
With all his wealth and power, Castro also had at least five mistresses, according to his bodyguard.
The top leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had access to a network of palaces, cars and delicacies. However, Soviet leaders lived up to their ideals in one way: they never officially owned any of it. Upon death, the things they used went to the next leader.
Joseph Stalin loved American-made Packard cars, and had several.
Soviet leaders and bureaucrats also had their own elite, exclusive system of grocery stores, hospitals and schools -- even while ordinary Russian citizens sometimes waited for hours to buy food.
"There was not a lot of food to choose from, but in Moscow it was still edible,” Vladimir Yankov, a Soviet scientist who was born during Stalin’s reign and who later immigrated to the United States, told Fox News.
He said he never entered a special store for the political elite – but that twice in his life, he got a gift of top-quality Indian tea from well-connected friends with access to the stores.
“A party leader of a town with 100,000 [people] was paid a salary five times the national average,” Yankov recounted, “and had an apartment size five times the national average, plus a car with a driver.”
In 1985, 15 percent of Soviet households had a car. In the U.S., by contrast, households had an average of nearly two cars.
But Soviet elites’ wealth was always less ostentatious and flashy than that of American billionaires and celebrities, making things more equal in that way.
Yankov said that, to him, social democracies like Sweden struck a good balance – they reject traditional aspects of socialism such as government ownership, but also provide generous welfare.
“The problem in the Soviet Union was the leaders’ stupidity, not their consumption habits – at least for me,” Yankov said.
China’s constitution states that it “is a socialist state under the people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class” – yet, its leaders live far better than workers.
China suffered more deaths than any other country due to starvation caused by the government takeover of farms. Sixty-five million people were killed, per The Black Book of Communism.
“The leaders never intended for themselves to be the ones who were tightening their belts,” Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, told Fox News.
“Mao [Zedong] is a great example. He had a rotating harem of underage girls,” Smith said. That is per Mao’s former personal physician, who later moved to America.
“Mao was sitting in his luxurious pool, talking to Western journalists, while millions of Chinese died of starvation,” Smith added.
Nicolae Ceaușescu, dictator of the Socialist Republic of Romania from 1965 to 1989, claimed his government would aid in "the molding of the new man and the promotion of socialist ethics and equity."
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But Ceaușescu himself owned 15 palaces, including one complete with gold bathroom fixtures, silk carpets, and a garden with peacocks. He owned multiple yachts, and the Guinness Book of Historical Blunders records him as having provided his pet dog, Corbu, with its own motorcade.
Maxim Lott is Executive Producer of Stossel TV and creator of ElectionBettingOdds.com. He can be reached on Twitter.