If Ron DeSantis Hates Communism, He Shouldn't Weaponize Victims of Communism

The governor flew dozens of Venezuelans to Martha's Vineyard at taxpayer expense, even though they fled a regime he says "is responsible for countless atrocities."


In May, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill establishing a "Victims of Communism Day" in his state "to honor the hundreds of millions of people who have suffered under communist regimes across the world."

"While it's fashionable in some circles to whitewash the history of communism," DeSantis said in a statement, "Florida will stand for truth and remain as a beachhead for freedom."

One would assume that promise would extend to migrants fleeing economic ruin and humanitarian turmoil in Venezuela, a country that DeSantis has decried for its "communist regime." But with DeSantis' decision this week to fly around 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha's Vineyard, the governor's commitment to supporting the victims of crushing left-wing regimes is questionable.

Flights carrying migrants reached the small Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday. Before taking off from San Antonio, Texas, the migrants were reportedly told they would be transported not to Martha's Vineyard but to Boston, where they could receive expedited work papers. DeSantis paid for the flights through a devoted state fund totaling $12 million, set aside by the Florida Legislature this year to transport migrants to so-called sanctuary states.

The more details emerge about the Martha's Vineyard stunt, the clearer it becomes that DeSantis has chosen to view migrants as a punishment to be inflicted on blue states. Florida officials "very intentionally chose not to call ahead to any single office authority on Martha's Vineyard so that even the most basic human needs arrangements could be made," Rachel Self, an immigration attorney, shared with reporters on Martha's Vineyard. "Ensuring that no help awaited the migrants at all was the entire point."

Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan interviewed by NPR, said that he and other migrants "got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it." Though the woman who convinced him to board the flight provided few details about the journey, Duarte was hopeful. "When you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot."

Rather than welcoming the people fleeing one of the world's most repressive and punishing regimes, DeSantis chose to weaponize them. This group included at least four kids younger than 9. It included people seeking refuge after escaping the regime of Nicolás Maduro, who DeSantis says "is responsible for countless atrocities and has driven Venezuela into the ground." And it was crafted to create a media splash—help wasn't waiting for the Venezuelans when they landed, but a videographer reportedly was.

All this from the governor who signed legislation requiring all public school teachers to devote at least 45 minutes of instruction on Victims of Communism Day to teach students about the suffering inflicted by communist regimes; who renamed a Tampa road after a survivor of communism in Cuba; who urged the Biden administration to provide Cubans with internet to access free information in defiance of the communist regime; who awarded a Cuban anti-communist dissident the Governor's Medal of Freedom. All this from the governor who groups Venezuela with the evil and corrupt communist regimes of the world.

As recently as last year, DeSantis spoke favorably of the people who flee those regimes to find refuge in the United States. "Why would somebody flee across shark infested waters, say leaving from Cuba, to come to southern Florida?" DeSantis said back then. "Why would people leave [communist] countries and risk their life to be able to come here? It's important that students understand that."

Many questions remain unanswered: whether the migrants will stay in Massachusetts, whether DeSantis' move violated any state or federal laws, and the precise details of how migrants were compelled to board those flights. But it's clear that these are people who could build better lives here and contribute to American communities if given the chance. Instead, DeSantis, at taxpayer expense, used these Venezuelan asylum seekers—who weren't even in Florida in the first place—to carry out a political stunt, weaponizing victims of a regime he's vigorously denounced.