Venezuela had a lot of poverty before the ascent of Chavez and Maduro. Now it has more. That it is a wreck of a country is patently understood by a writer and former Venezuelan named Alejandro Puyana, whose story “The Hands of Dirty Children” indicts Maduro’s Venezuela for childhood impoverishment.

Another fiction in The Best American Short Stories’ 2020 edition, “Hands” centers on two boys belonging to a vagrant group called the Crazy 9. The youngest boy is practically rejected because he soils his pants and does not have another pair, thus he stinks. Later he gets sick. . . The story is vivid and tough-minded. It is carefully wrought and pulls no punches. It makes me think that Bruce Springsteen should have written “Born in Venezuela,” not “Born in the U.S.A.”—to him, a negative thing. That’s a laugh!