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A short history of Venezuelan Socialism

By: Frank Yunker

Date: 2017-09-14


I have been following Venezuela in the news for a long time. Hugo Chavez brought his Bolivarian Revolution with him when he was elected President of Venezuela in 1999. The Bolivarian Revolution is not unique. It’s socialism that taps into the legacy of Simon Bolivar, a patriot who helped several South American nations gain their independence. Tellingly, Bolivar did name himself dictator of Bolivia in order to advance the cause of liberty.

So, what about the socialist revolution in Venezuela? How’s that working out? I started tracking news stories back in 2013. Chavez died in March of 2013. By May, Venezuela was hoping to wipe out the toilet paper shortage by importing 50 million rolls. By November of 2013 the government was cracking down on prices. Price controls are a signal that government has too much power, confidence and arrogance.
By December 2013, the country was experiencing power outages. The nation with the world’s largest supply of proven oil reserves was having difficulty keeping the power running.

In February of 2014, the anti-government protests began. The government threatened to expel CNN due to the fact that they were covering the protests. A month later, doctors were protesting. Armed, pro-government militia were breaking up the protests. So, let’s just check off “Freedom of the Press” and “Freedom of Assembly.”

Just a year after Chavez’s death, the shortages were with flour, milk and diapers. That led to socialism’s go-to economic weapon… rationing. By summer the hyperinflation was in full bloom. The prostitutes were making more money selling dollars than they were selling sex. By the fall of 2014, there were more blackouts, more shortages and more price controls. Clorox decided it could not make money because of the price controls and hyperinflation, so they closed their manufacturing facility. Because socialists consider profit a dirty word they have a hard time understanding that when companies fail to make a profit, they stop producing goods. A week later, the Clorox plant was nationalized. Socialists running a manufacturing facility sounds newsworthy, but alas we never hear from the Clorox plant ever again.

The year 2015 does not get any better. McDonald’s runs out of French fries. The military starts protecting grocery stores. The Bolivar get devalued… yet again, with leads to a 30% hike in the minimum wage. That, of course, is nothing. It gets raised 4 times in 2016 and at least 3 times in 2017, typically in the 50% or 60% range.

Let’s not forget the drug shortages at hospitals. Some transplant patients turn to veterinary drugs. People are using Bolivars as napkins and by the summer of 2015, martial law is declared in the Border States to prevent smuggling. That’s socialism. Stop the very people who are bringing goods into the country. The Bolivar is so worthless people are resorting to bartering. A chicken for diapers, anyone?
In December 2015, the voters get their say. The opposition party wins in a landslide and it looks like capitalism may finally return. Unfortunately, Maduro the socialist president has a 6-year term that doesn’t end until 2019.

For 2016, the legislature and president don’t agree on how to fix the economy. Gasoline rises in price to 15 cents a gallon, but still no one can afford it. No toilet paper. Lousy phone service. Power outages. And then there’s the classic bread shortage. “In Socialism, the people wait for bread. In capitalism, the bread waits for people.” The store shelves are bare.

The news from the summer of 2016 is just more of the same. Massive government debt and hyperinflation leads to looting, shortages and protests. A few deaths here and there. A hunger strike by doctors who no longer can provide that universal health care that every socialist dreams for. The army is now used to control food production and distribution. The border patrol is becoming more intense. Some are escaping in search of food. Others are escaping in search of a new life.

The military has new tasks to handle. Delete videos of 12-hour queues for food. They couldn’t prevent all videos, though, and the one of President Maduro being chased by an angry mob makes it to the outside world. So do the images of new born infants sleeping in hospitals… in a cardboard box. School children faint due to hunger. The whole nation is participating in the “Maduro diet.” Average weight loss per adult in 2016 is 19 pounds.

December 2016 is officially better. By that I mean that the government orders stores to get into the Christmas Spirit.
The bread shortage continues into 2017, but now the story has shifted. The government blames the bakers for the bread shortage. Maduro has one last desperate fix for all the nation’s problems… a new constitution. And the opposition? Some leaders were dragged out of their houses in the middle of the night. Where will it all end? Who knows? The military was last seen in Guyana begging for food.