How's Socialism Doing in Venezuela?

2,832,381 Views
Aug 28, 2017

Venezuela is falling apart. Its economy? Ruined. Its people? Hungry. Its government? Corrupt. What happened? In a word, socialism. Debbie D'Souza, a native Venezuelan and political activist, explains.

Venezuela once had a promising future, but after two decades of socialist rule, 82% of Venezuelan households live in poverty.

  • In 1976, Venezuela was the fourth richest nation in the world per capita.View Source
  • Although corruption was a constant problem, Venezuela had a functioning democracy.View Source
  • Venezuela has more proven oil reserves than anyone else in the world, including Saudi Arabia, and eight times as much as the US.View Source
  • In 1998, when Hugo Chavez was first elected, oil represented 77 percent of Venezuela’s exports. By 2013, it had risen to 96 percent of exports, thus making the economy far less diversified.View Source
  • Venezuela was home to 14,000 private companies in 1998. That number fell to 9,000 by 2011.View Source
  • After two decades of socialist rule, 82 percent of households in Venezuela now live in poverty.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source

In the name of fighting “inequality,” Hugo Chavez seized control of oil companies and farms. Now Venezuelans wait for hours in food lines.

  • Socialist President Hugo Chavez looted private oil companies that brought massive profits to Venezuela and the farms that provided food. In the early years, when oil prices were high, it seemed his policies might work. The World Bank even approved of Chavez’s regime and what it reportedly did to fight “inequality.”View Source
  • Chavez assured the people they would share in oil profits, which already funded 50% of the Venezuelan government.View Source
  • Now, the government is only importing about 25% of the country’s needed wheat and millions are forced to stand in lines for hours to get food.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source
  • Related Video: “How Socialism Ruined My Country” – Felipe Moura BrasilView Source

Since Chavez began to build his socialist utopia, 2 million Venezuelans have fled the oppressive, poverty & crime-plagued results.

  • After Hugo Chavez rose to power in Venezuela, Hollywood celebrities—including Sean Penn, Oliver Stone and Michael Moore—flocked to see his “socialist utopia.”View Source
  • While Hollywood was visiting, however, Venezuelans were leaving en masse. According to one Venezuelan sociologist, around 2 million Venezuelans have fled the country due to the government oppression and widespread poverty and crime.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source
  • Related Reading: “From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez: Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship” – Paul HollanderView Source

Hugo Chavez told Venezuelans the rich are “inhuman”—then used his socialist regime to make himself hundreds of millions of dollars. 

  • On his TV program in 2005, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared, "Being rich is bad, it's inhuman."View Source
  • Chavez drew inspiration from his communist mentor, Fidel Castro. He made friends with other Latin American dictators and showed support for Saddam Hussein and Libya's Moammar Khadafy.View Source
  • According to reports by Venezuelan journalists, Chavez left his family with 17 estates with more than 100,000 acres of land, as well as $550 million stored in overseas banks.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source
  • Related Video: “How Socialism Ruined My Country” – Felipe Moura BrasilView Source

Socialist Hugo Chavez promised “zero misery” when he took over private oil companies. Now millions of Venezuelans are starving.

  • Socialist President Hugo Chavez promised “zero misery” to Venezuelans, assuring the people they would share in oil profits from the state-run oil company, which already funded 50% of the Venezuelan government.View Source
  • Chavez broke contracts with oil and gas companies ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, demanding they pay much higher royalties. When they refused, he confiscated their land and equipment.View Source
  • During a strike in 2002-2003, Chavez fired 19,000 of the national oil company’s experienced workers and replaced them with loyalists. Without this expertise, Venezuela has been unable to capitalize on an ever-increasing number of proven oil reserves.View Source
  • Now, the government is only importing about 25% of the country’s needed wheat and millions are forced to stand in lines for hours to get food.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source

By the end of socialist Hugo Chavez’s reign, the number of private companies in Venezuela fell by more than a third.

  • Venezuela was home to 14,000 private companies in 1998, the year Hugo Chavez was elected. That number fell to 9,000 by 2011.View Source
  • After two decades of socialist rule, 82 percent of households in Venezuela now live in poverty.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source
  • Related Reading: “From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez: Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship” – Paul HollanderView Source

How bad is Venezuela’s socialism-caused crisis? In 2016, 75% of Venezuelan adults lost an average of 19 lbs from food shortages.

  • Due to its self-created economic crisis, Venezuela’s socialist government is unable to import desperately needed food and supplies, creating massive food shortages and forcing millions to stand in lines for hours to get rations.View Source
  • A recent survey found that 75 percent of Venezuelan adults lost weight in 2016—an average of 19 pounds.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source
  • Related Video: “How Socialism Ruined My Country” – Felipe Moura BrasilView Source

Under socialist Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has become the world’s least free economy, ahead of only North Korea.

  • Venezuela is at the bottom of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, just above North Korea.View Source
  • On a scale of 1-100, Venezuela’s Economic Freedom score has declined the most of any country, from 59.8 to 27.0.View Source
  • According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for 2016, Venezuela is the most corrupt country in the Western Hemisphere.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source

How has Venezuela’s “socialist utopia” worked out? The country’s inflation rate reached 800% in 2016.

  • Venezuela is rapidly losing its purchasing power. 2016, the Venezuelan inflation rate reached 800%, the highest ever.View Source
  • In 2017, Venezuela’s gross domestic product was 25 percent smaller than in 2013.View Source
  • Venezuela is at the bottom of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, just above North Korea.View Source
  • On a scale of 1-100, Venezuela’s Economic Freedom score has declined the most of any country, from 59.8 to 27.0.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source
  • Related Video: “How Socialism Ruined My Country” – Felipe Moura BrasilView Source

Socialism inevitably leads to corruption and oppression—like the recent crackdown on dissent by Venezuela’s socialist government.

  • Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president who continued the socialist policies of Hugo Chavez, is responding to dissent as all socialist dictators do—snuffing it out. His regime banned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from running for political office in 2008. In 2014 Lopez was jailed for starting anti-government protests.View Source
  • Journalists attempting to cover the unrest in Venezuela have been attacked and detained by police.View Source
  • According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for 2016, Venezuela is the most corrupt country in the Western Hemisphere.View Source
  • WATCH: Debbie D’Souza breaks down the crisis in Venezuela.View Source
  • Related Video: “How Socialism Ruined My Country” – Felipe Moura BrasilView Source

Once there was a South American country with a promising future. It had a functioning democracy, a rapidly developing economy, and a growing middle class. All the important indicators, including education, health care, and foreign investment, were pointed in the right direction.

It was far from perfect, but the mood was hopeful – and with good reason.

But now all that promise is gone. The country is a failed state, a hollowed-out shell of its former self.

Services like power and water are sporadic. The most basic consumer goods, from bread to toilet paper, are in chronically short supply. Crime has skyrocketed. Freedom of the press is almost non-existent. Democracy has been replaced by a virtual dictatorship.

The country is, I’m sorry to say, my beloved Venezuela, a place in which my family has deep roots.

I can tell you what happened to it in one word: socialism.

In 1999, then-candidate for president Hugo Chavez promised to lead the people of Venezuela to a socialist paradise. His theme was “Esperanza y Cambio” – “Hope and Change.” “Venezuela is a nation of great wealth,” Chavez said, “but it’s being stolen from its citizens by the evil capitalists and the evil corporations.” This wrong would be righted, he assured the voters, if they elected him.

And they did.

To their everlasting regret. 

Chavez drew inspiration from his mentor, Fidel Castro. Like his mentor, he enjoyed giving speeches – some that lasted as many as seven hours! He even gave himself his own weekly television show where he would spontaneously break into song.

Here’s a rule: When your nation’s leader starts singing on national television, you’re in trouble.

Under Chavez, the government of Venezuela took over industry after industry. The government, he assured everyone, would run these businesses better than private enterprise, and the profits would be “shared” by the people. With great fanfare, he tore up contracts with multinational oil and gas companies and demanded that they pay much higher royalties. When they refused, he told them to leave. They did.

His image was burnished by Hollywood celebrities who flocked to see the great work he was doing – taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor.  Progressive politicians from the US and Europe also praised him lavishly.

Here’s another rule: When Hollywood celebrities visit your country to praise your leader, you’re in trouble. When the leader sings on national television and is praised by Hollywood celebrities, you’re doomed.

Socialism always works in the beginning, so people are fooled...in the beginning. It’s easy for governments to confiscate money, but eventually there’s no more money to confiscate. In the case of Venezuela, I mean that literally: People who could get money out of the country, did. Many left the country altogether – nearly 2 million, according to Venezuelan sociologist Tomás Páez. The wealth creators continued to create wealth, but they created it somewhere else – Miami or Madrid and other places around the world.

When Chavez first ran for President in 1999, he said he would leave in two years if people weren’t happy with him. But, like Castro, Chavez never had any intention of giving up power. He died in office in 2013, replaced by his vice president, Nicolas Maduro. Maduro is Chavez without the charisma or the voice.

The country is now a pariah, shunned by the world and isolated. It’s so bad that many international airlines refuse to fly there. People stand in lines for hours just to get food. Sometimes they walk away empty-handed. A recent survey found that 75 percent of Venezuelan adults lost weight in 2016 – an average of 19 pounds. This national weight-loss program is known cynically as “the Maduro diet.”

Still, Maduro holds onto power. Opposition leaders and journalists who report the truth are jailed.

Venezuela is a cautionary tale.

Once a country goes down a socialist path, there’s no easy way back. And the longer a country stays socialist, the harder it is to reform it. Venezuela has been socialist for two decades.

If you don’t think it can happen here, whether “here” is the United States or Europe or anywhere else, you’re fooling yourself. When people get used to depending on the government – no matter how poor they remain – that dependency is hard to break.

That’s why you should never buy the socialist lie. Socialism is a drug. And like a drug, it feels great – at first. But eventually it will ruin your country.

Just like it ruined Venezuela.

I’m Debbie D’Souza for Prager University.

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