Once Latin America’s richest country, Venezuela can no longer feed its people. Today, Venezuelans rummage through garbage dumps for food, an uncommon sight just a year ago. People in the countryside pick farms clean at night, stealing everything from fruits hanging on trees to pumpkins on the ground, adding to the misery of farmers hurt by shortages of seed and fertilizer. Looters target food stores. Families padlock their refrigerators. Literally…three out of four Venezuelans said they had lost an average of 19 pounds last year, according to the National Poll of Living Conditions, an annual study by social scientists.
Why the misery? The answer is simple. Socialism.
How did once prosperous Venezuela get here? Venezuela turned to socialism in 1998 when Hugo Chavez was elected president. The following year Chavez passed laws redistributing land and wealth, which he followed in 2005 with a land reform decree that would eliminate larger estates to the benefit of the poor in rural areas. In 2007 the government took control of important oil projects and kicked out two U.S. oil companies, furthering Chavez’s nationalization plans. Nationalization continued with the Bank of Venezuela and household fuels distributors and petrol stations.
The agricultural companies the government has taken over, including milk factories and distributors of fertilizer and feed, are closed or barely operating, according to economists and farm groups. “The system is created so you can’t win,” said Alberto Cudemus, who heads the national association of pig farmers. “The government thinks its survival is in communism, not in us, not with production. And that’s where they’re wrong.” The scarcity index produced by Venezuela’s central bank reached 28 per cent in January, meaning that one out of four basic products is out of stock at any given time. Sadly, thanks to socialist government driven inflation, toilet paper is now more valuable than paper money.
By the time of Chavez’s death in 2013, inflation had grown to 50%. Towards the end of 2014, the country entered into a recession. Present-day Venezuela is facing a tragic, humanitarian crisis and Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s hand-picked socialist successor is continuing this tragic tradition. The heavily centralized state-run system inherited from Chavez is what is driving Maduro’s country to ruin. Ominously, Maduro has called for an election this week-end with only hand picked candidates on the ballet to re-write the Venezuelan constitution to give him more power.
So why are dictators attracted to socialism and communism? We will examine that in my next blog.
Venezuela Is Starving; Juan Forero, Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2017
Venezuela’s Failed Socialist Experiment; Ivana Iacob, Forbes Magazine, July 24, 2016
How Socialism Destroyed Venezuela; Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Cato Institute, Feb. 25, 2014