Socialist politicians have an uncanny ability to make poor decisions regarding the betterment of their country. Having seized power in 1999 as leader of the Fifth Republic Movement, Hugo Chávez steadily led Venezuela into an increasingly leftist state nationalizing industries and micromanaging every aspect of life. In 1999 Venezuela was ranked 99 out of 178 countries for overall economic freedoms by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. It is now listed as 175, slightly nudging out Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea.1
When Chávez took power, Venezuela was ranked 70 for investment freedoms and is now 174; financial freedoms went from 49 down to 163 and property freedoms went from 50 to the absolute last place! Is it any wonder that Venezuela cannot get oil out of the ground, feed its people or provide the basics such as fuel, electricity, food staples, soap and toilet paper? Between the years 2002 to 2012, the Chávez government has stolen over 1,168 foreign and domestic companies, and when a government steals private property, it has the ill effect of killing all initiative.2
What has been the reaction of Venezuelans to these twenty-first century socialist policies? Up until the mid 1990s, it was common for them to come to the U.S. for a vacation and afterward return home. However since the Chávista “reforms” began, there has been a substantial increase of Venezuelans who come to stay permanently. The initial phase of emigration was largely the upper class that had vacation homes in America. Now, it is anyone who can get a visa and get out with what little they have left. In Venezuela, native professionals are fleeing and the Chinese and Haitians are arriving.
With Venezuelans protesting a long list of left-wing mandated unhappiness that includes but is not limited to food shortages, annual inflation of 57.3%3 and a heavy-handed administration that seeks to eliminate free speech–at least 21 unarmed civilians have been murdered by the military for voicing their opinion in public protest. Consequently, people are now seeking political asylum anywhere they can, and those that are already in America are attempting to get their relatives out resulting in nearly 250,000 Venezuelans that have emigrated to the U.S. since 1999.
There have been several waves of emigration from Venezuela that started with Chávez’s taking power followed by a second exodus occurring after the 2002 and 2003 oil strikes, during which Chávez fired 18,000 workers from a state appropriated oil company. During his 14 years in office, Chávez nationalized a major part of the nation’s economy as part of his socialist agenda, stealing a good deal of foreign investments from the U.S. alone.4
So how has that socialist change worked out for those who are left behind?
Currently state-run grocery stores are marking customer’s appendages with a number in an attempt to keep some semblance of order, as the most hungry wait in line from the wee hours of the morning to pick up a few basic food items—that is, if the market has any. When stores have stock, they frequently limit customers to a gallon of milk, a few pounds of sugar and a couple of quarts of cooking oil, which in turn has fueled more street protests in light of appalling government mismanagement.
As protests continue, food shortages have only worsened and the leftist solution has been to increase rationing at state-owned subsidized markets. Leftist Logic 101—if there are food shortage protests, then ratchet up food rationing. Customers can only shop once a week at the same store and that is regulated by a personal identity card. The result of this bureaucratic wisdom results in people lining up for untold hours outside stores only to find little to nothing on the shelves when they finally enter, culminating in more frustration.
Venezuelan President, former bus driver Nicolás Maduro, responded with the same humdrum textbook socialist egalitarian rhetoric: the greedy business class causes these shortages! Of course, this must be class struggle. It could have nothing to do with bad socialist policies. Unfortunately many are still inclined to believe in conspiracy theories of price gouging rather than making the effort to see underlying failed economic policies as the true cause. Of course, as with all leftists, Maduro provides not a shred of evidence to his claims. But as he fails to deliver on the promised socialist “paradise,” many are beginning to see through the subterfuge and now realize they are living the socialist “paradise.”
Perhaps Maduro should muster the honesty to explain to the hungry masses that the real reason for food shortages is caused by the decrease in agricultural production resulting from government-seized companies and land expropriations. Under the guise of “recovering” land from large farmers for the use by the proletariat, the Venezuelan government has expropriated (read stolen) more than 9,900,000 acres of farmland deemed “idle” since 2005.
While feigning to boost food production and ease rural poverty, the leftist government continues to do an incredibly poor job at managing the private sector. These socialist reforms have only produced more poverty and less food. Land seizures are entirely consistent with the socialist hatred of inequality and private property. Food shortages are but one of the many ill effects of this bad philosophy. Socialists so loved the poor, they gave the world millions more.
After stealing farmland, Minister of Agriculture Juan Carlos Loyo states that the “lands are then either redistributed to smaller farmers, or used to form farmer’s collectives on state land as a part of what has been called ‘agrarian socialism’”5 This agricultural model, called the kolkhozy, is taken directly from the Bolshevik Revolution. Communist Russia created the kolkhozy during the countrywide collectivization campaign, and it was most aggressively applied during the years 1928-33.
This example of forced collectivization is happening right now in Venezuela and producing the exact same results. The kolkhozy was such a disaster for Russia that it was finally eliminated in 1991. Interestingly enough, not even the communists continue with it. But somehow the Venezuelan leftists think they can make it work… or is it just another way to destroy private property in the name of equality?
Socialism is a philosophical disease, not a remedy for anything. It is an unachievable utopia promoted by a delusional minority imposed upon the populace in the name of equality. Through substantial corruption caused by the lack of honor in political dealings, socialism has weaseled its way into power in Venezuela and has devastated an otherwise robust economy. Leftist theories have completely destroyed the private initiative needed for a healthy economy. In spite of the utter disaster created by flawed leftist policies, Venezuela has become a shining star of success—for socialism, not Venezuelans.