Socialism Lays Waste To Venezuela

Socialism Lays Waste To Venezuela A demonstrator lies on the ground while National Guard prepare to shoot during an opposition demontration against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on February 12, 2014. Unidentified assailants on a motorcycle fired into a crowd of anti-government protesters, leaving at least two people wounded and a pro-government man dead. AFP PHOTO / LEO RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Socialism is a gift that keeps on giving. The latest victim of this failed system of the past century is Venezuela, which is currently facing an economic and political crisis of humongous proportions.

Often touted as a “socialist paradise” and torchbearer in the fight against West’s neoliberal system, the South American country is plunging into one crisis after another, all man-made.

President Nicolás Maduro made matters worse when he declared a state of emergency last Friday (13 May) citing fears of a US coup. The emergency will stay in place for 60 days and can be extended for the same period. Speaking on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s ouster, he said, “Powerful oligarchic, media and imperial forces have decided to finish with the progressive forces, the popular revolutionary leaderships of the left in the continent.”

The aim of emergency, he said, was to “denounce, neutralise and overcome the external and foreign aggression against our country”. One is reminded of our own Indira Gandhi. The unknown “videshi taaqat” (foreign hand) used to be her favourite scapegoat for failed policies and protests by the opposition against her dictatorial tendencies.

The military has been entrusted to maintain order in the streets. It is anyone’s guess how long it will be before a crackdown on civil liberties take place and blatant human rights violation are committed by the army under the guise of maintaining order. Army’s deployment became imminent once the riots broke out across the country and people started looting shops.

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves but “there is almost nothing to buy in shops, with shortages from flour and nappies to medicines and underwear.” Thanks to low oil prices, the government finances are crippled and it hasn’t been able to pay for the import of basic items such as sugar, flour and eggs.

Empty shelves in a store in Venezuela due to shortages. (Wikipedia)
Empty shelves in a store in Venezuela due to shortages. (Wikipedia)

At 180 percent, its Inflation rate is the worst in the world and is expected to rise to 500 percent by the end of this year. People stand in queues from midnight in front of supermarkets to buy whatever little they can afford.

Last year, the country ran out of toilet paper. Yes, you read that right: toilet paper. Xinia Camacho, the owner of a 20-room boutique hotel in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada national park, had this to say:

For over a year we haven’t had toilet paper, soap, any kind of milk, coffee or sugar. So we have to tell our guests to come prepared.......In the black market you have to pay 110 bolivares [$0.50] for a roll of toilet paper that usually costs 17 bolivares [$ 0.08] in the supermarket. We don’t want to participate in the corruption of the black market, and I don’t have four hours a day to line up for toilet paper” 
Fusion report.

The country is facing acute power shortages. Frequent blackouts have become a common phenomenon. But the government has found an innovative way to save energy. Last month, it ordered its employees and other workers to take Fridays off. It also announced mandatory leave of three days per week for all nonessential employees. if they are nonessential why are they needed in the first place? Two days of work week at a time when they should be working eight days a week is a luxury only Socialist republics can afford.

In addition to these power saving measures, President Maduro turned his country’s clocks 30 minutes forward on 1 May to ensure more daylight in the evening when power is needed the most. Unsurprisingly, social media had a field day with this. But Science Minister Jorge Arreaza reasoned:

This extra half-hour of sunlight will allow a better electricity saving because it is at night when people return from work and schools that they turn on lights and air-conditioning.

The situation is so dire that the government is no longer able to keep up with the pace of price increases and “can no longer afford the pieces of paper which represent the money it doesn’t have.” Venezuela, in other words, is now so broke that it may not have enough money to pay for its money, claims this Bloomberg report:

Most of the cash, like nearly everything else in the oil-exporting country, is imported. And with hard currency reserves sinking to critically low levels, the central bank is doling out payments so slowly to foreign providers that they are foregoing further business.
Bloomberg report.

The healthcare situation is so bad in Venezuela that the hospitals don’t even have enough water to wash off blood stains from operating tables, according to New York Times. A government report claims that the rate of death in public hospitals among babies under a month old has increased hundredfold, from 0.02 percent in 2012 to 0.2 percent in 2015. The rate of death among new mothers increased by five times during the same period. The country is lacking around 80 percent of the basic medical supplies, says CNN:

Jose Luis Vasquez, who was shot near his home by someone stealing his bike, has had to foot the bill for syringes, gauze and other necessities, and is even reduced to using a water gallon as a makeshift surgical drain to draw fluid from his lungs as he lies recuperating.
CNN report.

Venezuelans are forced to live under these inhumane conditions for the larger cause of equality and egalitarianism. There seems to be no hope on the horizon.

The opposition parties managed to scramble 1.85 million signatures, well above the threshold of two lakh signatures needed to kick-start the process of recalling President Maduro. But before the opposition could initiate the second stage of the process which requires four million citizens to sign the petition, Maduro declared a state of emergency.

This is a delaying tactic. If Maduro is removed by a recall referendum before January 2017, new elections will be held but if the process is delayed beyond January, Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz, a loyal member of Maduro’s Socialist Unity Party will take over. Understandably, the opposition is eager to oust Maduro before January 2017.

Even if Mr Maduro were to go, there is no certainty that Venezuela will recover. Opposition parties are no Hayekians. Rather, they come in various shades of socialism.

Joel D Hirst has captured the agony of Venezuela beautifully. In this article, he explains how he sees it as the country’s slow suicide. He writes:

Tonight there are no lights. Like the New York City of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, the eyes of the country were plucked out to feed the starving beggars in abandoned occupied buildings which were once luxury apartments. They blame the weather – the government does – like the tribal shamans of old who made sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of an intervention. There is no food either; they tell the people to hold on, to raise chickens on the terraces of their once-glamorous apartments. There is no water – and they give lessons on state TV of how to wash with a cup of water. The money is worthless; people now pay with potatoes, if they can find them. Doctors operate using the light of their smartphones; when there is power enough to charge them. Without anaesthesia, of course – or antibiotics, like the days before the advent of modern medicine. The phone service has been cut – soon the internet will go and an all-pervading darkness will fall over a feral land.
Joel Hirst’s blog.

The country’s future looks bleak at this point. The slow suicide of a nation with so much potential is really tragic.

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