(A woman holds up a sign protesting Venezuela’s socialist president Nicolas Maduro / Photo: AP)
Venezuela is coming apart at the seams. Crime is rampant, jobs are scarce, poverty is alarmingly high and looting is prevalent in big cities and rural towns. Venezuelans spend hours every day waiting in line at their local grocery stores and supermarkets hoping to purchase whatever rations may be available. And now there are reports that with energy and electricity in such short supply, the socialist government is cutting the workweek to two days.
Gross mismanagement and corruption have contributed, but at the heart of Venezuela’s failures is its uncompromising faithfulness to socialism, even as it has been proven over time to bring only misery in a country that was once prosperous and thriving.
Started by the late President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has embarked in rooting out the free enterprise system with devastating consequences. This has continued under current President Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver that quickly rose through the ranks of the country’s socialist party, before assuming the government’s top post.
With misery rising, Maduro is running out of excuses. For months he has blamed Venezuela’s severe food shortages on a “conspiracy” by the United States. It’s gotten so outlandish that the Venezuelan government recently claimed that Vice President Joe Biden is plotting Maduro’s assassination.
At the heart of Venezuela’s failures is its uncompromising faithfulness to socialism
A few weeks ago, Maduro announced plans to curtail the workweek slightly for all government employees. But after news broke that water levels are dangerously low at El Guri dam, the country’s largest source of electricity, the government revised its plans. According to CNN:
“Maduro had previously announced earlier in April that all Fridays through May would be holidays for public-sector employees. Now Wednesdays and Thursdays will also be holidays for public sector workers at least until the end of May… Maduro said the upcoming weeks will be ‘critical and extreme’ for the country.”
What’s strange is that just as Venezuelans are in most need, the government is reducing its availability to deliver basic public services by shortening its workweek.
Not surprisingly, the people are taking to the streets and demanding change. Discontent is no longer confined to the middle class. Now even Venezuela’s poorest, once the most faithful devotees to the promises of socialism under Chavez, are calling out for help and pleading for a lifeline.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuelans are braving the sweltering heat to sign a petition to recall Maduro. But the process does not favor opposition groups. Recall proponents must first collect 200,000 signatures, which represents 1 percent of the nation’s 19 million voters. Assuming the government-controlled National Electoral Council validates the petitions, opposition groups must then collect another 4 million signatures over three days in order to trigger an election.
Recall or no, Venezuela appears headed for collapse. Joel Hirst, an American novelist who spent many years living in Venezuela, recently observed: “The marathon of destruction is almost finished; the lifeblood of the nation is almost gone. No, there is nothing heroic or epic here; ruins in the making are sad affairs.”
Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @IzzyOrtega.