Venezuela: From Bad to Worse with No End in Sight

(A woman holds a sign that reads “Revoke Hunger” in a protest march in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. / Photo: AP)

In one of the clearest signs that the Venezuelan government has absolutely no intention of entertaining dissent, a court friendly to President Nicolás Maduro recently upheld a 14-year prison sentence for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Although the ruling was expected, it was nonetheless a blow to the millions of Venezuelans yearning for a change from the socialist government that has kept a stranglehold in the oil-rich South American nation for years.

This year has been particularly miserable for Venezuelans. As these pages have been reporting, food and basic necessities are scarce. People are skipping meals and looking for ways to survive.

Other media outlets have published heart-wrenching images of infants dying in government-run hospitals for want of medicine and decent medical facilities.

And that is just the start. As Mark Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute explained recently, socialism is at the root of Venezuela’s demise. Price controls and economic redistributive policies have hollowed out whatever was left of the free enterprise system and the private sector. And instead of making things better, Maduro’s government has only made things worse. Perry writes:

“The government launched consumption quotas, giving people permission to buy certain quantities of certain products on certain days of the week, but no more. Maduro has thus Sovietized Venezuela. And predictably, rationing has exacerbated the food lines. Today, Venezuelans spend an average of 8 hours a week shopping and standing in line. In Venezuela, the state has created hunger games and these games have morphed into war games.”

In addition to the severe food shortages plaguing the once prosperous country, Perry also points out that “Sterilization Day” is quickly becoming one of the more highly anticipated days in the calendar year as more and more women are opting out of motherhood permanently rather than risk raising a child where food is limited and long-term prospects are bleak.

More and more women are opting out of motherhood permanently rather than risk raising a child where food is limited and long-term prospects are bleak

Milagros Martinez, a 28-year-old butcher living in the suburbs of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, told Reuters, “Having a child now means making him suffer.

And yet despite the misery and horrors some refuse to pin the blame on socialism.

Maduro is convinced that Venezuelan woes are due to an economic war being waged on the South American country by Western and fascist forces. He has also blamed a sharp drop in global oil prices for the country’s calamity. The decline in oil prices does help explain part of the downturn, but does not absolve him or his predecessor for their failures.

Maduro’s defense of socialism is understandable. He is after all the leader of the country’s socialist party. But what to make of socialist sympathizers here in this country and elsewhere that refuse to admit that socialism is to blame for hunger and anguish?

For this Perry points to a compelling video produced by Freedom Partners, a nonprofit in support of economic freedom, offers up a first-hand account of a young Venezuelan providing a first hand account of what went wrong in Venezuela and what a U.S. observer can learn about socialism in practice.

“Venezuela had a democracy, a constitution, division of power in government, but people were not educated in the principles of freedom and they vote for whoever promises more…. The piece of paper we hold so dearly as the U.S. Constitution is just that – it’s a piece of paper. The only thing keeping tyranny away in the U.S…and only thing keeping liberty alive is that people understand it and themselves defend it.”

Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @IzzyOrtega.