The already ruined nation of Venezuela descended further into chaos this week. Opposition leader Juan Guidó has called on the military to overturn the leftist regime of Nicolás Maduro. The government has blocked CNN from the nation’s airwaves. Every storm cloud has a silver lining.
Doctors have treated at least 50 injured demonstrators, including one woman shot in the abdomen. A military tank crushed protesters attempting to flee. Amnesty International reports a systematic policy of repression throughout the country, including widespread extrajudicial executions.
More than one-third of Venezuelans eat just one meal per day. “We eat what people give us,” one desperate mother of three explained to the Miami Herald. “My husband works as a watchman, but his salary is not enough to buy food. We have gone up to two days without eating.” So she waits with hundreds of other hungry Venezuelans in breadlines at her local church.
Since the re-election of Nicolás Maduro in 2018, inflation in Venezuela has spiked to 2.3 million percent. Tragically, it didn’t have to be this way. For most of the 20th century, Venezuela was the richest country in South America. Today its people eat rats and dogs in the streets.
More than any other factor, socialism destroyed Venezuela. After taking power in 1999, socialist Hugo Chavez relied on the nation’s abundant oil revenues to purchase political support. He bought foreign food and sold it to the people at a discount, ultimately quadrupling Venezuela’s foreign debt. Chavez’s unsustainable spending led him gradually to seize more political power. He “nationalized”—that is, stole—hundreds of factories, farms, and companies, leading Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips, among many other firms, to quit the country. He outlawed private gun ownership in 2012, leaving Venezuelans powerless to fight back against an increasingly tyrannical government.
By the time Chavez’s hand-picked successor Nicolás Maduro took over in 2013, the economic and political poison had run its course, and the bill for all that “free” stuff finally came due. A drop in oil prices meant the government could no longer maintain even the pretense of solvency. But rather than admitting the failure of socialism, Maduro doubled down and began to print more money, sparking hyperinflation. When the impoverished citizenry revolted, the regime resorted to violence.
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