What’s going on in Venezuela?

For decades Venezuela rode the wave of oil profits, suffered through incompetent governments and dictatorships, and betrayed the vision of Bolivar. Under Chavez and his cronies, the ideology changed but the sins did not. Sr. Chavez excited all the wannabe Lenins in the U.S. and Europe, but what they got was a mini-Stalin, mini in the sense that Venezuela is a smaller country than the Soviet Union, so Chavez couldn’t torture and kill as many people! Now Mr. Maduro is simply an overripe plantain (what “maduro” usually means in Latin America), ready for the garbage heap of history, but he still continues his predecessor’s oppression without any pretense of ideology.  Moreover, as Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela have shown, communism has become a debunked ideology that offers no real solution for the poor and oppressed. Those who swallow this ideological gruel end up exchanging one set of exploiters for another.

Unfortunately many naïve people confuse communism and its “dictatorship of the proletariat” with social democracy. Note the juxtaposition of words: dictatorship v. democracy. Iberian and Latin American governments often descend into oppressive dictatorships led by caudillos. Venezuela is only one in a long lineup of countries following the model of Franco’s Spain. I restrict my historical focus to the 20th and 21st centuries—Portugal, Spain, and their colonies in the New World certainly have a long history of oppression. And sometimes Europe and the U.S. have encouraged that (the generals’ “Dirty War” in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, even Castro in Cuba at first—he was on the Ed Sullivan Show!—and so forth).

The current low oil prices mean Venezuela has no real significant income beyond mom & pop enterprises that barely scrape by. Before the fall of prices, it could feed the greed and graft of its leaders with enough left over to satisfy the rest of the population. The graft and greed of the leadership still continues, but now many are without jobs and starving.

This is easily explainable. Oppressive governments are myopic. The focus is on satisfying the greed of an oligarchy, be they fascists or communists (in practice, they’re all the same) (any semblance to what’s happening in the U.S. capital is scary). There are no plans for improving the plight of the common citizen. When the economy fails, as it invariably does, the common citizen suffers while the leadership becomes even more oppressive as they try to hold onto power. Unrest becomes rampant. Sometimes the phoenix that rises out of the ashes is just another oppressive government. This was the case for Russia; it’s also often the case for Latin American countries. It was the case in Cuba. It is the case in Venezuela.

Caudillismo is a disease. Venezuela is suffering from it and is in its death throes. Other South American countries also suffer from it, like Brazil.  It’s sad. I love these people, their respect for family, and their enjoyment of life to the fullest. They deserve better. I don’t know if there’s any hope for that.

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And so it goes…

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