Venezuela is a time capsule of Soviet dysfunction, despair


National Post, 31 January 2018

Communism is still making and keeping people poor, causing instability on the Korean peninsula and killing Venezuelans every day

Venezuela is a poor country where starving people are rummaging through the garbage in order to eat. But it has not been afflicted by a tragedy, like Hurricane Maria overwhelming Puerto Rico. Indeed, Puerto Rico is better off; properties can be rebuilt and normality can return. In Venezuela it is the normality that is causing immense human suffering.

Last fall marked the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution which, aside from its murderous core and totalitarian assault on human rights, was the world’s most effective poverty-expansion program. Communism did many things poorly, but it had no rival when it came to making people who should be affluent poor and keeping them that way.

It’s been almost 40 years since China set aside strict communist economics, and more than 25 years since the Soviet Union was set aside altogether. The evil empire lies upon the ash heap of history, yet the evil it wrought still lurks abroad. Communism is still making and keeping people poor. It is the principal cause of instability on the Korean peninsula, which gets a lot attention, and it is killing Venezuelans every day, which does not.

The economic facts are startling. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves and is rich in other natural resources, including gold, iron and diamonds. It should be prosperous, like Canada, but without snow.

And it was. Then came Hugo Chavez in 1999, promoting Chavismo, a “petro-socialism” modelled on the last days of Soviet communism, where Russian oil reserves were the only thing of value on the export market. Wrapping himself in Latin America’s toxic mix of Bolivarian nationalism and a Peronesque cult of the leader, Chavez swaggered across the continent, the national exchequer bulging from the increase in oil prices.

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