Democratic socialism is working in Venezuela. It’s working to make everyone miserable and hungry. The sign in the photo above reads: “Maduro is hunger.” The NY Times reports the economic decline Venezuelans are now experiencing is unsurpassed in the past 45 years outside of countries in the midst of war:
Zimbabwe’s collapse under Robert Mugabe. The fall of the Soviet Union. Cuba’s disastrous unraveling in the 1990s.
The crumbling of Venezuela’s economy has now outpaced them all.
Venezuela’s fall is the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years, economists say.
“It’s really hard to think of a human tragedy of this scale outside civil war,” said Kenneth Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard University and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. “This will be a touchstone of disastrous policies for decades to come.”
To find similar levels of economic devastation, economists at the I.M.F. pointed to countries that were ripped apart by war, like Libya earlier this decade or Lebanon in the 1970s.
Venezuela stopped releasing economic information five years ago but estimates by the IMF and others point to massive hyperinflation. Prof. Steve Hanke estimates the current annual inflation rate is 64,585 percent.
— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) May 17, 2019
The Institute of International Finance estimates that by the end of the year, Venezuela’s GDP will have shrunk by 62 percent since Nicolas Maduro took power in 2013. The Times notes that the former Soviet Union saw a 30 percent decline in the mid-1990s.
The rest of the story describes people who are picking through trash to avoid starvation. No one can afford meat anymore so the butcher is selling “offal and leftovers like fat shavings and cow hooves.” But outside of the big cities, there is no government and very little law and order. Desperate people steal whatever they can and business owners are left trying to protect what little they have to keep going.
Meanwhile, NBC reports the government in Caracas shuts down the internet to prevent people from even learning what is happening:
Four days after first hearing about an attempted military uprising backed by Venezuela’s opposition leader, Aida Perozo was still waiting to hear details about what exactly had transpired.
Perozo, 65, a retired teacher from the city of Maracaibo in northeast Venezuela, has few sources of information. Major social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Periscope were blocked on the day of the uprising by CANTV, Venezuela’s state-run internet and phone company, according to Venezuela Inteligente, a nongovernmental organization that defends digital rights.
CNN and the BBC, once available to those with cable television, were also pulled off the air. And decades of media repression have left the country with few independent journalists and state-run TV…
For Venezuelans, the struggle to find information has been years in the making. Under Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, much of Venezuela’s independent press has disappeared, with more than 100 media outlets shutting down and state-run TV stations offering little coverage of protests.
There you have it. Starvation, lack of medicine. Lack of law and order. And a deceitful socialist government still doing its best to lie about the causes while preventing people from finding out what is happening. This is now the top example of economic devastation (apart from war) in recent history. But on the far left, dictator Maduro is still the victim and America is still the enemy.
Given the scale of this disaster, it’s no longer acceptable for Democratic Socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to roll their eyes at the mention of Venezuela. They need to explain in detail how their proposals for a socialist America differ in kind from the (once widely admired) socialism Hugo Chavez introduced in Venezuela. And if they can’t spell out those differences in some detail, we should take that as an admission that they can’t guarantee the same thing won’t happen here.