Features — 09 June 2018
A little about Venezuela

I want it understood, that I understand that any country south of the Rio Grande that doesn’t kowtow to the American (US) lead is doomed to experience economic hardship. No, following the American lead is not a complete failure in our part of the world. There are a few countries (particularly some colonies) in our region that have done/and are doing fairly well. But the American lead is a disaster in far too many countries. Woe to the suffering country that wants to find its own solution. America will make sure that they fail.

We know the benefits of following the US lead. There are some educated elite and merchants who feed big. And the world for the rest is trickle-down, with dreams, almost all “pipe”, of joining the rich and famous one day. If you play the game, that’s what you reap. If you don’t play the game, America, the world’s richest, most powerful country, stops doing business with you. That could be considered a small mercy. They could invade.

Let me say this: we owe America much, for the stability of borders in our region. And I don’t think this is of small consequence. I just feel that they want too much. Okay, maybe I feel they could be content with a little less. I think they are well, great (rich) enough already.

Venezuela has been good to Belize, and a number of other countries in our region. The kindness has come our way through the native philanthropy of socialist leaders. Only socialist leaders share from the goodness of their hearts. When capitalist leaders give, they expect returns. That is so because capitalist leaders don’t believe in heart: they only believe in big business. Their way is as it was, and always will be with them – daag eat daag an survival of the fittest.

In capitalism, the poor come on their knees to beg for crumbs. In capitalism, the masses are stripped of their dignity. In socialism, when the children need specialist medical care, the state provides. In socialism, the masses hold their heads high.

Venezuela has a history with dictatorships. We know how America handles “friendly” dictators because we have seen, up close, the love that Guatemala’s military dictatorships got, and the love Somoza, and Batista, and Duvalier, and Trujillo got. Wave the American flag an yu gaan klayr. We have seen the iron fist come down on Fidel.

Hn, this piece really shouldn’t have included that much discussion of the country of baseball, hot dog, apple pie and Chevrolet. My, has the world ever seen a vehicle as dynamite as the Chevy S-10? Poor Belize, we are doomed to love America, even though they don’t love us so much.

Those bohgaz only got in this story to emphasize the difficulty of the task of the socialist leader. As noted, Venezuela has a history with dictatorships. But Hugo Chavez came to power on a democratic vote. He had tried a military coup, in 1992, and failed.

CNN, reporting on the 1998 election in Venezuela, said that with “about 65 percent of the vote counted, the left-leaning populist [Chavez] had captured 56 percent of the vote, compared with 39 percent for his nearest challenger, Henrique Salas Romer, the Yale-educated former governor of Carabobo state…” So, it was the Venezuelan people who elected Chavez. The Venezuelan people re-elected Chavez to another term in office, and then elected Nicolás Maduro, from Chavez’s party, in successive elections. In four consecutive terms, the Venezuelan people elected a socialist, real far-left, government.

The media in the West has been reporting about the horrors socialism has visited on our brothers and sisters in Venezuela. I chose a story from the far-right,”Venezuela before Chavez: A prelude to socialist failure”, to get the full understanding of their beef, and I leaned on the Wikipedia for a more sober analysis. The prelude to another socialist failure is written by Jose Niño, a Venezuelan-American political activist, and it is published by the Mises Institute. As I said, Niño is no Chavista.

In his piece, Niño charts Venezuela’s economic rise, from “the completion of its first oil field on April 15, 1914,” when that country “was essentially a Banana Republic marked by political instability.”We are told that an industrialist class then supplanted Venezuela’s powerful agricultural aristocracy and opened the country’s “oil markets to multinational exploitation and foreign investment,” and “for the first time in its history, Venezuela had a relatively liberal, free market economy and it would reap countless benefits in the decades to come.”

Niño writes, “While oil exploitation did play a considerable role in Venezuela’s meteoric ascent from the 1920s to 1970s, this only scratches the surface in explaining how Venezuela became so prosperous during this period. A combination of a relatively free economy, an immigration system that attracted and assimilated laborers from Italy, Portugal, and Spain, and a system of strong property rights, allowed Venezuela to experience unprecedented levels of economic development from the 1940s up until the 1970s.”

The Wikipedia says, of Venezuela’s wonderful immigration policy at the time, that it was mostly racial. The government’s “idea was to open the doors of the country to as many Europeans as wanted to come, with which they, and many non-pardo Venezuelans, believed that two flies would be killed with one swat: the country’s population would grow, but not with more uneducated pardos but with Europeans who brought with them, however lowly they might have been in their own countries, a higher than average education compared to most Venezuelans…

…Up to a point, this kind of social engineering might have been defensible, but the immigrants…did not emigrate from their countries to give Venezuelans lessons in civics. They came for a better income and the majority of the roughly two million who did come, returned home as soon as they had made enough to live better in their own lands.”

Niño writes that in the 1950’s, Venezuela “was at its peak, with a fourth place ranking in terms of per capita GDP worldwide.” The Wikipedia says, “Economically, Venezuela apparently was not doing so badly, but the signs of prosperity were mostly in the cities…the countryside, where half of Venezuelans still lived, had social indexes way below what would have been expected from such a fiscally rich country.”

Venezuela would fall from its great GDP, and that fall would begin, Niño says, because of “creeping socialism that gradually whittled away at Venezuela’s economic and institutional foundations…intellectuals and student activists…aimed to fully nationalize Venezuela’s petroleum sector and use petroleum rents to establish a welfare state of sorts. These political figures firmly believed that for Venezuela to become a truly independent country and free itself from the influence of foreign interests, the government must have complete dominion over the oil sector…Under this premise, a nationalized oil industry would finance cheap gasoline, ‘free’ education at all levels, healthcare, and a wide array of other public services.”

Niño says that after Venezuela nationalized oil, the government used its wealth “to finance a profligate welfare state and a cornucopia of social welfare programs that resonated strongly with the populace. As a result, deficit spending became embraced by the political class and increasing levels of foreign and public debt would become the norm in Venezuelan fiscal affairs….Venezuela’s economy became overwhelmingly politicized.”

Corruption and the increasing socialism in Venezuela would lead to devaluation of their dollar…”Rising poverty rates, increased foreign and public debt, corrupt state enterprises, and burdensome regulations contributed to an environment of growing social tension and economic malaise throughout the 1980s,” Niño says.

And, “Under the auspices of the IMF, Pérez (Venezuelan president in the 1980’s) made a half-hearted attempt in reforming Venezuela’s broken petro-state. When broken down and analyzed, these reforms consisted of tariff reductions, tax hikes, flawed privatizations, and marginal spending cuts that ultimately did not address the underlying problems with the Venezuelan political economy — its flawed monetary policy, burdensome regulatory framework, and entrenched crony capitalist policies.”

And, “Thanks to the failed land reforms and housing subsidization polices pursued by the two major social democrat parties (AD and COPEI) during previous decades, major metropolitan areas like Caracas, Maracaibo, Maracay, and Valencia began to be populated by a growing subsect of impoverished Venezuelans. Chávez would tap into this low stratum of Venezuelan society and effectively turn them into shock troops for his campaign to radically transform Venezuela into a full-blown socialist state.”

In closing his piece, Niño warns, “The Venezuelan case serves as a strong warning to many a European country with crumbling welfare states and growing social discontent. Sooner or later, unsustainable transfer systems are bound to collapse and social disorder ensues.”

Socialism left unchecked “creates a vicious cycle of interventionism that leads to more chaos and misery. To reach the light at the end of the tunnel, Venezuela must completely abandon socialism and embrace the capitalist path to prosperity,” he said.

On the matter of the Europeans, I believe that Niño misses the new reality. Many of these countries came to greatness (high standard of living) on the backs of colonies in Africa and the Americas. And the new pie they feed on, don’t forget that America the USA is hogging up even more of it, so they, America the USA, can be “great again.” The same amount of milk isn’t flowing in as before. There is nothing wrong with their delivery systems. They just have to scale back.

As for Venezuela abandoning socialism to get back to past glory, I don’t think the Wikipedia writer agrees with that. For the moment I’ll just say, it isn’t the system, it’s the Americans. Things were a mite better under their last leadership. Under Obama, America was retooling for the new reality, easing up the pressure on the environment, and there was some easing of exploited peoples. The new leadership in America is dreaming of their glory days. The Americans just flat-out refuse to allow socialism to succeed.

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Deshawn Swasey

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