Dead Socialist Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez was praised throughout his life by many figures in academia, journalism and Hollywood despite his brutal regime.
This praise included Salon writer David Sirota’s piece after the leader’s death, titled “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle.” In British publication The New Statesman, a headline as Chavez was nearing death in January 2013 was “Hugo Chavez: Man against the world,” and its sub-headline read “As illness ends Hugo Chavez’s rule in Venezuela, what will his legacy be? Richard Gott argues he brought hope to a continent.”
This praise of Chavez by so many who enjoyed the benefits of living in a capitalist society while looking at the economic record of the late leader, as well as what his successor President Nicolas Maduro, has come undone.
Mexican NGO, the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, published its annual ranking of urban crime in January 2016, and found that in 2015, Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, was the most murderous place on Earth. Caracas has 119.87 murders per 100,000 people. Other than personal concerns for safety, Venezuelans suffer from lacking economic opportunity due to low oil prices and government mismanagement of the state-owned oil firm.
From 1998, when Chavez was elected, up until he died in March 2013, “oil output at Pdvsa [the state-owned oil firm] has fallen 25% from 3 million to 2.4 million barrels per day, despite the fact that Venezuela has arguably the biggest hoard of oil reserves in the world, at more than 500 billion barrels,” according to Forbes’ Christopher Helman.
OPEC reports that Venezuela has 24.9 percent of proven crude oil reserves as of the end of 2014 — Saudi Arabia comes in a close second with 22.1 percent. When comparing GDP per capita, however, Venezuela’s economic problems become devastatingly clear. Venezuela’s GDP per capita is $12,771.6 as of 2012, while Saudi Arabia’s GDP per capita is almost double at $24,883.2 for that same year.
Venezuela’s GDP, it’s fair to assume, has only gone down significantly since 2012 (since Venezuela has not provided The World Bank with more recent data), while Saudi Arabia’s 2014 data demonstrates only a slight dip of $24,406.5. An even more damning contrast is the small oil-rich Arab Gulf state of Qatar, which only has 2.1 percent of the world’s proven crude oil reserves, boasts a 2012 and 2014 GDP per capita of $94,407.4 and $96,732.4 respectively.
The economy will only get worse for Venezuela since the country will remain in a recession through the end of 2017, according to the country’s Vice President for the Economy Miguel Perez. The country’s economy shrank by 5.7 percent in 2015 alone, the second year of what will be a long-running economic downturn.
Despite the irrefutable evidence that Venezuela finds itself in an incredible economic hole entirely of its own making, several writers such as Wired’s Linda Poon, continue to peddle headlines like “Venezuela’s Economic Success Fueled Its Electricity Crisis.”
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan workweek for government employees was limited to four days a week and then two days a week in April to deal with electricity shortages. Daily four-hour blackouts across most of Venezuela was another policy implemented in April by the socialist government to deal with its self-made crisis.
Economic problems aside, Venezuela has faced a long-running political crisis. Mass protests in February 2014 were halted through repression and fear-mongering by government forces that arrested the U.S.-educated opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Venezuelans elected the conservative opposition coalition in December 2015 to take control of the country’s National Assembly, Venezuela’s equivalent of Congress, and it has been in a standoff with the government since.
Socialist Maduro has done everything in his power to stop conservative lawmakers. The power grab by Maduro has led to mass unrest in recent months, which has only further fueled the economic crisis, as oil markets have not reacted well to the potential instability.
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