Opinion

In Venezuela, The Fruits Of Socialism Are… No Fruit (Or Any Other Food)

Joe Alton Contributor

If you’re looking for a poster child to illustrate the effects of switching from a capitalist society to a socialist one, look no further than Venezuela. When you examine recent events, it’s clear that the fruits of socialism are… no fruit (or any other food).

Once a wealthy and modern nation, a popular socialist movement led by Hugo Chavez (think Bernie Sanders on steroids) miraculously transformed Venezuela into, well, Cuba. Despite having a dubious plan for future prosperity, Chavez remained popular until his death in 2013. The country is now run by his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro.

Hugo Chavez was able to use his Fidel-like charisma to mesmerize the people into believing his grand Utopian vision. Mr. Maduro? Not so much. The masses regularly protest his government.

Few true believers on the Left thought the collapse of Venezuela was possible. The country controls huge oil reserves and counted upon the then-high price of crude to prop up its socialist revolution. It worked for a while, with a trillion dollars going into the country’s coffers. But the oil boom went bust, and socialist mismanagement has caused shortages of food and other staples. Now, with the economy in free fall, government offices are closed much of the week due to, of all things, efforts to save electricity.

Look even closer at Venezuela and you’ll really see how awesome Socialism is in practical terms.  In almost any other country, food shopping is a pretty routine part of life. You want food; You go to the supermarket, you buy as much food as you need. Pretty standard stuff.

But in Venezuela, food shopping has become an adventure, sometimes perilous, and anything but a guaranteed success. It may be hours before you can even get in the door of a supermarket. Prices? They rise daily in a nation with (at least) 500% yearly inflation.

That’s if you’re lucky enough to actually find food. Shelves are empty. Meat and hygiene products are rare or extinct commodities. People are so desperate for food that fights break out in the aisles. There’s a black market in flour. Over 100,000 Venezuelans left the country last month to go shopping for things like milk, diapers, and toilet paper.

Venezuela once had a reasonable health care system, but a recent report stated that hospitals don’t have 95% of the materials needed to treat many diseases. Mothers and babies regularly die in maternity wards; operating rooms in many facilities are idle because of electrical outages. Imaging equipment like CT scans and X-ray machines are poorly maintained and broken down. There isn’t even paper to print out test results. If you go to the hospital, you have to bring your own supplies and medicines. Don’t ask about sanitation; many hospital rooms are infested with roaches.

President Maduro’s response to the above? “I doubt there’s a better health system in the world.”

This is life in socialist Venezuela. There is looting galore in Caracas, which has become the most violent city in the hemisphere. Criminals don’t target jewelry or electronics stores; they target fruit stands. Sometimes, the trucks bringing the food are waylaid before they even get to the market.

You might ask why the country’s military doesn’t topple an obviously incompetent government. It’s because Mr. Maduro gave the army authority over the distribution of food, leading to widespread corruption.

You might think it’s just a matter of time before hungry Venezuelans throw their socialist politicians into a cauldron and make stew. But ordinary citizens are being disarmed while pro-government militias are being given guns. So far, 20 (I assume, unarmed) people have died in protests around the country. This is how the Left governs in tough times.

Of course, the humanitarians among us feel that we should send freighters full of food to the embattled nation. Americans are supposed to be the heroes, right? We always are, it seems, but should we prop up another failed state like President Obama propped up Cuba? It hasn’t helped change the political situation there, so why should we expect that sending assistance to Maduro will change the situation in Venezuela?

We have helped, in a way. Last year, we allowed more Venezuelans to come into the U.S. than from any other country. This is an exodus similar to what occurred in Cuba after Castro, as opposed to Syria with Assad. Venezuelan expatriates appear to be more skilled and educated than some that have come from the Middle East. If they stay, these folks might be more likely to assimilate into American culture over time.

Venezuela has had its great socialist experiment, and it has failed. Hopefully, the nation will rise from the ashes as a democracy; but before there are ashes, there must be fire.