Guess to Whom Venezuela Turns for Help

South American socialist dystopia is in an ironical spot.

AP/Gene J. Puskar, file
A Chevron sign at a Bradenton, Florida, gas station, February 22, 2022. AP/Gene J. Puskar, file

The Biden Administration is granting Chevron the okay to pump oil in Venezuela for humanitarian relief. Once touted as a socialist utopia, the nation with the world’s largest petroleum reserves finds itself crying to the very capitalists its leftist admirers demonize for a lifeline, as it struggles to feed its people and stem the tide of refugees.

This dystopia is not what anti-American strongman Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, promised when he nationalized oil and other industries in 2007, driving out American companies. He was just the latest leftist to insist that “real communism” had never been tried, a claim that would surprise Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and the Kims of North Korea.

In 2003, Senator Sanders of Vermont — who identifies as a socialist and caucuses with the Democrats — wrote an open letter of support for Chavez, and in the Valley News in 2011, he wrote that “the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina.” 

Mr. Sanders has since expunged the piece from his website and tried to disavow it in the face of factors such as runaway crime and hyperinflation that hit 1 million percent, and the “Maduro Diet” named after the nation’s dictator, Nicolás Maduro, which saw 75 percent of adults lose an average of 43 pounds in just 24 months.

“Venezuela is running out of food,” CNN reported in 2017. “Hospitals are overcrowded with sick children while doctors don’t have enough medicine or X-ray machines. Electricity isn’t guaranteed. About the only thing Venezuela has in abundance is chaos.”

More than  6.1 million persons have fled “the political turmoil, socio-economic instability and the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” the United Nations says, on par with the 6.6 million in Syria. Unlike Syrians, Venezuelans aren’t at war. They’re bolting a failed state created by people who failed to learn from history. 

Mr. Maduro doubled down on his predecessor’s Marxist policies of repression and expropriation of private enterprise that turned a nation that was once the richest in South America into a basket case and that gave Chavez boosters like Mr. Sanders the opportunity to lay the blame at his feet alone.

It’s not Mr. Maduro, it’s the system. Even Marx — born into wealth and privilege — relied on the largess of wealthy benefactors to foot his bills, supported by friends such as Frederick Engels while calling late in life for their extermination, even as he was convalescing in the capitalist playland of Monte Carlo.

Where has Marxism ever produced plenty? The standard response from Mr. Sanders’s partisans is Scandinavia, but that’s a mirage, as the director of the European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform, Nima Sanandaji, wrote last year in Foreign Policy. 

“Denmark, Norway, and Sweden,” he wrote, “shouldn’t be held up as socialist utopias,” because the means of production aren’t in government hands. “Much of the strength of Nordic societies lies in the advanced free market system, which is why it’s essential that they are returning to their centrist roots.” 

Even their medical systems are not full-on socialist. As one Norwegian doctor told me, if the system ever went to something along the lines of the model touted by Mr. Sanders, he wouldn’t continue practicing, perhaps even returning to his birthplace in America. 

Norway, which brokered the Chevron deal, also has large petroleum reserves to help fund its welfare state and is a Nato member, which means allies — chief among them America — share the burden of national defense, the chief obligation of any nation that wishes to maintain its independence.

“It is centrist pragmatists,” Mr. Sanandaji writes, “rather than socialists, who should hold up the Nordics as role models worldwide.” Imagine if Venezuela’s leaders had followed that advice, instead of listening to the siren song that now has the entire South American continent held in its thrall.

Nobody wishes to kick a nation when it’s down, but the latest horrors of socialism won’t be the last unless the world learns what got Venezuelans into its crisis. Marx’s system of greed and grievance always fails, and if it ever succeeds in destroying capitalism, there will be no Chevrons to bail its victims out when they cry for help.


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