Maduro Must Go
Decades from now, historians will note with irony that socialism was rehabilitated in the United States just as its full depravity
came into view in Venezuela. That beleaguered South American country took its first steps on the road to serfdom in 1999, when Hugo Chávez was elected to the first of four presidential terms. The former military officer used Venezuela’s plentiful oil reserves to spread the wealth as he consolidated power, harassed dissenters, and joined forces with Castro. Chávez was more than a typical Latin American populist. His regime was the rallying place for the international, anti-American left. His name became an ideology—Chávismo—based on revolutionary politics and centralized control. He was detestable.
And he died in 2013. Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, has been even worse. He’s Chávez without the mo. He accelerated Venezuela’s transition to authoritarianism while devastating its economy and people. “By May 2017, Venezuela’s minimum monthly wage wasn’t enough to meet even 12 percent of a single person’s basic food needs,” Enrique Krauze wrote last year. In 2018, inflation in Venezuela was one million percent. Maduro enrolled the country in a socialist diet plan: “A survey of 6,500 households by three prestigious universities,” Krauze noted, “showed that 74 percent of the population had lost on average 19 pounds in 2016.” Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann estimates that at least 5.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country. They are the lucky ones.
Infant mortality has skyrocketed. Deaths from malnutrition are on the rise. Last December, a heart-breaking article by Meridith Kohut and Isayen Herrera concluded: “In a five-month investigation by The New York Times, doctors at 21 public hospitals in 17 states across the country said that their emergency rooms were being overwhelmed by children with severe malnutrition—a condition they had rarely encountered before the economic crisis began.” One pediatrician who visited a Caracas hospital told the Times, “Never in my life had I seen so many hungry children.” Venezuelans have come to learn, as so many millions before them, that “democratic socialism” is a mirage. Why? Because once you move beyond the welfare state, socialist planning and leveling require inequalities of power that lead to restrictions, rations, political monism, and despotism.