Recently I read an article by liberal intellectual and historian Johan Norberg about the situation in Venezuela. Norberg writes that while the economic devastation caused by the country ‘’s socialist experiment has been known for a long time, new research has been done at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, showing that Venezuela is one of the most socially unequal countries as well.
In his anti-socialist style article, Norberg writes about how many political left-wingers came to celebrate the development in Venezuela and the contemporary authoritarian leader Hugo Chavez in the 2000s. For example, US senator Bernie Sanders claimed that the American dream was more alive in Chávez’s Venezuela than in the USA. Left-wing intellectuals such as Naomi Klein, Jesse Jackson, and Howard Zinn wrote an open letter about Venezuela” not only as a democratic model but also a model of how country’s oil wealth can be used to benefit the entire population.”
In Sweden, left-wing opinion-maker Kajsa Ekis Ekman, known for more authoritarian and collectivist views on different topics as regarding transgender discussions, wrote about the need for” a Swedish Hugo Chávez.” At the same time, the Left Party politician Ali Esbati saw ”an impressive democratization process” and” a fantastic socio-economic development.” The aid organization Oxfam ironically described the country as” Latin America’’s inequality success story.”
Norberg writes that between 2010 and 2020, Venezuela’s GDP per capita fell by an incomprehensible 75 percent. South America’ ’s most prosperous country became South America’s poorest. Seven million Venezuelans have fled misery and an increasingly authoritarian state — almost a quarter of the population.
Also, according to Norberg, the old admirers of” socialism in Venezuela” had blamed bad results on bad luck with oil prices, despite being five times higher in 2010 and three times higher in 2015 than when Chávez came to power, and on US boycotts, even though sanctions against the oil industry were only introduced in 2019 when the collapse was already a fact.
During the 2000s and 2010, the Venezuelan authoritarian government imposed price controls meant that it was increasingly less profitable for farmers and companies to produce, and soon there was a shortage of food, medicines, and other goods. At the same time, the state began to require fingerprints in the store so that no one would shop too often.
Norberg writes that in a business sector in ruins, the country was forced to import all necessity goods, and when the money began to run out, they rationed foreign currency and printed more bills. According to the IMF, inflation reached 65,000 percent in 2018. The UN stated that poverty had reached a record level of 94 percent.
According to Norberg, when something is not distributed on the market, it is distributed through power. Therefore, generals and party loyalists could always get hold of sought-after goods and currencies, which they could sell expensive on the black market. While the stores were emptied of milk, diapers, and toilet paper, the elite built up the world’s fifth most extensive fleet of private jets.
Finally, Norberg ends the article by writing that he wonders what Chavista’s’’ fanboys and -girls think now. They first excused an increasingly authoritarian regime by stating that people experiencing poverty were better off. When it turned out that the poor were becoming more numerous and poorer, they excused it by saying that it was equal to poverty. What do they say now, when their socialism has created an unequal country on the world’s most unequal continent?
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