The Globe: The Venezuelan Counterrevolution

Ariana Cubillos / AP

Ariana Cubillos / AP

Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. In theory, this would lead to prosperity for Venezuela and its people. In reality, Venezuela is a nation on the verge of economic collapse. Hunger is beginning to dominate the Venezuelan conscience, with more than 30% eating less than two meals a day. The healthcare system in the South American republic is in a repugnant state, with otherwise basic medications becoming unavailable. Opposition leaders, or government officials who speak out against the regime, are often jailed on fabricated charges. In a move of oligarchical despotism, the supreme court of Venezuela dissolved parliament to subdue opposition - a decision the courts have since reeved, although not in time to stop a wave of mass anti-government demonstrations.

The focus of these demonstrations is the President of Venezuela: former bus driver Nicolas Maduro, who has responded to the protests by deploying security and militia forces. In the weeks of protests, there have been more than 22 fatalities. They blame his socialist policies, corruption, and mismanagement for Venezuela’s despair. The protesters have many reasons to be indigent. 

The first major issue is that Venezuela suffers from a ruinous crime problem – much of which comes curtsey of the Venezuelan government. The Venezuelan government keeps the nation in a state of what one could call “despotic anarchy”- that is, the government supports gangs and militias to execute the government's bidding, and in return, ignores their criminal activities. This in part is contributing to the increasingly horrendous crime wave the country is experiencing. Venezuela has the highest violent crime rate in the world, of which only two per cent are prosecuted.

There is also an increasingly problematic food shortage in Venezuela. Venezuelans often must wait for hours in long lines just to get groceries – though often those who wait are never given any food and supplies and must return the next day to repeat the process of waiting. Those who are lucky enough to mange to make it to a store will likely find the shelves bare. 

Supplies are hampered by the government, and restrictions are put on the largest food manufacturer in Venezuela, a company that serves as the government’s Orwellian perpetual enemy of the people. All blame for the shortages are thrust upon the manufactures, rather than the political regulators. The government has also been known to prosecute an occasional raid on a toilet paper factory. 

Do not despair, for Venezuelans need not fear the consequences of malnutrition or crime; the government graciously provides universal health care – at least in theory. The state of Venezuela’s healthcare system serves as a deplorable reflection upon the state of the country. While Venezuela’s governing elites manage to find care, the general population must find for itself. The black-market is a booming business, as supplies are scarce. 

The families of patients often must provide their own supplies, including medicine and bedsheets. Malaria, which once upon a time Venezuela proudly stood as the first nation to eradicate itself of, has now seen a resurgence of the disease. There are even reports of surgery being done under cellphone light. Guards are often posted at the entrance of hospitals to deter journalists from revealing these realities. 

The Venezuelan government has also made its contribution to the destabilization of the western Hemisphere’s security. It was revealed that the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad was issuing fake passports. The Venezuelan government also maintains close ties to Iran, and the indicted drug kingpin that occupies the Vice Presidency has ties to a Baathist party and Hezbollah.

The Bolivarians have also interfered with the security of their neighbors, namely the Venezuelan government support of FARC, a Marxist insurgent group that led a campaign of terror in the Columbian countryside. Similar actions have led nations like Cuba to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism. 

The Venezuelan government does not consist of incompetent seculars; they submit to the alter of a governing ideology: Bolivarianism. The national ideology of Venezuela is “Bolivarianism”- named after Venezuelan independence leader Simon Bolivar. The prophet of the Bolivarian revolution spearheaded all this: the late President Hugo Chavez.

 Chavez promoted this as a resurrection of Latin resistance against imperialism - though this time he had resistance to American interests in mind. He also forged what he called “socialism for the 21st century,” the economic policy that has led Venezuela to its current state. Even after all the failures associated with this system, there are still government supporters. Despite the setbacks under Maduro, true believers in the Bolivarian revolution still exist. They allocate blame for the country’s woes to capitalism and American imperialism - a common trend amongst sympathizers of tyranny. 

By now, it should be evident that Venezuela is not a bean for human rights. Freedom House, an international human rights watch-dog group, has labeled Venezuela as “not free,” a distinction that only Venezuela, and its closest ally Cuba, have in the Americas. Along with power by proxy via the violet gangs that roam the country, the Venezuelan government maintains more traditional approaches of oppression, such as the mounting of opposition groups and strategic arrests of political opponents - a tactic taught by ally’s in Cuba. 

Corruption is also rampant; Venezuelan officials, all the way up to the Vice Preside have been indicted as drug kingpins, and US efforts to sanction officials have failed. Said offices have maintained power by legal technicalities. The Bolivarians also manage to extend their power when democracy gets in the way of their ambitions. The oligarchical nature of the Venezuelan government allows the socialist Bolivarians to maintain power by multiple means; when the opposition party took control of the Venezuelan congress, the courts began ruing and subverting the congress via a judicial oligarchy. The Venezuelan election council finds methods in which to postpone elections using whatever excuse they can utilize.

Authoritarianism and corruption are not new to Latin America. Since its independence from the colonial powers, Latin America has been plagued by despots, corruption, and civil war. In recent memory, names like Pinochet, Castro, and Altieri come to mind. Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro certainly deserve be amongst those names.

However, one would be remise not believe that the nation’s governing ideology has not contributed greatly to Venezuela’s despair. Commentators in the US tend to ignore this fact - as if Venezuela was just experiencing growing pains in the Marxist progression of history. While it is true that Venezuela before the Bolivarian revolution was experiencing turmoil, it was in no way comparable to the present discontent. Lest we forget, the nation with the most proven oil reserves had to import oil. That is a direct result of socialist mismanagement. 

Many have called Venezuela a failed state. That is a reasonable assessment. However, the recent protests have shown that the Venezuelan people are willing to stand up for their nation – and not desperately blaming their fate on external forces. That fact is admirable, and unlike most failed states, there is at least some hope for Venezuela.