Remember when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro went to give a speech and the starving peasants of his country chased him out of town? That clearly caught their leader’s attention and he’s finally taken steps to ensure that the people aren’t in such a perilous condition anymore. You can now be thrown in jail if you’re caught buying too much food. One prime example is Alexis Camascaro, who attempted to get in line at a grocery store at four in morning, hoping to find something left to eat on the shelves. (Washington Post)

Camascaro never made it inside. Truckloads of Venezuelan troops arrived in the darkness, arresting him and nearly 30 others seemingly pulled from the queue at random, according to his lawyer. Camascaro, 50, was charged with violating laws against interfering “directly or indirectly” with the production, transportation or sale of food. He has been in jail for three months, awaiting a hearing.

“I went to see the prosecutors and explained that he was just buying some food for his family. He’s not a bachaquero,” said Lucía Mata, Camascaro’s attorney, using the Venezuelan term for someone who buys scarce, price-capped or government-subsidized goods to resell on the black market.

While this rarely happens in a democracy, there are examples of times when we’ve put limits on the purchase and movement of goods. The gas rationing in the seventies is one prime example. During times of great duress, such as the recovery from a flood, hurricane or other natural disaster, profiteering from things like fresh water and non-perishable foods can also be prosecuted. But that’s really not what’s going on in Venezuela.

The entire country is mostly out of food unless you happen to be among the well heeled party loyalists who control the supplies. The hoi polloi are pretty much on their own. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want people stockpiling scarce rations to make a killing off of their starving neighbors, but most of these people are just hoping to find enough food to keep their families going for another day. And if you happen to be someone who protests or points out the shortcomings of the government, you’ll probably be among the first pulled out of the food lines and deposited in jail for months on end as a “bootlegger.”

Why would we be surprised? This is only the latest of many examples of life under a socialist oligarch like Maduro. If he doesn’t like what you’re saying you’ll wind up in jail (assuming you’re still alive) sooner rather than later. And yet again we are reminded of the lesson which Venezuela should be driving home for all of us.

This. Is. How. Socialism. Always. Ends. Every. Single. Time.

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