Actually, it was bungling by Chávez-appointed business directors who tried to impose pseudo-Marxist principles, only to be later replaced by opportunists and crooks, that hit Ciudad Guayana.

Underinvestment and ineptitude hit hydropower stations and the electricity grid, causing weekly blackouts that continue to darken cities, fry electrical equipment, silence machinery and require de facto rationing. The government has no shortage of scapegoats: its own workers, the C.I.A. and even cable-gnawing possums.

Reckless money printing and fiscal policies triggered soaring inflation, so much so that the currency, the bolívar, lost 90 percent of its value since Mr. Chávez took office, and was devalued five times over a decade. In another delusion, the currency had been renamed “el bolívar fuerte,” the strong bolívar — an Orwellian touch.

Harassment of privately owned farms and chaotic administration of state-backed agricultural cooperatives hit food production, compelling extensive imports, which stacked up so fast thousands of tons rotted at the ports. Mr. Chávez called it “food sovereignty.”