“During Carnival, we used to throw eggs at each other just to have some fun. Now an egg is like gold.”
That’s a quote from 24 year old Venezuela resident Gabriel Márquez, who grew up during the “boom years” of high oil prices under Hugo Chavez. Current conditions were unimaginable to him, but now the people of his country are starving and rioting just to find a few scraps of food to eat. The New York Times has a surprisingly unvarnished look at the collapse of that country this week and the stories don’t seem to be exaggerated in the slightest. We’re witnessing a nation in the midst of a wide scale societal implosion.
With delivery trucks under constant attack, the nation’s food is now transported under armed guard. Soldiers stand watch over bakeries. The police fire rubber bullets at desperate mobs storming grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. A 4-year-old girl was shot to death as street gangs fought over food.
Venezuela is convulsing from hunger.
Hundreds of people here in the city of Cumaná, home to one of the region’s independence heroes, marched on a supermarket in recent days, screaming for food. They forced open a large metal gate and poured inside. They snatched water, flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, potatoes, anything they could find, leaving behind only broken freezers and overturned shelves.
And they showed that even in a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, it is possible for people to riot because there is not enough food.
What’s missing from this particular bit of coverage is the underlying story of the two Venezuelas which exist side by side. As is the case with nearly every socialist and communist regime, those who are well connected with the party leadership don’t have nearly as much to worry about as the unwashed masses. While many rank and file residents are literally hunting dogs, cats and pigeons to simply stay alive, the wealthy patrons of the socialist regime continue to drink champagne and live the high life behind well fortified walls.
“If you have money there is champagne … vodka, Belgian chocolates … lobster, brand-name clothes, exclusive restaurants … nightclubs, beaches … yachts, golf clubs—a whole country within a country where there are no poor, women and children are blond, go to exclusive schools, exclusive universities, and vacation, where Blacks or poor are the waiters … ,” he posted on his Facebook page.
In his analysis he stated that the phenomenon stems from corruption in import processes, subsidies by the government, and the existence of buying, re-selling and smuggling of subsidized essential goods by “bachaqueros”, linked to Colombian paramilitary groups.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Glenn Reynolds. Under capitalism, rich people become powerful. Under socialism, powerful people become rich.
For those of you who remain enamored of the promises of Bernie Sanders and those of his ilk, you should really be paying particular attention. This is how socialism always ends. Always. Without exception. Thinking of punishing those evil old fossil fuel companies by having the government “nationalize” the oil industry? (The way Chuck Schumer has suggested in the past.) That’s precisely how Venezuela rolls. As long as the price of oil was ridiculously high there was enough largess to keep the people fed for the most part. But as soon as that single revenue stream began to dry up, the party leadership scurried back to their wealthy burbs in Caracas and everyone else was left to starve.
John Edwards famously ran his 2008 Democratic primary campaign on a theme of “Two Americas” where the Haves and the Have Nots faced off against each other. While economic disparity clearly exists in a competitive society, it’s nothing compared to the reality of life under a socialist or communist regime. There are truly two Venezuelas, and the residents of one of them are currently murdering each other in fights over an expired can of beans.