Venezuela, the richest country in South America not so long ago, is sliding into the abyss of civil war and bloodshed. The shops are empty and astronomic inflation has rendered worthless the national currency, the Bolivar. Oil production, the economy’s mainstay, is reduce to a trickle and default on overseas loans is likely. Venezuela’s military, up to its neck in drug-trafficking, has been shooting people on the streets, with 26 are dead by the latest count. The country is in torment and turmoil. Whether one calls the massive protests and demonstratikons a rebellion, a revolution or an insurrection makes no difference; suffering is the same no matter what name you give it.
This tropical country, blessed with abundant fertile soil, an extensive coastline and one of the world’s largest known oil reserves, is motherless broke. People are emigrating in droves to anywhere they can, voting with their feet. The only governments which support the present regime are the usual suspects: Moscow, Moldova and the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, plus China, Turkey, North Korea, Cuba and Zimbabwe.
How beautiful the beginning was, though! Hugo Chavez, unreconstructed neo-Marxist and firebrand class warrior, promised his country’s proletariat a socialist nirvana, supposedly the result of nationalising just about everything and dispossessing the hated oligarchs. The resulting rewards, Chavez promised, would be re-distributed to the poor, the oppressed and dispossessed.
True to his word, generous social programs, unrivalled anywhere in Latin America, were instituted and the masses were jubilant. New and promising friendships were established. Instead of ‘imperialist America’ and its Latino American ‘lackey’, fraternal nations were welcomed to the venezuelan hearth. The attraction was instant and mutual. Russia’s Vladimir Putin invested $US6 billion of hard cold cash, buying into the State-run oil company. He also sent long-range Soviet-era nuclear bombers to demonstrate the strength of the new alliance. The Chinese went much further and bought into infrastructure projects to the tune of $US23 billion. Penniless Cuba, Zimbabwe and North Korea, owing to their lack of cash, contented themselves with declarations of eternal friendship.
Venezuela’s proverbial ‘man on the street’ was aglow with triumph. The millennial dream of universal brotherhood and equality had been fulfilled! Everyone was equal. At long last, there were no capitalist bloodsuckers to exploit the masses. The formerly impotent victims of that exploitation would no longer slave to make the rich richer. As Lenin said at the dawn of another, earlier workers’ paradise, “Revolution, the necessity of which the Bolsheviks were talking about for so long, had happened at last!”
Everything was honky dory until the voters began to notice things were not quite as they had been led to believe, that something was not quite right. Despite massive oil reserves, fuel shortages developed. Then the shelves in the shops became empty. It grew so bad the military, the most trusted part of the government, were rewarded toilet paper instead of medals (and yes, I kid you not).
Then Hugo Chavez upped and died, but not before managing to make sure successor Nicholas Maduro was installed in the presidential palace. The successor stayed the course with all the previous socialist policies, kept the same friends, took hostility towards America and its ‘lackeys’ to new heights and, indeed, transformed the anti-gringo rhetoric of his government almost into an art form. As things grew steadily worse, proletarian to the bone Maduro was disinclined to give up power. As proletarian presidents normally do, he cheated at the recent elections and had remained in the palace.
By now things were getting a bit too much, even for the proletarian masses, and the current wave of protests erupted. Governments around the world, including all Venezuela’s neighbors, decided no longer to recognize the Caracas government as legitimate. The Bank of England refused to return the cache of Venezuelan gold stored in its vaults, pointing to the illegitimacy of the country’s ruling regime. The US then began targeting Maduro’s ill-gotten wealth. In response, he severed diplomatic relations with Washington and expelled the diplomats of nations that incurred his wrath.
The Americans forbade their diplomatic staff to leave, citing the illegitimacy of the country’s government and allowed Venezuelan diplomats to remain in the US. The leader of the Opposition in the Venezuelan Parliament declared himself president and pronounced Nicolas Maduro dislodged. Mr. Putin, fuming at ‘American meddling in the internal affairs of other countries’ while overlooking his likewise meddling, decided to send a Russian security team of highly-trained mercenaries to guard Mr. Maduro. He does not wish for Maduro to experience a dismissal of the type that saw the ends of Nicolae Ceausescu and Muammar Kaddafi.
In a meantime, Venezuelan blood is spilling on the streets of Venezuela’s cities and people are dying. Nothing to laugh about, nothing at all.
What I do not understand is Venezuelans’ voting for the very policies which subsequently devastated their country. The socialists were quite clear and honest about their intentions. They carried out their promises exactly as promised.
Wherever such policies are implemented the result is the same, no matter where the country is located, how rich or how poor the country might be, what race, skin color or religion of the people living there. History is awash with horrible examples of socialist promises.
How many times will people step on the same garden rake? As the government in waiting of Bill Shorten pushes the class-war rhetoric it hopes will be its passport to the government benches, should not Australians take heed?
Michael Galak came to Australia with his family from the Soviet Union