By Austin Anderholt | United States
Andrés is your average Latino teenager who enjoys his summer like any typical American kid. He’s relaxing on vacation and watching the World Cup with family and friends. Life is laid back, and adulthood isn’t even a problem yet for the brown-haired soccer enthusiast.
However, Andrés’s story hasn’t always been that nice. From 2000-2009, Andrés survived the socialist hell of Venezuela.
The South American country is home to over 31 million inhabitants, known for its warm and wet tropical climate, rich oil reserves, mountain ranges, diverse wildlife, incredibly delicious dishes such as meaty and cheesy arepas, and oh yeah… a failing economy created by the socialist dictator Hugo Chavez.
“In the seventies,” Andrés tells me, “Hugo Chavez nationalized the oil. He expanded the welfare state, and all government services relied on oil. In other countries, when oil prices go down, it’s not that big of a deal, but in Venezuela, it crashes down on everything. Innovation and economic growth and technology collapse.”
Because the socialist government is trying to survive on its oil exports alone, acquiring goods is a hardship in Venezuela. It’s a common sight for many people wake up in the early hours of the morning to wait in long lines for basic necessities such as toilet paper and food.
“The lines are just…you have to wait literal hours. And you can only buy one thing per week. If you miss that week, you’re done.”
The constant food shortages aren’t even the worst part about the communist ruin of the Venezuelan economy. The minimum wage was recently hiked up 150% to one million bolivars (the official Venezuelan currency) per month. However, this staggering amount of money earns you a whopping $1.61 on the Venezuelan black market. Not even close to enough for a family to survive for a month.
Starting in 2015, it was just as extreme: “One carton of eggs was three million Bolivars. A month of work to earn. Which by official exchange rate is less than a dollar.”
So how do Venezuelans survive the brutal left-wing economy? Andrés, who still has family stuck in Venezuela, has some ideas.
“For my family, we have to send money to our family in Venezuela just to feed them. They’re moving out, my grandma, three uncles, and an aunt.”
Venezuela hasn’t always been known as the economic hell that it is now. Back in the 60s, it was a much more capitalist social democracy and even known as “The Cancún of Latin America”. Even JFK visited the country, with Jaquelyn Kennedy delivering a speech in Spanish. “Her accent was bad, but whatever.” Remarks Andrés.
“Before Chavez, we used to compare Venezuela to Switzerland. It would be considered crazy for a Venezuelan to want to leave, and Colombians would illegally cross the border to live here. Even Americans flocked here. Now, it’s the opposite. Everyone wants to move out. We’re like the Syrian refugees of Latin America.”
Andrés’ family was lucky. As upper-class citizens, they enjoyed the ability to legally move to the United States. Ironically, many children of socialist Venezuelan politicians did just the same during this time period. However, most Venezuelans aren’t so fortunate:
“People try to cross the border or swim, but that’s impossible. Some people try to stay on their visas in America.”
I asked Andrés if people can still believe in socialism after coming out of a nation filled with starvation, shortages, and a daily struggle for survival. His response was unsurprising:
“Unless you’re linked to the government, it’s very hard to come out of Venezuela a socialist. Some are Keynesian. It’s very hard to be a Venezuelan and a socialist unless you’re a corrupt official or very very very very very poor person.”
Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and Bernie Sanders have endorsed Venezuelan socialism. Once the government started gunning down protesters in 2017, they started saying ‘It’s not real socialism!’. Once the whole system collapses, it’s never real socialism.”
Andrés goes on to tell me that his whole family is made up of anti-authoritarian republicans, and he identifies as a libertarian. Either way, Venezuelans are sick of starving and are sick of their corrupt government. They want change, and there are a few ways to go about this.
There is always old-fashioned political voting. Groups such as the Movmíento Libertario are examples of young leaders trying to turn Venezuela away from its left-wing dictatorship.
However, a civil political movement might not be a good idea:
“The Chavista government gives welfare to people that vote for them. It will even promise housing to their supporters. Also, the regime gives 3-4 licenses to fans of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. These licenses give them superhero names like ‘Batman’ or ‘Superman’. Also if you’re registered to vote, and don’t vote, the regime votes for you.”
“The only opposition is democratic socialists, so they’re not much of an ‘opposition’. They just kind of preach ‘peace and love’.”
“Some parties (like ‘Vente Venezuela’, a free market political party and one of the only right-wing Venezuelan political parties) are virtually illegal. And anyone who protests has the constant possibility of being arrested, or murdered by the Chavista regime.”
Decentralization is another huge option. Venezuela has a thriving black market and it is one of the only reasons that the populace can stay alive. André’s advice?
“Buy crypto. When the Inflation hit, people switched to Cryptocurrency on the black market. Bitcoin is being used to protect from people the regime from printing money to pay back debt and overinflating the market. However, the Chavista Government started cracking down on crypto traders, arresting anyone who wasn’t using the Nationalized cryptocurrency, called ‘el petro’. Crypto isn’t specifically illegal, but the government does whatever it wants.”
So what does the future hold for Venezuela? Only time will tell, but it seems like liberty and decentralization are a shining beacon of hope for a South American nation, enslaved by leftism.
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