Tag: venezeula

Venezuelan Military Shoots, Kills Citizens Protesting Maduro

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Protests are turning deadly throughout the country of Venezuela Wednesday following major leadership turmoil. Earlier today, opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the interim president of the country. In doing so, he ousted authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro, who had led since 2013. The Venezuela National Assembly has said that Maduro’s recent reelection was not legitimate, and thus, Guaido has a rightful path to the position. President Donald Trump concurred, recognizing Guaido as the country’s new leader, as have parts of the Venezuelan military.

Many of the people of Venezuela have joined across the country in opposition to the Maduro regime. A large portion of the citizens blames him for recent hyperinflation and food shortages. These protests, particularly in Caracas, have turned violent.

Numerous videos on Twitter show gunshot victims lying in the streets. One video from the Venezuelan Resistance, an anti-Maduro group, shows that bullets hit a young man 12 kilometers from Junquito, a district of Caracas.

[Warning: Video contains graphic content]

Venezuelan Military, Police Take Sides

Beginning two days ago, parts of the military actually began to break with Maduro. Early Monday morning, a Venezuelan national guard unit broke with Maduro, stating that they no longer recognize him as a leader. One man, Sargeant Armando Figueroa, also urged the people of Venezuela to take to the streets with him.

Not every unit of the Venezuelan military is taking a stand in support of Juan Guaido, however. Many military and security forces are actually shooting back at civilian protesters. A number of Tweets also show this occurring. One claims that the military shot at civilians in a small town for opposing the rule of Maduro.

Venezuelan broadcasting stations VPITV and NTV have reported similar findings. The latter posted a video on Twitter recording some of the protests. Though the video footage is largely unclear, the audio shows many gunshots being fired, followed by the wail of sirens. Citizens yell in the background.

Though Nicolas Maduro is losing power quickly, it is currently unclear how long unrest in Venezuela will last.


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Is Democratic Socialism the Way Forward?

Luke-David Boswell | United Kingdom

Only two decades ago, any mention of ‘socialism’ in American politics as a potential governing ideology would have been met with extreme backlash and cries that communism had come to destroy America. However, in modern times (at least among younger generations), the stigma surrounding socialism has largely evaporated with a University of Chicago survey finding that from a pool of 18-to-34-year-old Democrats, 61% “expressed favorable  views towards Socialism.” One Gallup poll from a few months later also reported that more Democrats hold “positive views” of socialism than of capitalism, at 57% versus 47%. Compare this to the post-World War II era where, for example, only 15% of Americans wanted to see the country “go more in the direction of socialism”, according to a 1949 Gallup poll.

Why the Shift?

This new shift in favor of socialism in America could be boiled down to the essential need for a radical change in politics after the once inconceivable idea of a President Donald Trump became a reality. Many Americans are currently finding their voices in politicians like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Julia Salazar, who are seen to argue for the working class and those without the ability to speak up. All three are associated with Democratic Socialism, especially Ocasio-Cortez and Salazar, who belong to the Democratic Socialists of America.

Despite being written off as a joke in politics, the party membership had leapfrogged from only 6,000 to nearly 50,000 people in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. This was largely because of political figures like Sanders, whose ‘radical’ views promoted a new way of doing politics and a credible alternative choice for those tired of the controversies of both Republicans and Democrats.

With the reintroduction of socialism into America, there comes confusion and ignorance in relation to the objectives of democratic socialism and exactly what it means to be a democratic socialist. Upon hearing the dreaded s-word, people tend to link it to the totalitarian dictatorship of the USSR, a fake socialist country hiding behind the word to achieve the government’s own goal of a single party for a single state, with no other options. In reality, the USSR was a Communist state, an ideology which democratic socialism opposes entirely, hence the ‘democratic’.

However, due to the moral panic caused by the anti-Soviet propaganda of the Cold War, socialism couldn’t take off in America, thanks to being labeled with the red brush of Communism despite vehemently disagreeing with the USSR’s practices. From one perspective, the view of socialism relating to the USSR and the Cold War remains in the USA as a deterrent from understanding the benefits. People may even say that someone can’t believe in both democracy and socialism, but the two go hand in hand perfectly.

What Does It Mean to Be a Democratic Socialist?

Essentially, democratic socialism is socially responsible, ethical capitalism. It means affordable education, healthcare for all, and a suitable living wage, whilst still spending money on anything we choose. Those who follow democratic socialism believe in a moral, yet wealthy America; an America where no person is too poor to live. Yet, Republicans and Democrats constantly attack the ideology, trying to ‘rein’ in its speakers. Trying to silence anyone with a socialist viewpoint, like the “Communist Control Act” under President Eisenhower, is a direct breach of the 1st Amendment and, no matter how radical the belief, a person shouldn’t be silenced for their opinion.

One of the main missions for the democratic socialists in the USA is to achieve free education and healthcare. As someone from the UK, where both of these systems are open to every person in our society, it astounds me as to how some members of the right, particularly in Trump’s administration, can argue against universal healthcare when the introduction of the NHS system in the UK has led to equality. The idea that someone has to pay for a physical injury or mental help is incomprehensible to me.

Although the NHS has had troubles with funding recently, these issues are down to the conservative government, who want to see the return of privatization. During the years of the socialist Labour government (who introduced the NHS), the system ran efficiently and most importantly assured the poorest that they wouldn’t be in debt to the government for their own misfortune.

The Failure of the Opponents of Democratic Socialism

Opponents of democratic socialism in the USA seem to counter points with the state of the nation in Venezuela. In arguments that I’ve had with individuals who have different ideologies, this has been a response word for them whenever I mention socialism. Opponents citing any governments run by a dictator, where the seizure of private property occurs only shows how misunderstood democratic socialism is. The cry of Venezuela is immediately supposed to invalidate socialism, as a corrupt system that looks good on paper but in practice, fails on its promises. I point to a quote from The Guardian which sums up the argument: ‘Republicans go completely Caracas at mere mention of the s-word’.

The comparison between the potential for democratic socialism in one of the richest countries in the world and a ‘socialist’ third world country, that has always struggled economically is incredibly stupid. Any comparison with a leading country like the USA is unwarranted, as a socialist system being implemented in a third world country without infrastructure, is a key to disaster, but a socialist system in a first world country is proven to succeed. Notably, in the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Finland. These countries are models for democratic socialism in the world and are among the places with the highest quality of life.

Another view of democratic socialists is that the rich must be taxed exceedingly higher than they are currently. The taxing of the rich, in order to achieve a just and equal society, is a must. Any mention of further taxing seems to make the people on the right believe that if in power, socialists would forcibly take all wealth from the rich. This is simply not true, only higher taxing, which the rich can afford (whilst still living in mansions, sipping wine) would be implemented.  Chiefly, a 70% top marginal income tax rate would be put into law, which would not only benefit society as a whole but also not decrease the quality of life for the rich. Meghan McCain screeching on The View at any mention of democratic socialism really shows how terrified Republicans are of the notion that they’ll rightly get forced to pay extra taxes if they’re substantially richer than the average population. This system results in the rich still being wealthy but the wealth gap closing, with the poor being given a better chance at success.

Looking at the beginning of democratic socialism in the USA, it can be traced back to those who wanted to incorporate the interests of the women’s movement, civil rights movement, gay rights movements and other social movements born in the 60s into a single cause. In fact, the founder of the Democratic Socialists of America, Michael Harrington became one of Martin Luther King’s informal advisors after they met on a picket line protesting the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, and he advised the civil rights leader on writing the manifesto for the Poor People’s Campaign.

The combination of these movements and economic fairness is central to a democratic socialist, with a summary of items on their agenda being:

  • labor reform
  • pro-union policies
  • tuition-free public universities and trade schools
  • universal healthcare
  • federal jobs programs
  • fair taxation that closes loopholes that the wealthiest citizens have discovered
  • taxes on the rich and corporations to pay for social welfare programs
  • reducing classism within society
  • eliminating the threat of price fixing
  • equality in society
  • reducing the threat of economic cycles
  • efficient economy, with the input of the people
  • increased room for value judgments, not based on finances

One of the keys to understanding democratic socialism is, instead of focusing on private profit or an attitude that rewards those who are able to survive, the focus should be on a humane vision where everyone has the chance to share their view and contribute.

In the UK, openly socialist Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn visits colleges where queues of people await him and is the most followed political leader in the UK, despite not being in power. This, I predict, will soon change on the next election and the world will have one more socialist country. Perhaps, in another two or three elections, a Democratic Socialist may be the leader of the USA. At the rate in which the popularity of Sanders, Salazar, and Ocasio-Cortez is increasing, it isn’t an impossibility. Nothing seems impossible after Donald Trump.

List of Notable Figures Who Support Democratic Socialism

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York)

Bernie Sanders (Vermont)

Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)

Carolyn Maloney (New York)

Julia Salazar (New York)

James Thompson (Kansas)

Sarah Smith (Washington)

Summer Lee (Pennsylvania)

Sara Innamorato (Pennsylvania)

Elizabeth Fiedler (Pennsylvania)

Kristin Seale (Pennsylvania)

46 Democratic Socialists won their primaries in 2018.


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This Blockchain Project Could Save Venezuela

James Sweet III | United States

Venezuela’s currency, the Bolivar, is worthless due to hyperinflation that shows no sign of stopping. Venezuelan citizens are starving, forcing them to resort to rationing the little bit of food they have and stealing food that they can find. The crisis is constantly evolving due to the failed policies of the Maduro regime, but with the help of the blockchain, the situation could become stabilized, saving the families of the nation.

AirdropVenezuela wants to help the impoverished families of Venezuela by donating $10 to 100,000 Venezuelan households, which can be achieved by raising $1 million via cryptocurrency donations. The money, once received, will be converted into the local currency, allowing the families to purchase supplies that they desperately need. The leader of AirdropVenezuela is Steve H. Hanke, a professor at John Hopkins University. Hanke is also a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, serving as Director of the Troubled Currencies Project. The project is based on the Airtm platform, which allows you to save your local currency’s value by pinning it to a more stable currency, specifically the United States Dollar.

The civil unrest in the nation makes it dangerous to leave your house, which is another reason why Hanke is leading the AirdropVenezuela project. “We provide in effect a clearinghouse that allows for the exchange of bolivars for dollars and vice versa,” said Hanke to Forbes.  By allowing money to be stored and transferred via the blockchain and the cloud, the time that Venezuelans spend in public is minimized, allowing them to live a safer life while also getting the resources that they need to provide for their families.

The project, while mainly benefitting the families of Venezuela, could help boost the cryptocurrency market. Instead of being risky investments, cryptocurrencies will become a medium of exchange pinned to more stable currencies. Airtm, if successful, will revolutionize the use of blockchain technology by allowing it to have a more practical use. “You could now have the additional demand for cryptos for use as a medium of exchange versus what you have now which is only the speculative demand,” says Hanke.

The Airtm platform will also show the possibility of putting into place a free market exchange rate. Venezuela has a fixed exchange rate, making it hard to exchange Bolivars in the market. If you want to donate to or learn more about the AirdropVenezuela project, you can click here to visit their website.


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Is Maduro The Venezuelan Allende?

By Rufus Coombe | Venezuela

The tragedy of the Venezuelan economy is as infamous as it is indisputable. However, this is where the agreement on the issue ends. By attempting to explain the economic problems the nation is facing, we can analyze the solutions and compare the current situation to an important historical example, from which we can gain great insight. 

There is no unequivocal answer to the question of why Nicolás Maduro’s economy is in such a calamitous state. Some conservatives point to the nationalization of oil and Venezuela’s notoriously restrictive and pernicious effects of leftist economic policy, with Venezuela being rated 179th in economic freedom by the Heritage Foundation. Socialists, on the other hand, are keen to emphasize the large amounts of private activity in the economy the effects of the 2015 collapse in oil prices.

Despite the inconclusiveness of the attempted diagnosis of the problems, the ailing South American nation has become a flagship example for many right-wing speakers, who use it as a paradigm of the failures of socialism. However, we are not here to delve into the rights and wrongs of Maduro’s government, but to espouse a right-wing solution to the crisis and to utilize the lessons of history to help fix a broken country.

The crux of the problem is the issue of inflation; since the oil crisis of 2015, the value of the Bolivar plummeted, with the inflation rate in 2018 reaching 25,000%. In August, the government scrapped the inflation-riddled Bolivar and replaced it with the Sovereign Bolivar, cutting 5 digits off of the note. The inflation crisis, however, does not seem to have abated, with the value of the currency still falling, albeit at a slower rate. Hyperinflation coupled with falling real wages has taken its toll on the population and in 2016, 75% of Venezuelans lost weight; there is a famine ravaging the country and the elected government seems completely overwhelmed by its task of leadership- still running a deficit of 31%.

It is pointless to delve into the often navigated and regularly investigated failures of the planned economy. Instead, we shall draw a comparison between today’s Venezuela and an astonishingly similar set of events in the history of another South American nation: Chile.

Salvador Allende and Socialist Chile

On the third of September 1973, Salvador Allende, a socialist, was elected president of Chile. Just like Maduro, he was a populist inspired by Fidel Castro and Karl Marx. Allende came to power democratically and promised sweeping economic reforms aimed to aid the proletariat. Both Maduro and Allende were democratic socialists, both strove to reform their nations economies and, as we will see, both failed.

The economic impracticalities of socialism became immediately apparent in Chile unlike in Venezuela where they were masked by large oil wealth. Economies do not react instantaneously and there is often a lag time between policy implementation and their effects. However, the effects of a regulated economy and a large welfare state caught up with Venezuela in 2016 when the economy contracted 16.5%.

Crucially, Allende pursued the same economic policies as Maduro. He began the nationalization and collectivization of Chilean industry and of course, inflation was, once again, the bane of his newly reformed economy, with the inflation rate peaking above 300%.

As you can see, the resemblance is uncanny. Maduro and his predecessor, Chavez, managed to do to Venezuela what Allende did to Chile. The “Venezuelan way to socialism” has proved as disastrous as “The Chilean way to socialism”. In both cases wages went through the floor, inflation rates were in the hundreds, unemployment rates were well above average, large deficits were created, and GDP stagnated, despite both nations being endowed with large quantities of valuable natural resources (oil for Venezuela and copper for Chile).

So what happened? Chile now has the highest GDP per capita in South America. How did its crippled economy go from a stagnating, dire and decrepit mess to the envy of its neighbors? The answer comes in the form of a man named General Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet’s Coup

Late in 1973 General Pinochet launched a military coup against Allende’s government. The country had enough. He overthrew the democratic government established a military junta. Pinochet was a barbaric man and he is notorious for his human rights abuses. Despite this, he implemented sweeping free-market reforms, which resulted in Chile becoming the economic powerhouse it is today.

During his 17 years in power, wages grew, exports boomed, GDP grew, and Chile got back on its feet. When there was eventually a plebiscite to decide whether he would remain in power, he won 44% of the vote (more than Allende had in 1970). Nevertheless, he stood aside and surrendered power, leaving his beloved Chile one of the most prosperous nations in South America. Due to its economic success, Chile kept the Pinochet economic reforms largely intact. Today Chile is still the 7th freest economy in the world and wage growth has not fallen below inflation since 1990.

Is there a lesson that Venezuela could learn here? One has to hope so. Fresh leadership is needed to take Venezuela out of these dark times. If Maduro is the new Allende, will we see their version of Pinochet rise?


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I Survived Socialist Venezuela

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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