What Venezuela tells us about American Democratic Socialists


People eat at a food truck fair in Altamira neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. Last year, inflation in the South American country hit 1 million percent. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

At one time, President Trump’s response to the Venezuelan Presidential Crisis would have had the full support of the American public. Yet, like many previously uncontroversial things, this issue has been the subject of protest by increasingly powerful voices in government. However, what really makes this divide troubling isn’t that it’s due to mere partisanship, but rather, is evidence of a stark and dangerous divide between moderates and radicals, the latter of which are hell bent on changing what makes the United States so successful.

Ever since Nicolas Maduro became President of Venezuela, democracy in the Latin American republic has been declining. What was once one of the most democratic states in the region has turned into a quasi-dictatorship, and things aren’t getting better. Venezuela’s decline got even worse over the past year, during the 2018 Presidential election. Maduro ran for a second term and was re-elected with 68 percent of the vote, but the election was anything but fair. Major opposition candidates who had a chance of beating the unpopular Maduro were banned from participating and demonstrations against the regime were brutally suppressed by the government. Furthermore, the government removed protections to prevent people from voting twice, and likely intimidated people to vote for Maduro by suggesting they’d cut off food rations. After the election, the United States, Canada, the European Union and over a dozen other countries refused to recognize the results. Meanwhile, Russia, North Korea, Syria and other mostly corrupt regimes recognize the vote as valid. Since then, the National Assembly of Venezuela has tried to save what’s left of its nation’s crumbling democracy by declaring the election invalid and, per the constitution, making the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, acting President of Venezuela. However, Maduro refuses to step down and countries like the United States are putting pressure on his fraudulent administration.

Since the crisis began, the Trump administration has recognized Guaido as President and has been doing what it can to end Maduro’s illegal regime. Nearly all Republicans and most Democrats support Trump’s actions, but an increasingly influential group of far-left politicians have condemned the American response. Representatives Ilhan Omar, Tulsi Gabbard, and Ro Khanna have all come out against the Trump Administration’s Venezuela policy, with Omar calling it a coup attempt. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star in the Democratic Party, has called Trump’s decision to recognize the acting President “concerning”. Meanwhile, the increasingly influential Democratic Socialists of America, of which Ocasio-Cortez is a member, has also characterized American involvement as an attempt to overthrow a legitimate President and bolster American imperialism (https://www.dsausa.org/statements/dsa-statement-on-us-intervention-in-venezuela/ ). Never mind the fact that this act of “American imperialism” has the support of basically every legitimate democracy in the world, and the “legitimate President” they are defending is almost exclusively supported by dictators, the narrative democratic socialists want to sell you is that we are the bad guys.

But this all begs the question, why would so many leftists, many of whom consider Trump a threat to our own democracy, support a regime that is close to wiping out a democracy? The answer is simple – socialism. Nicolas Maduro is an avowed socialist, and of the congresspersons I mentioned, all are either sympathetic to or overtly in favor of socialism. Maduro and his predecessor, longtime President Hugo Chavez, have spent the past 20 years dismantling the capitalist economy by bringing major industries under state control and promising free food, shelter and healthcare.

At first the plan seemed to be working, but when oil prices dropped in 2012, the economy fell on hard times. What would have been a recession in the United States turned into a full-scale economic depression thanks to socialism. Nowadays, the country’s economy is shrinking by double digits each quarter, and the inflation rate is over 830,000 percent! There are severe shortages of basic necessities such as toilet paper and food, which have forced many to scavenge for scraps in the trash. Furthermore, the economic disaster has caused hundreds of thousands to flee the country, creating an enormous yet little discussed migratory crisis. In short, Venezuela is an embarrassing example for American democratic socialists because it exemplifies what happens when a country adopts democratic socialism (let’s not forget that Hugo Chavez was democratically elected on a socialist platform, and was praised by Bernie Sanders, so his ideas are indeed what the left talks about when they discuss democratic socialism). However, the fact that Chavez’s experiment turned out to be a failure and anything but democratic is an embarrassment to the likes of Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez, and Trump’s sanctions draw attention to it, hence the need to spin the story.

President Maduro’s fraudulent re-election is a textbook case of authoritarianism, and any objective observer would realize that. So, when a vocal group of leftists protest American support for the opposition and outright lie about what is going on in Caracas, we have every reason to be suspicious. Upon closer examination, we find that the reason for the hard-left’s opposition is because they actually admire Maduro’s government and want to see it in the United States. And from there a fundamental truth about democratic socialism becomes apparent; it is all about hypothetical good and ignorant of reality. Anyone can see that what is happening in Venezuela is terrible and that socialism is to blame, but the hard-left refuses to recognize this and thinks that they can do it better and get only the good outcomes of equality and economic security, which is a very arrogant thing to believe. Hopefully, those who think socialism might work in the United States will examine the story of Venezuela for themselves, and realize how deadly the idea actually is.

Jacob Marie is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jacob.marie@uconn.edu.

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