Hours long lines, shortages of basic materials, and even deaths occur because of misguided government policies in Venezeula. Puerto Rico should not adopt Socialist policies

Hours long lines, shortages of basic materials, and even deaths are occurring because of misguided government policies in Venezuela.  It is no small  wonder that people keep voting for Socialism over Capitalism, despite Socialism’s 100+ year record of failure and Capitalism’s 100+ year record of overwhelming success.  Capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty, all around the world, than any other system.  Puerto Rico should not institute more Socialistic policies as this is destructive.  One can look at how millions of people in Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela suffer under Socialism.  Socialism destroys the incentive to work because it denies people the fruits of their labor.  WalMart of Puerto Rico’s victory over the Puerto Rico government, which law attempted to unfairly punish Walmart with higher taxes,  is a positive development.  Socialistic policies create shortages because they punish productive activity and reward laziness.  Capitalistic policies create surpluses because they reward productive activity.  After Presidents Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro demonized and stole from companies operating in Venezuela, many of those companies made perfectly rational decisions to stop providing goods and services.

http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-venezuela-economy-shortages-20150123-story.html

Shortages, inflation and long lines have Venezuelans grumbling

Mery Mogollon and Chris Kraul
Venezuelans express exasperation after President Maduro’s national address offers no solutions to inflation

Waiting in line for hours to buy groceries at a supermarket in eastern Caracas, Helena Siso didn’t know or care who was to blame for the acute shortages of consumer goods plaguing Venezuela. She just wanted the government to do something about it.

“This is very frustrating,” said Siso, a 54-year-old doctor’s secretary. “Here I am on my lunch hour and I have to spend three hours in line to buy toilet paper. Tomorrow, I’ll have to come back to get corn flour. I don’t want the government to give me anything, just save me from submitting to these lines and this desperation.”

Siso’s comments were typical of the exasperation many Venezuelans’ expressed after President Nicolas Maduro’s state of the nation address this week in which he defended the socialist model of government but offered no immediate solutions for the country’s deepening economic crisis.

In addition to shortages that have consumers waiting in long lines for sugar, cooking oil, soaps, rice and other items, Venezuela is also in the grips of a sputtering economy and rising inflation that last year averaged 63%, the highest rate in Latin America.

Times are likely to get even tougher this year. After the economy shrank by 3% in 2014, the International Monetary Fund issued a forecast on Wednesday saying the total Venezuelan output of goods and services will shrink by a further 7% this year.

Although the economy here has been in disarray for several years, the main reason the IMF cited for the poor 2015 outlook is the 50% drop in the price of Venezuelan oil, on which the country depends for 95% of all export sales.

As he waited in line at a supermarket in the Mercedes barrio in eastern Caracas, construction worker Ramon Diaz said what bothered him was that many subsidized goods such as milk meant to be available at the government chain of grocery stories end up in the hands of black market sellers who charge three times the official prices.

“The government has to stop that,” said Diaz, 45. “As long as the contraband continues, there is no solution, and we will have to continue standing in line.”

The lines are not only growing longer but more violent, a sign of rising frustration, Siso said. She avoids shopping in the Valles del Tuy barrio where she lives because the “law of the jungle” is what prevails there. “Those who push, shove and punch take everything and leave nothing for the rest of us.”

Among the few defenders of the government encountered in Thursday’s lines was Jose Delgado, a 42-year-old shopping center janitor, who blamed scarcities on hoarding wholesalers. Delgado is among the still considerable supporters of the late Hugo Chavez who said tougher times have not turned them against Maduro, Chavez’ successor.

“I am with my comandante,” Delgado said, referring to Maduro. “The people in these lines buy more than they need and so that’s why everything runs out so fast.”

In his televised speech before the National Assembly on Wednesday night, Maduro defended the socialist system, saying it “guarantees the just distribution of Venezuela’s wealth” and enables the country to confront the “assaults of economic warfare that reappeared in the second half of 2014.”

Maduro has repeatedly blamed the United States for his country’s economic woes, saying that the rise of U.S. shale oil production and its effects on world oil prices is a tactic designed to destabilize Venezuela.

Zulay Gutierrez, a 30-year-old hotel concierge, who was interviewed as she stood in line to buy disposable diapers at a drug store in the Candelaria section of eastern Caracas, said the blame lies closer to home.

“It’s the government’s fault,” Gutierrez said. “There are scarcities in everything, especially in children’s things, like milk, vitamins, shampoo and diapers. There is no soap to wash dishes or clothes. When there is chicken or meat to buy, you have to fight your way through the line to buy it.”

Maduro on Wednesday said that the time had come to raise the heavily subsidized price of gasoline, which now sells for 4 cents a gallon at the official exchange rate, but he did not say when or by how much fuel prices would rise. He assigned management of the gas price issue to Vice President Jorge Arreaza.

“Venezuelan gasoline has a price that doesn’t cover anything. It’s a distortion,” Maduro said. He also announced a 15% hike in the minimum wage effective next month and an increase in scholarships for high school and college students. Reaction to the wage hike was tepid: Shoppers said it wouldn’t be enough to compensate for galloping inflation.

But those details were far from the mind of motorcycle messenger Carlos Frias, as he stood in line at a Farmatodo drug store in the Santa Fe shopping center. “This is how I live every day, standing in line for milk and diapers. The country’s broke, and we are seeing the consequences.”

Special correspondents Mogollon and Kraul reported respectively from Caracas and Bogota, Colombia.

 

These intelligent comments about Venezuela could apply to the US Government and Puerto Rico just as well, for mismanagement, blaming others and not taking responsibility:

  • Si Senor

Maduro blames the United States for its economic problems, a typical blame game on “outside forces” to explain its economic problems (unfortunately very similar to what some of us do here). I’m sorry, but the United States did not nationalize the toilet paper industry, spurn outside investors, and make a natural resource (oil) 95% of Venezuela’s total export business. The Venezuelan government under Chavez and Maduro did.

  • ben fran

Venezuela’s problems have nothing to do with falling oil prices and all to do with mismanagement. The micromanaged economy caused the entire country to run out of toilet paper when the price of oil was $115.00 a barrel. I tend to disagree with the IMF explanation that their problems are oil price related.

  • DaveDude802

“It’s a distortion,” Maduro said. He also announced a 15% hike in the minimum wage effective next month and an increase in scholarships for high school and college students.
Sound familiar ?? It’s almost a direct quote from obama !!
If obama has his way, this would be happening in America.

  • RejectPartyDogma

“I am with my comandante,” Delgado said, referring to Maduro. “The people in these lines buy more than they need and so that’s why everything runs out so fast.”

And yet they seem to prefer an economy/environment where people buying more than they need results in things running out fast, as opposed to an economy where people can buy as much as they want and there is no problems with running out.

In the US (and most modern entrepreneurial competitive free market economies), people can walk into any supermarket any time of day (without waiting in line to do so), pull all they want off of shelves filled to overflowing, and there is still plenty for everyone else who also walks into that supermarket. And no one has to fear that if they don’t get it when it’s available it won’t be there tomorrow.

And yet they seem to think this is worse than scarcity, waiting in line for hours or days just to get and then being faced with empty shelves that they have to deal with. Say what you will about ideology, results matter. And comparing the results between the results of the ideology imposed by the Venezuelan government (empty shelves and scarcity and privation) and the results of entrepreneurial competitive free market economies with shelves filled to overflowing, how it is even conceivable that one could claim that the former is better than the latter without a colossal amount of delusion and denial.

###

http://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelas-food-shortages-trigger-long-lines-hunger-and-looting-1440581400

Venezuela’s Food Shortages Trigger Long Lines, Hunger and Looting

Violent clashes flare in pockets of the country as citizens wait for hours for basics, such as milk and rice

By Maolis Castro and Kejal Vyas

LA SIBUCARA, Venezuela—Hours after they looted and set fire to a National Guard command post in this sun-baked corner of Venezuela earlier this month, a mob infuriated by worsening food shortages rammed trucks into the smoldering edifice, reducing it mostly to rubble.

The incident was just one of numerous violent clashes that have flared in pockets around the country in recent weeks as Venezuelans wait for hours in long supermarket lines for basics like milk and rice. Shortages have made hunger a palpable concern for many Wayuu Indians who live here at the northern tip of Venezuela’s 1,300-mile border with Colombia.

We are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot.

—María Palma, 55, of La Sibucara

The soldiers had been deployed to stem rampant food smuggling and price speculation, which President Nicolás Maduro blames for triple-digit inflation and scarcity. But after they seize contraband goods, the troops themselves often become targets of increasingly desperate people.

“What’s certain is that we are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot,” said María Palma, a 55-year-old grandmother who on a recent blistering hot day had been standing in line at the grocery store since 3 a.m. before walking away empty-handed at midday.

In a national survey, the pollster Consultores 21 found 30% of Venezuelans eating two or fewer meals a day during the second quarter of this year, up from 20% in the first quarter. Around 70% of people in the study also said they had stopped buying some basic food item because it had become unavailable or too expensive.

If people aren’t outside protesting, they’re outside standing in line for goods.

—Marco Ponce, head of the Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict

Food-supply problems in Venezuela underscore the increasingly precarious situation for Mr. Maduro’s socialist government, which according to the latest poll by Datanálisis is preferred by less than 20% of voters ahead of Dec. 6 parliamentary elections. The critical situation threatens to plunge South America’s largest oil exporter into a wave of civil unrest reminiscent of last year’s nationwide demonstrations seeking Mr. Maduro’s ouster.

“It’s a national crisis,” said Marco Ponce, head of the Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict, noting that unlike the political protests of last year, residents are now taking to the streets demanding social rights.

The nonprofit group recorded 500 protests over food shortages during the first half of 2015, 56 looting incidents and dozens of attempted lootings at grocery stores, pharmacies and warehouses. Even delivery trucks are frequently targeted. “If people aren’t outside protesting, they’re outside standing in line for goods,” Mr. Ponce said.

The unrest is a response to dramatically worsening living conditions for Venezuelans as the economy reels from oil’s slump following more than a decade of populist spending that left the government broke.

They’re committing treason against our country, taking food and crossing the border.

—National Guard Gen. Manuel Graterol

In past years, when oil prices were high, Venezuela’s leftist government flooded markets with subsidized goods ranging from cooking oil to diapers. It gave citizens in border towns like La Sibucara not only access to cheap supplies, but also a source of income as many people trafficked products—including nearly free gasoline—to neighboring Colombia, drawing handsome profits.

With the government now struggling to pay for imports, there is less inventory to go around. In recent days, Mr. Maduro upped the ante by ordering troops along the border to seize contraband, deporting hundreds of Colombians whom the government blames for smuggling and shortages.

Armed soldiers monitor supermarkets as part of an effort the president calls “Operation People’s Liberation.” More than 6,000 alleged smugglers have been arrested this year, according to the attorney general’s office. Images of soldiers posing with handcuffed suspects and stacks of decommissioned goods are splashed on state media.

“We’re going to get to the root of the problem,” Mr. Maduro said in a national address last week after a shootout with smugglers in the frontier state of Táchira left three National Guard troops injured and pushed Venezuela to shut key border crossings.

The smugglers targeted by the government crackdown are called bachaqueros, named after a leaf-cutter ant that can carry many times its weight. The word, first used here in the northwestern state of Zulia, has become part of daily national parlance as a label for Venezuelans who buy price-controlled goods and resell them for profit on the black market.

While the government blames the shortages on bachaqueros, economists say they are the consequence of price controls and a broken economic model that has left average Venezuelans with diminishing employment options.

“The people that used to give us work—the private companies, the rich—have all gone,” said Ms. Palma in La Sibucara, adding that she also occasionally traffics goods to get by. “It’s not the greatest business but we don’t have work and we have to find a way to eat.”

Earlier this month, Venezuela’s military raided homes and warehouse around the town, seizing tons of allegedly hoarded goods that were destined to leave Venezuela or be resold on the black market for well above the state-set price.

Lisandro Uriana, who had a black eye and a bandaged leg, said he and two friends were badly beaten up when a neighbor’s house was raided. “They didn’t say or ask us anything,” recalled the 46-year-old Wayuu father of four, who lives in a tin-roofed house of two rooms. “They just beat us and we couldn’t defend ourselves because they were armed and were many. I don’t even smuggle…and now I can’t even get up to work.”

The day of the raids, neighbors said residents pleaded with troops at the National Guard command post to distribute seized food to non-smugglers but were turned away. An angry mob soon formed, sending soldiers fleeing before they attacked the office and even stripped it of scrap metal.

We are very peaceful people, but what happened was an act of desperation. I think this is going to get worse.

—Street vendor Robert Guzmán

“These are just some isolated cases,” Manuel Graterol, a National Guard general overseeing operations in La Sibucara on a recent day, said, blaming the unrest and the bachaquero phenomenon on opponents of Mr. Maduro’s government.

“Many of them are being shameless,” said Gen. Graterol. “They’re committing treason against our country, taking food and crossing the border.”

But such food fights have broken out in numerous small municipalities around the state of Zulia. In the nearby town of Sinamaica, the ground floor of the mayor’s office was set on fire in early August following a wave of unrest that included gangs looting delivery trucks. The unrest, locals said, began after police detained a truck loaded with rice.

Street vendor Robert Guzmán, wearing a red pro-government T-shirt, said the sacking was justified. “We are very peaceful people,” Mr. Guzmán said of his Wayuu community, “but what happened was an act of desperation. I think this is going to get worse.”

Resident Yusleidy Márquez said she too fears the worst. The basket of subsidized food the government gives her mother every 15 days only feeds her family for two days. Lately, she only eats a cornmeal patty for lunch because she can’t afford more.

“I think we’re going to die of hunger,” she said.

Write to Kejal Vyas at kejal.vyas@wsj.com

From the comments:

Chris Herrmann Aug 26, 2015

“The people that used to give us work—the private companies, the rich—have all gone,”

Keep reading that over and over, all of you Leftist/Socialist Democrats.

Slav Rohlev Aug 26, 2015

Venezuela has the biggest proven oil reserves in the entire world – and people can’t get enough to eat.  That’s the proven power of Socialism.

Makes you want to give Bernie Sanders and Hillary a big fat kiss!  ….ok, maybe in the case of Hillary just a hearty handshake.

Dom Fried Aug 26, 2015

About a hundred comments, but where are all the progressive trolls to explain to us how this is not the path they have in mind for us even as they copy Venezuela’s model?

I really do want them to show up and take a crack at this.

I summon the trolls. Let there be trolls. Appear!

Juan Archer Aug 26, 2015

Lesson in irony for Venezuela and the Democrat Moocher Class.

The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is actually proud of the fact it is distributing the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever for approximately 48 million Americans.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to “Please Do Not Feed the Animals.”

Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.

This ends today’s lesson.

PAUL ANGELCHIK Aug 26, 2015

I was in Venezuela in 2010. At an army base where we were doing screenings of kids for charity surgery was a banner that said in Spanish ” Socialism or Death”. It appears to be the same thing ultimately doesn’t it?

Venezuela was a relatively functional country before Chavez. Now it’s a disaster and extremely dangerous.

Quien es Juan Galt?

Robert Eisenhauer Aug 26, 2015

Now I understand clearly why Communists, Socialists, Democrats, Marxists, and other ruling thugs disarm their good citizens before making their biggest moves.  “It’s safer for the ruling thugs when the starving, rioting, and looting begin.”

Al Carruth Aug 26, 2015

Food shortages in a planned economy?  Why didn’t they plan for more food?  Silly Presidente, pass a law that produces more food!

JOHN ROBINS Aug 26, 2015

Is this what progressives and President Obama mean by “leveling playing fields” and “giving everyone a fair shot”?

VALENTIN TIRMAN Aug 26, 2015

Ahhh, yet another utopia.  Equality, social justice, a free lunch for all – I can hardly contain the euphoria that I’m feeling for these fine intelligent people who chose to become a socialist paradise rather than a capitalist hell-hole.

Someday, even the US will see the light.

RODGER POTOCKI Aug 26, 2015

Socialism at its finest. Will the Hollywood types who embrace this failed system and government do a benefit to help feed the people? Or better yet donate a few million for food? Or will the Obama administration bail out yet another dictatorship?

David Parry Aug 26, 2015

Where is Harry Belafonte when they need him? Another socialist utopia down the tubes!

Tom Boucher Aug 26, 2015

This is what the Democrat party wants for America.

Alonzo Quijana Aug 26, 2015

Maybe Sean Penn can dispatch his private jet with some fair trade, non GMO, organic tofu to these poor people.

David Pineault Aug 26, 2015

Take a good look America.  That’ll be us if we stay on the course we’re on!

JOSH MCMINDES Aug 26, 2015

Look at the images above. It’s America under Bernie Sanders.

christopher mast Aug 26, 2015

Our future under the democratic party and the future sought by Obama and his fellow travelers.

Dan Mac Kinney Aug 27, 2015

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. ” Winston Churchill

When will we ever learn?

Pat Curtin Aug 26, 2015

The “alinsky paradise” of Venezuela.  Barry and his buffoon squad would like nothing better than to bring this wonderful success to America as soon as his brownshirts can round up the dissenters.

Mike Aarvand Aug 27, 2015

That’s how socialism always ends.  With empty shelves and violence.

DENNIS CARVER Aug 26, 2015

This is how socialism always ends – chaos, pain and misery.

Brent Wilson Aug 26, 2015

Meanwhile…. the wealthiest person in Venezuela is Hugo’s daughter.  I’m sure Oblama is proud.

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/08/11/report-hugo-chavezs-favorite-daughter-is-the-richest-person-in-venezuela

 

Rob Lawton Aug 29, 2015

Ah…socialism is great.  I’m SO GLAD that there are people like Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton to bring this wonderful ideology here to the States.  I mean can you IMAGINE if an American liberal had to actually LEARN something like Spanish and get the ambition to purchase a ticket to one of these 3rd World hell holes to enjoy the socialism they so desperately crave?!!!

Erik Rueden Aug 29, 2015

Seizing private farms leads to hunger and famine.  This is a critical socialist red line that has been crossed many times.  Russia 1910’s, China 1950’s, Zimbabwe 1990’s and  Venezuela in 2010’s.

As a thought experiment imagine HHS taking over all food production in the US.

Curt Bergstrom Aug 28, 2015

Socialism sounds great during rallies but in-action poor allocation of resources and unresponsiveness to peoples’ needs is what you get. The house of cards falls apart really quickly if you take away a socialist government’s ability to supress dissent with heavy-handed police tactics and media censorship. We should take this to heart as we listen to presidential candidates offer socialist policies as a way forward for the USA.

 

danny freeman Aug 27, 2015

Don’t they mine GOLD and OIL in Venezuela? Why are they starving?
Victor Watermann Aug 27, 2015

@danny freeman The top socialist bureaucrats and their families in Venezuala are not starving.

 

Tom Williams Aug 27, 2015

@William Thayer They have been in increasing trouble for some time now.  When a socialist “transfers” wealth several things happen because they aren’t good managers:

1) The output goes down right away because they don’t know how to run it.

2) They don’t maintain the assets, so they decay with time.

3) They don’t invest so there is no future for the asset.

Of course, since they do give more to the bottom of society at first, they get support even though there is less overall.  In Venezuela # 2 and 3 have set in causing a death spiral; literally death as their people become so desperate that they will do anything.

This happens when socialism reaches the Thatcher point (no more money to take) and does not reform.  They are now working on the disposable goods and physical assets.  Soon those will be gone.  The last step is the people as disposable assets, and that is starting.  Venezuela will implode or explode soon.  Socialism gets grim after a while.

Macrena Sailor Aug 27, 2015

The “success” of socialism/communism in Venezuela has been long planned and cultivated.See any parallels to the US?  I do.

“Russia and Cuba are finally reaping the benefits of the revolution they have long sown in Latin America. Any chance of defeating them requires setting the record straight about how Venezuela got so poor.

Venezuelan politicians sold left-wing populism like snake oil for decades before Chávez came to power in 1999. They demagogued entrepreneurs and indoctrinated the masses with anti-businesses propaganda. From the earliest days of the Cuban revolution, Castro was a hero in Venezuelan universities where Cuban-Soviet propaganda flourished. By the 1960s school children were being weaned on utopian collectivism. The brainwashing intensified when Chávez opened Venezuela to Cuban proselytizers.

Through it all, the politically connected got rich, including the chavistas. But today a large part of the population believes that business is underhanded and greedy. This is why escaping the noose of totalitarianism is going to be difficult. The culture of liberty has been nearly annihilated, and even if Mr. Maduro is overthrown, that culture must be rebuilt from the ground up….”

 

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304026804579411673609914710

The Roots of Venezuela’s Disorder

Russia and Cuba are reaping what they’ve sown in Latin America.

On Wednesday, as Venezuelan strongman Nicólas Maduro was promising more repression to crush relentless student protests, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters that Moscow plans to put military bases in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. A few days later a Russian spy ship arrived in Havana harbor unannounced.

The usual Cold War suspects are back. More accurately, they never left. Former KGB officer Vladimir Putin is warning President Obama that Russia can make trouble in the Americas if the U.S. insists on solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Meanwhile, Latin America’s aging Marxists are lining up behind Mr. Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chávez.

Russia and Cuba are finally reaping the benefits of the revolution they have long sown in Latin America. Any chance of defeating them requires setting the record straight about how Venezuela got so poor.

ENLARGE
Reuters

Venezuelan politicians sold left-wing populism like snake oil for decades before Chávez came to power in 1999. They demagogued entrepreneurs and indoctrinated the masses with anti-businesses propaganda. From the earliest days of the Cuban revolution, Castro was a hero in Venezuelan universities where Cuban-Soviet propaganda flourished. By the 1960s school children were being weaned on utopian collectivism. The brainwashing intensified when Chávez opened Venezuela to Cuban proselytizers.

Through it all, the politically connected got rich, including the chavistas. But today a large part of the population believes that business is underhanded and greedy. This is why escaping the noose of totalitarianism is going to be difficult. The culture of liberty has been nearly annihilated, and even if Mr. Maduro is overthrown, that culture must be rebuilt from the ground up.

To be sure, social media makes it harder to put a smiley face on tyranny than in the 1980s. Back then a doctrine like sandinismo could be marketed by Cuba and Russia to naïve Americans as the salvation of the Nicaraguan poor even while the Sandinista army burned Miskito Indian villages and arrested banana-selling peasants as speculators in the highlands.

Today word gets around. A Feb. 18 cellphone image from the Venezuelan city of Valencia—of a young man carrying the limp body of 22-year-old Genesis Carmona after she was shot in the head by Maduro enforcers—has gone viral as an emblem of the repression.

Yet so far Mr. Maduro has escaped broad international condemnation. Most eyes are on Ukraine. In this hemisphere, Chávez bought friends with “oil diplomacy.” Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and El Salvador are applauding Venezuelan brutality.

Mr. Maduro even has Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on board. She has dined out for some 25 years on her imprisonment by Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship. She seems proud of her past in an armed urban underground that tried to topple a dictator. But now she is backing the crackdown on Venezuelan civil liberties.

Thanks in large part to Ms. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, Brazil has blown its chance to become a global economic player over the past decade. As a card-carrying member of Chávez’s Bolivarian empire, however, Brazil feels geopolitically important. Ms. Rousseff knows it won’t last if Venezuela’s military government doesn’t. The collapse of chavismo would take away the best weapon Brasilia has ever had in its quest to defeat U.S. hegemony in the region.

Inside Venezuela, many have bought the line that the country was ruled by capitalist oligarchs before Chávez. Few remember that former President Carlos Andres Pérez (aka CAP) was a socialist who nationalized Venezuelan oil in 1976. The early years of his first term in office (1974-1979) were a populist fiesta as oil prices jumped along with government spending. Many entrepreneurs and some intellectuals were unhappy with his disregard for the rule of law and his decrees, including price controls. They were right. The big party ushered in the “lost decade” of the 1980s.

CAP returned for a second term in 1989. This time he tried market liberalism. But he underestimated Soviet-Cuban organizational skills in the barrios. When he increased gasoline prices slightly and some Caracas bus fares were raised, militants unleashed the mobs they had inculcated. Chávez rose on the heels of the “Caracazo,” as that fateful event is known.

CAP tried to free the economy, but he took “austerity” advice from the International Monetary Fund, and the adjustment was too painful. In 1993 his many political enemies used allegations of corruption, dug up by a pro-Castro journalist, to remove him from office. Today he remains a symbol among chavistas, not of a disruptive socialist but of a corrupt oligarchy.

Mr. Maduro seems confident that he can keep blaming entrepreneurs for Venezuelan suffering. That would explain why, though store shelves are already empty, the government is implementing the “law of just prices.” It threatens companies that don’t obey price controls with penalties that include expropriation, corruption charges and jail. This will asphyxiate business, creating more shortages and leaving the government as the only supplier of food and other necessities. But then that’s the point, isn’t it?

Da.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com

 

 

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