Time To Pray For The Citizens Of Venezuela

I don’t pray very often but there are times when events are so catastrophic, so desparate, and so predictable that prayer is in order and Venezuela has reached that point. While Hugo Chavez is big on socialist rhetoric, he has always been very short on actual implementation.

James Surowiecki, the financial columnist for the New Yorker, explained it this way:

To people on both the left and the right, Hugo Chávez is a kind of modern-day Castro, a virulently anti-American leader who has positioned himself as the spearhead of Latin America’s “Bolivarian revolution.” He calls for a “socialism of the twenty-first century,” and regularly floats radical economic ideas; during his recent campaign for reëlection, he suggested he might move Venezuela to a barter system. When he spoke in front of the United Nations General Assembly in September, a day after President Bush, he said, “The devil came here yesterday.” And, just last month, after he was overwhelmingly reëlected to the Presidency, he dedicated the victory to Castro and proclaimed it “another defeat for the devil who tries to dominate the world.”

Chávez’s rhetoric might not be out of place in “The Little Red Book,” yet everyday life for many Venezuelans today looks more like the Neiman-Marcus catalogue. Thanks to the boom in the price of oil, many Venezuelans have been indulging in rampant consumerism that might give even an American pause. In the past year, auto sales have doubled, property prices have soared (mortgage loans are up three hundred per cent), and, thanks to this buying frenzy, credit-card loans have nearly doubled. And while Chávez has done a good job of redistributing oil revenue to the Venezuelan poor, via so-called misiones, designed to improve education, health care, and housing, and has forced oil companies to renegotiate contracts, there has been no nationalization of industry, relatively little interference with markets, and only small gestures toward land reform. If this is socialism, it’s the most business-friendly socialism ever devised.

In other words, most people thought Hugo Chavez was all bark and no bite when it came to actually implementing socialism. Then Chavez had this to say:

As Venezuela embarked on another six years under Hugo Chavez, the president announced plans to nationalize power and telecommunications companies and make other bold changes to increase state control as he promised a more radical push toward socialism.

Chavez, who will be sworn in Wednesday to a third term that runs until 2013, also said he wanted a constitutional amendment to strip the Central Bank of its autonomy and would soon ask the National Assembly, solidly controlled by his allies, to approve ”a set of revolutionary laws” by presidential decree.

”We’re moving toward a socialist republic of Venezuela, and that requires a deep reform of our national constitution,” Chavez said in a televised address after swearing in his new Cabinet on Monday. ”We’re heading toward socialism, and nothing and no one can prevent it.’

In other words, Chavez is serious and is now planning on doing the real work that socialism requires, that of heavy nationalizing of industry, changing constitutions, and possibly (sic) reducing property rights. History has repeatedly, universally, and clearly shown what results those policies lead to – political censorship (already begun, see here), large poverty, and finally the mass killing of innocent people, espeically farmers, and the poor.

The economist writes:

This is terrible news for Venezuela, which has already disastrously underinvested in its main source of revenue; if oil prices keep tumbling, Mr Chavez and his constituents will both be in serious trouble. It is one thing to demand better terms on favourable oil leases, and another thing to nationalise wide swathes of your economy; I find it hard to imagine that this won’t chase out much of the foreign investment that Venezuela will desperately need. The bishops of Caracas should be praying hard that oil prices stay high.

P.J. O’Rourke has a term for stories that are invalidated by later developments: OTBE, or OverTaken By Events. For journalists, this is annoying, but since universal, not too much so. But when events in the oil market finally overtake Venezuelans, it may be disastrous.

It is time to start praying for the citizens of Venezuela.

13 Responses to “Time To Pray For The Citizens Of Venezuela”

  1. LaurenceB says:

    History has repeatedly, universally, and clearly shown what results those policies lead to – political censorship (already begun, see here), large poverty, and finally the mass killing of innocent people, espeically farmers, and the poor.

    Too far HP. You’re going way too far.

    One can disagree with socialism (as I generally do) without claiming that socialism leads to “mass killings”.

    See Scandinavia.

  2. Richard says:

    Perhaps socialism does not lead to “mass killings” but the rise of dictatorships and the confiscation of private property often do.

  3. msondo says:

    No land is being ‘confiscated.’ It’s simply bought for market value and redistributed to whatever group will vote for Chavez. It’s sorta the same thing here whenever land is taken away to build a Walmart or stadium, no? Anyway, I was kinda happy when Chavez came into the picture because he was a big middle-finger to the imperialism that had only served a small minority of people and kept the larger minority of South Americans poor. I was hoping Chavez wouldn’t be reelected because I don’t think his attitude and weirdness is good for the long term but ah well, they reelected him so they can live with him.

    Anyway, I thought the oil industry was already nationalized? Isn’t Citgo essentially the national Venezuelan oil company? They do pretty good in the free market. I think Venezuela is a better oil country than Saudi Arabia.

    Chavez is no hero though. Human Rights Watch is starting to report stories of his critics being attacked on several levels.

  4. LaurenceB,

    There is a difference between ‘regulated capitalism’ or ‘welfare capitalism’, like Western Europe and Scandinavia vs more true collectivism that nationalizes even the telecommunications industry and ‘other bold changes to increase state control'(not to mention changes to the constitution, and bans on free speech that Chavez is also pursuing). Western Europe and Scandinavia are sometimes called ‘socialist’ countries but that is more for rhetorical purposes than actual facts.

    While one can say they are ‘socialist lite’ (but on that definition, so is the USA, just more ‘lite’), they are vastly different than what Chavez is proposing here. At the heart of all Western Europe (even France) and Scandinavian countries is still capitalism that allocates resources for the vast amount of goods. In addition, property rights and open free trade are central to the Nordic countries economic model (see here).

    Contrast this to what Chavez is proposing and the differences becomes like night and day – Chavez wants real socialism. Chavez is proposing to change the Venezuela economic model to drastically increase state control, to weaken property rights, remove free speech, and who knows what else. Based on that record, the historical record is much more straight-forward and ‘has repeatedly, universally, and clearly shown what results those policies lead to’.

    I grant that not all hope is lost, there are some indications that Chavez will continue a high level of globalization, will leave enough property rights in place to keep some foreign investment, and will try to pursue a ‘business friendly socialism’. So Venezuela’s future is not as dire as it could be, but it is certainly pointing in a very dangerous direction. Time will tell, I’ll be praying.

  5. msondo,
    No land is being ‘confiscated.’ It’s simply bought for market value and redistributed to whatever group will vote for Chavez.

    Are you sure? If this is true, then there is much more hope for Venezuela than I had thought.

    Btw, while I am no fan of nationalization, I don’t consider the confiscation of the oil industry on the same level as, say, confiscating farmland, or homes, or other more dangerous threats to property rights. I can see instances where one might want to nationalize an oil industry, but there are no instances I can think of where removing property rights on farmland or homes, just to give two examples, would not push one towards ‘serfdom‘.

    Chavez is no hero though. Human Rights Watch is starting to report stories of his critics being attacked on several levels.

    On the other hand, maybe hope is already lost. 🙁 I’ll be praying.

  6. Joe Gringo says:

    I too pray for the people of Venezuela, it’s incredible that Thuggo Chavez was elected, but I guess when it comes right down to it, the majority (62%) of Venezuelan’s were stupid enough to believe and vote for an abusive, international grand-stander who fantasizes about going to war with the United States. Although Chavez captured 62% of the vote, opponent Manuel Rosales by far had the biggest crowds, enthusiasm, the best slogans and ideas (read below) yet took a beating. It is clear Chavez bought this election with the billions he had at his disposal, with his hold/power over the media and through intimidation efforts. Why do Venezuelans want this guy as President when their country has seen a rapid decline in Freedom of the Press, Political Rights and Civil Liberties, World Economic Growth Competitiveness, Index of Economic Freedom, Business and Investment Risk, Total Competitiveness Rankings is beyond rational thinking…….stats are here:


    Venezuela has so much to offer, a capitalistic goldmine, not to mention some of the hottest females on the planet, but we may never get to see that happen. I wouldn’t rule out an assasination attempt sometime in the future.

  7. As much as I hate socialism, I would be strongly against any ‘assasination attempt’ by the United States or any other country of Hugo Chavez. Communism is not the international threat that it once was, and so as socialist as Venezuela gets, it is no real threat to the United States (the USA would always be able to whipe them out faster than we did Iraqs military).

    Therefore, there is no basis for which to assasinate a leader who has, while questionably so, satisfied the international communities democracy test. Chavez is Venezuelan’s problem now, and though we all know the likely road he will take them, it is their lesson to learn, as dire as that lesson may be. All we can do, IMHO, is pray.

    Though I would be all for an open refugee plan that allows Venezuelan political targets free stay in the USA, especially for the Venezuelan women. 😀

  8. Joe Gringo says:

    The last 8-10 months I have been following the writings of Aleksander Boyd and Daniel Duquenal, both in Venezuela, they paint a picture of the anti Chavez crowd to be worse than left hating GW Bush crowd and alluded to the fact that it wouldn’t be a surprise if in fact an attempt was made. I too doubt that would happen, but man, Chavez is really pushing the envelope.

  9. msondo says:

    I know firsthand that much of the land in Venezuela is owned by very few people. One rich friend described huge areas of land his family owned which they were forced to sell to the government. They were paid the market value and the land was given to villagers to farm and develop. Part of the problem is that land has always been in the same hands for centuries and only changes hands to people of the same class. The land reform is meant to push Venezuela forward economically, not to mention to win votes. 😛 I’m not a big fan of it, and obviously my friend wasn’t happy, but it is hard for me to feel too sorry for his type. All they are doing is liquidating land that is not being used otherwise.

  10. True_Liberal says:

    I’m sure that conditions in Chavez’ utopia are inspiring many thousands of other Latinos to immigrate there. (yeah, right…)

  11. msondo,

    But farmland redistributions have been tried over and over again historically, and they have always failed. The latest example of that is Zimbabwe, see here.

    Maybe the fact that fair market price is paid, much like eminent domain in the United States, will result in better results this time, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  12. Fernando says:

    Chavez is a CREATION of the democrats’ philosophy.

    In rich versus poor, in capitalism in general as well as the social structure.

    For certain elections Chavez had to go to the democrats to get their permission in order to pursue his policies, and why would the democrats support such a lunatic??

    Other than the reason stated above the answer is real simple; To make this administration “Bush Administration” look bad.

    Their go between was Jimmy Carter, of course when he realized his mistake “Carter”, he tried to back peddle, but by that time the damage was already done.

    People! Some of you have figured out that I am wheelchair bound for LIFE, and the scars that being in the wheelchair have given me is NOTHING in comparison to the scars the democrats have given me in support of dictators like chavez,
    As well as others.


  13. Fernando says:

    It’s a pity that very few people are concentrating on the proliferation of a Nuclear Latin America.

    Ya know, the spill over from the debates that the democrats have politized over weapons of mass destruction.

    It would be an interesting read if some one would pick up on that one. 🙂

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