As of Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Once one of the world’s richest oil-producing nations with the largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela’s economy has now collapsed as a result of mismanagement and socialist policies. Instead of a workers’ paradise promised by the late leftist Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan people now suffer dramatic shortages of even the most basic of life’s necessities. Due to hunger caused by nationwide food shortages, the average Venezuelan has lost 24 pounds. Nine out of ten citizens live in poverty. At the end of 2018, Venezuela’s annual inflation rate hit a high of 80,000 percent. Infant mortality rates have risen with the decline in medical care. Millions have fled the misery of their country. The situation is so dire that parents who cannot feed their children have abandoned them in orphanages.
What went wrong? Two words: socialist misrule. Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis was man-made. During his 14 years in power, Chávez worked to expand government control of the economy by nationalizing key industries while increasing government spending. The administration of Nicolás Maduro continued the socialist policies of Chávez. From 1999 to 2018, the number of private companies in Venezuela dropped from 490,000 to 280,000. The current national economy is a fraction of its former size.
The suffering of the Venezuelan people socialist misrule should demonstrate to all nations the economic path not to take. Yet in the U.S., politicians including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, (D-CA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) continue to push for policies such as government-run health care, the elimination of private insurance, and a Green New Deal – proposing to pay for the plan by simply printing more money.
While American socialists appeal to economic illiteracy and ignore the lessons of history, Venezuelans who have experienced the effects of socialism firsthand are raising the alarm. Venezuelan citizen Daniel Di Martino said in a recent Fox News interview that, “People are starving in Venezuela because policies such as the one that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [supported] in her Green New Deal, which in reality is just the ‘red new deal’ which is just a socialist wish list, would destroy the U.S. economy and lead us into the path of Venezuela.”
Prime Minister Winston Churchill once observed, “the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” The latest failure of socialism playing out right before our eyes demonstrates his point. As if the cautionary tales of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and North Korea were not sufficient, Venezuela shows again that socialism does not work.
Venezuela stands on the edge of a precipice, with Juan Guaidó, leader of the popular opposition to end Maduro’s misrule, now recognized by the U.S. and major European Union member nations as the interim president. In his State of the Union address, President Trump said, “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” The lesson of its people’s sufferings shows why we must never embark on the path taken by Venezuela’s leaders.
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) is a Sunnyside native and represents the 4th Congressional District.