08.03.2017 0

Failing democratic socialism in Venezuela

By Natalia Castro

Venezuela is crumbling and with it, the left’s idea of a perfect socialist system. Yet the country’s President Nicolás Maduro, refuses to realize this obvious fact and instead, has resorted to political violence to silence his opposition. As the economy crumbles, the future of the oil industry Venezuela once relied on has been called into question. The devastation in Venezuela has grown from a political crisis to both an economic and humanitarian one.

During a vote last month, the Venezuelan people were asked to select, from a trusted list of allies in the governing party, a group to rewrite the nation’s constitution and maintain power in Venezuela until their work is finished. This would give Maduro and his ruling party the authority to dissolve branches of government such as the legislature, which is currently controlled by Maduro’s opposition party.

Voters were not given the ability to reject the plan, simply decide who they wanted on the council. The list was so corrupt it included Maduro’s own wife. While Maduro boosted high voter turnout, the election results have already been called into question.

Opposition spokesman Vicente Bello, criticized the lack of voter protection practices, such as the fact that voters were not asked to give proper identification. Voters were only allowed to cast ballots in any of three different locations.

Even a software company involved in setting up voting systems announced the turnout figure had been altered by at least one million votes.

While Venezuela is clearly operating under an illegitimate democracy, the situation only gets worse as Maduro responds to opposition with force.

Following the election, two opposition leaders under house arrest, Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo López, posted videos to YouTube urging Venezuelans to protest the election results and called the newly formed council a fraud. Within days, both individuals were imprisoned for making political statements.

The Trump administration has quickly imposed additional sanctions on President Maduro as a result. Trump hopes this encourages the release of all political prisoners held there.

But these two are not the only Venezuelans suffering.

James Kirchick explained in the LA Times that, “Socialist economic policies — price controls, factory nationalizations, government takeovers of food distribution and the like — have real human costs. Eighty percent of Venezuelan bakeries don’t have flour. Eleven percent of children under 5 are malnourished, infant mortality has increased by 30 percent and maternal mortality is up 66 percent. More than 100 people have died in anti-government demonstrations and thousands have been arrested.”

Economically, Venezuela cannot support its own people. Years of big government socialist policies have led to media crack downs, over printing of money, and a war on capitalism that the country can simply not win.

Now, as the country inches closer and closer to default on its bondholders, it could be bringing Russia into our own backyard.

In order to make enough money to run anything in their government, the Venezuelan government is negotiating giving their 49.9 percent stake in U.S. based oil refiner Citgo to Russia as collateral for a loan last year of about $1.5 billion, according to a CNBC report.

While foreign ownership of oil refiners is not prohibited in the U.S., having Russian control over what is deemed “critical infrastructure” in the U.S. has raised a red flag to the Senate Committee on Foreign Investment. Citgo has three refineries, nine pipelines, and 48 product terminals across the U.S. which could fall into Russian hands.

Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez are attempting to garner increased attention on the issue, and have taken the lead in demanding more sanctions to high ranking individuals in the Venezuelan government.

Rubio notes that this has been a pressing issue even before last month’s vote, telling the Miami Herald, “The current situation in Venezuela justifies sanctions on numerous individuals responsible for supporting the Maduro regime…This is only the beginning for Maduro and those empowering him to destroy democracy and abuse the Venezuelan people. More sanctions await should Maduro move forward with Sunday’s fraudulent vote.”

If the left wants to see the dangers of socialist policy, they must look no further than Venezuela. President Maduro is on a tirade to strip the state of its democratic principles as the country continues to fall into political, humanitarian, and economic turmoil. The U.S. must prepare our own assets for the reality of the Venezuelan collapse, and learn the lessons of attempting to implement utopia.

Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government

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