Chavismo: one man’s tragic story

We’ve reported a lot here about the nightmare that Venezuela has become as a result of socialism, but nothing makes the point more vividly than a personal story. The January 2020 issue of Reason features an article entitled “Socialism Killed My Father” by one José Cordeiro. Cordeiro – who is from Venezuela, but lives in the Bay Area and works in Silicon Valley – tells of being summoned home to Caracas by his mother because his father had experienced kidney failure.

A scene from a Caracas hospital

First problem: getting there. Major US airlines used to fly frequently to Caracas from many US airports. Now he had to fly to Miami and “purchase a ticket for an exorbitant sum from Santa Barbara Airlines, a Venezuelan carrier that has since gone bankrupt.”

Second problem: health care. “Even in the best of the few remaining private clinics,” writes Cordeiro, “there was a chronic lack of basic supplies and equipment.” And of medicines. In some Venezuelan hospitals, electricity and water were both being rationed.

Third problem: air travel again. Cordeiro and his mother decided that old dad would be better off getting treatment in a hospital in Spain, his home country. But the earliest available flight to Spain was three weeks away. Alas, it proved to be too long a wait: “Just two days before he was scheduled to leave his adopted country, my father died because of its disastrous policies.”

Hugo Chavez

When did that happen? In August of 2013 – more than six years ago, not long after the death of Hugo Chávez and the ascent to the presidency of Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro. In other words, it was long before everyday life had gotten so terrible in Venezuela that the mainstream media around the world had actually begun to report on it, and long before outspoken international fans of chavismo had finally been shamed into silence.

“Things have gotten much worse since then,” Cordeiro writes. But even six years ago they were bad enough that Cordeiro’s father died when, in a country with a halfway decent economy, he would have been saved. And this was a man of relative privilege – a man who could afford to be treated a private clinic.

Cordeiro explains that he’s written his article because he’s concerned about “[t]he growing number of people in the West who say they prefer socialism” because it would mean “universal health care.” He notes that when he was a child in the 1960s and 70s, Venezuela “was a land of opportunity, with relatively free markets, low inflation, little foreign debt, and something close to full employment. The local currency, the bolivar, was considered one of the strongest and most stable in the world.” During that period, “Venezuela became the wealthiest country in all of Latin America” with a GDP close to that of Texas. “Some pundits even foresaw the Venezuelan economy eclipsing the Lone Star State’s by the 1980s.”

Nicolas Maduro

Then came socialism. The foreign oil companies were nationalized. When Hugo Chávez came to power in 1998, socialism in Venezuela deteriorated into something closer to Communism. The result: an “economic crisis” worse than any that has taken place “in a peacetime country since World War II,” with an inflation rate that could reach “anywhere between 1 million and 10 million percent by the end of 2019” and citizens who earn “the lowest average minimum salary in the world.” The number of refugees fleeing this country with 32 million inhabitants may reach 5 million by the end of this year, and the annual number of murders has climbed to around 25,000.

Cordeiro recalls that when he was a kid, he and his friends calls Caracas, with no irony whatsoever, the “capital of Heaven.” But now, he laments, thanks to chavismo, it “has no gas, no light, no food, no water, no jobs, no money, no medicine, and no hope.” In sum: “Socialism kills in Venezuela, like everywhere else it has been implemented. It kills regardless of local flavoring or whatever branding the individual dictator employs. It is beyond reason that this ideology, which has led to the deaths of more people than any other during modern history, which was thoroughly and tragically discredited in the 20th century, is still racking up body counts in 2019. May we finally learn this tragic lesson.” Amen.

Who knew? Mayor Mike likes China

Mayor Mike

Michael Bloomberg is not only the former mayor of New York City and a recently announced candidate for president of the United States; he is also the richest person in New York State and the fourteenth richest person on earth. This wealth, however, has not prevented him from praising Communist China. To be sure, Bloomberg refuses to admit that China is, in fact, Communist. Well, yes, he acknowledged that it’s run by something called the Communist Party, but, in a September 27 interview with PBS, he was quick to add that the Party “wants to stay in power in China, and they listen to the public. When the public says I can’t breathe the air, Xi Jinping is not a dictator; he has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”

Beijing

Politically correct though PBS may be, Bloomberg’s interviewer, Margaret Hoover, was, to her credit, so taken aback by Bloomberg’s claim that she actually responded by saying, with obvious astonishment: “He’s not a dictator?” “No,” replied Bloomberg. “He has a constituency to answer to.” Hoover, admirably, wasn’t buying this fantasy: “He doesn’t have a vote. He doesn’t have a democracy. He’s not held accountable by voters.”

Bloomberg went on to defend China’s environmental policies. Note that we’re speaking of a country that is such a serious polluter that a large percentage of its people walk the streets wearing masks to prevent them from inhaling deadly particles.

Beijing at street level

Is Bloomberg dumb? Of course not. You don’t get to be a billionaire by being an idiot. The fact is that few Americans who are as rich as he is don’t have financial interests in China. While the billionaire currently in the White House feels he owes it to the American people to take on the hefty Chinese tariffs that have contributed to that country’s swift economic growth and to the destruction of much of the American manufacturing sector, other U.S. billionaires, such as Bloomberg, prefer not to rock the boat and thereby protect their own financial interests at the expense of American factory workers. As New York magazine noted when reporting on Bloomberg’s remarks earlier this month, “The billionaire has vast financial interests in China, and those interests have allegedly compromised his civic-minded endeavors in the past. In 2013, the New York Times reported that Bloomberg News had killed an investigation that had threatened to upset Chinese officials.

Xi Jinping

As Kim Hirsch asked on December 3 at the Victory Girls Blog, “What is it about billionaires when dollar signs mean more to them than oppression of other humans? Or even the security of their own nation?” Hirsch noted that China has not only “organized mass detentions of Uighur Muslims in the western Xinjiang province” but that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in November, “exposed China’s operating manuals that use data analysis to select whom they will detain. Not criminal activity. Just algorithms. As a result, people randomly disappear.” Hirsch quoted an Australian analyst who explained: “That’s how state terror works. Part of the fear that this instills is that you don’t know when you’re not OK.” But what should any of this matter to the fourteenth richest person on earth, who, as Hirsch reported, is “financing Chinese companies through US investor dollars he sends to the Chinese bond market.”

Trump

It’s funny how these things work. Bloomberg is 77 years old, and has $54 billion in assets. You might think that at this stage of his life, he’d figure he had enough money and, like Trump (who has lost billions in net worth since he became president), decide to give back. Well, Bloomberg seems to be the poster boy for the fact that some people, no matter how rich, just aren’t interested in giving back. Trump, whatever you think of him, is at least a regulation-cutter driven by a core belief in individual freedom: Bloomberg, famous for banning large sodas while mayor of New York, is a control freak, a man who craves power, and a man whose love of power and control are palpably driven by a desire to ensure that his bank balance keeps rising until he meets his maker – to whom, if that event actually takes place, he will have to explain his readiness to whitewash Chinese Communism, sell out American labor, and pick up more money than one man could ever spend in a hundred lifetimes.

Sentimentalizing savagery

Christopher Columbus

On this site we’ve tended to focus on the perverse attraction of some people in Western democracies, either today or within the last century or so, to the tyrants and tyrannies of their own era. But the sentimentalization of brutality has taken a variety of forms. Not so many decades ago, the legacy of Christopher Columbus was celebrated throughout the United States. Yes, historians recognized that some of the Europeans who settled in the New World did bad things. But the natives were no saints either. American students at all levels of the educational system were presented with a more or less balanced picture of their country’s past.

Then came books like Kirkpatrick Sale’s The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy (1990), which presented a totally new – and totally black-and-white – account of the encounter between Native Americans and Europeans. This new version of history depicted the pre-Columbian Americas as a veritable Garden of Eden. To listen to Sale and his ilk, you’d think that the primitive tribes that inhabited the Western hemisphere, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, lived in perfect peace with nature and with one another, and that life within these tribes was marked by a degree of social harmony that has yet to be achieved in our own time.

All over the Western world, educators picked up this romantic lie and ran with it. The same professors and intellectuals who idealized the likes of Stalin and Mao as a way of expressing their contempt for the United States and its democratic allies proved more than eager to idealize, as well, the Navajos and Aztecs, the Mayas and Incas, whose purportedly peaceable societies had been crushed by the leviathan that came sailing along in 1492 and thereafter in the form of the white man.

In fact, anyone acquainted with the actual history of pre-Columbian America knows that, just as the countries of Europe were constantly making war on one another, so were the tribes of the New World. And that’s just the start of it. Many of the social practices that characterized these tribes were so monstrous as to be beyond our imagining. One of them is child sacrifice, carried out on a regular basis and on a mass scale by a great many tribes. Recently, it was reported that archeologists in Peru had discovered what is “likely the world’s largest child sacrifice site” – or, at least, the largest to be uncovered so far. It contains the remains of some 250 children who, at the time of their ritual murders, which took place sometime in between the 13th and 15th centuries, were “between the ages of 4 and 14.” The children were part of the Chimu culture, and, like their unfortunate counterparts in other tribes, were sacrificed to honor their culture’s gods.

Tenochtitlan, where the Aztecs sacrificed their own

This find is horrifying in its scale, but hardly big news. Just last year, the bones of more than 140 sacrificed children, which were carbon-dated to around A.D. 1450, were found at another site in Peru. Other such finds have been made at sites in a number of countries in the Western Hemisphere. Child sacrifice has been proven to be a major part of the culture of the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, and other tribes. Each had its own special twist on – and justification for – the atrocity. The Aztecs sacrificed their own in the belief that the gods would reward them with rain. (After the children were murdered, their parents ate their remains.) The Incas killed some children by means of strangulation and others by leaving them out in the freezing cold. The Mayans were especially fond of sacrificing infants. All this is fully established. Yet it hasn’t kept countless schoolteachers from depicting these pre-Columbian tribes as companies of saints.

A Romanian rediscovers Communism – at Columbia University

Columbia University

If the name of Columbia University has cropped up so often on this website, it’s because few American institutions of higher education are so crammed with tyranny-loving ideologues. It was Columbia, let’s remember, that invited then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address its students. Columbia economist Joseph Stiglitz has enriched himself by serving as a “consultant” to corrupt regimes such as the Kirchner thugocracy in Argentina – regimes that, in turn, he has then publicly praised as being on the up-and-up. (Can you say “quid pro quo”?) Hamid Dabashi, who teaches Middle East and Asian Languages, equates Gaza to Auschwitz, downplays the Holocaust, and calls Zionists “hyenas.” Sociologist Saskia Sassen, an outspoken enemy of capitalism and Israel, commutes weekly between her luxurious homes in New York and London while also flying constantly all over the glove to scold audiences for the size of their carbon footprints. As we noted the other day, Kathy Boudin, the cop-killing mother of San Francisco’s newly elected DA, teaches at Columbia. So does Jamal Joseph, who was sentenced to over a decade for his role in the same crime. Joseph Mossad is a gay man who serves as an apologist for the brutal treatment of gay man in the Muslim world. And Gil Anidjar teaches a course in which, ignoring Arabic autocracy throughout the centuries, and dropping down the memory hole the monstrously aggressive Muslim wars of conquest against Europe and other Christian lands, he presents Arabs as having consistently, throughout history, been Europe’s victims – period.

Andrei Serban

It’s gotten so bad that Andrei Serban, a film, theater, and opera director who in 1969 fled communism in Romania – where he was director of the Romanian National Theater – and who is a longtime tenured professor in Columbia’s theater department, has now decided that it’s time to flee Columbia, too, which he describes as being “on its way to full-blown communism.” One example: he had felt pressured to cast a male-to-female transgender student in the female lead of Romeo and Juliet, even though he felt the individual in question wasn’t up to the job. One example: during a departmental search for a new faculty member, a dean insisted that the vacancy couldn’t be filled by the person Serban considered most qualified, because the candidate in question was a white male heterosexual. “I felt like I was living under communism again,” Serban commented.

Meryl Streep in The Cherry Orchard

Serban is hardly an old fogy. In Paris he studied under Peter Brook, whose radical, experimental stagings of new and classic works of theater revolutionized the art of modern theater directing. Serban brought his innovative approach to the U.S., where he directed Meryl Streep in a Lincoln Center production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Liev Schreiber in a Public Theater staging of Hamlet. Serban has also directed numerous classics, ranging from The Merchant of Venice to Lysistrata, at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, directed operas at the Met in New York and the Opéra Bastille in Paris, and plied his trade at other prestigious venues around the Western world. Throughout his career, his name has been a byword for cutting-edge theater, making him a darling of the high-cultural establishment. All the more ironic, therefore, that such a figure should feel compelled to quit a plum job at an American academic institution because he felt that the guiding political ideology of that institution had shifted too far away from classical liberalism in the direction of the lockstep collectivist groupthink that he thought he had escaped half a century ago in totalitarian Romania.

A further irony: Serban he explained his decision to quit Columbia in an October 26 interview with a TV station in his formerly Communist homeland, which is now a free country.