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.