Just a decade ago, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela was lauded by the left as a shining example of a successful socialism. However, over the past two years, Venezuela has slipped into the status of “not real socialism,” after the inevitable failure of Chavez’s destructive policies. A common tactic of apologists is to blame the failure of the socialist regime on Nicolás Maduro—Chavez’s successor. This view is intellectually dishonest; it was Chavez’s policies that led the Venezuelan state to the brink of collapse.
Chavez appeased the masses by offering them both state-subsidized necessities and luxuries from oil profits. The socialist government, naturally, holds a monopoly on the production and sale of oil in Venezuela. Chavez’s biggest blunder was stifling economic diversification, which led to an accelerated decline when oil prices fell in 2014. The government was no longer able to provide the “bread and circus” the people came to rely on and the people responded by voting for the opposition in the 2015 parliamentary elections, where they took a supermajority in the nearly powerless body. The implosion of the rentier state in Venezuela has led to instability and violent backlash from the Venezuelan public.
Maduro’s approval rating has descended to 21%, as opposed to around 45% when he took office in 2013. He retains his grasp on power through brute force with the use of state authorities and government sponsored militias. In response, Venezuelans have risen up in both violently and nonviolently against their authoritarian government. The most recent example was the symbolic referendum on July 17th opposing Maduro’s most recent power grab. Riots have been commonplace since the delay of the elections last September and escalated to a critical level when rioters bombed a government building, pushing the country further toward an inevitable civil war.
Some say it is imperative we intervene to assist in Maduro’s ouster, but I say it would be completely unproductive. Intervention would only support the narrative pushed by state propaganda and enable socialists and their apologists to blame the failure of their system on the “evil imperialist United States” rather than allowing the inherent flaws of socialism to expose themselves.