Venezuela—A Failed Nation State

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

What I saw of Venezuela back in the 1990’s before the rise of Hugo Chavez and what it is now could not be more of a stark contrast. Yes, there was a good deal of crime then, and yes a LOT of people in Venezuela were poor and felt left out of the political process. This is one of the reasons why Hugo Chavez was able to take power. But there were four things that Venezuela had at that time that it does not now. First, it had freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the right to peacefully assemble so that the people could express their grievances. Second, Venezuela’s medical system was one of the best in South America and treatment for the poor was largely free. Third, there were no shortages of basic products and commodities. No one thought twice about buying bread, beans, meat, milk and dairy products, and NO store had empty shelves. Toys and a whole list of luxury items were widely available in all of Caracas’ department stores. Finally, the national currency, the bolivar, may not have been in the best shape, but it still had buying power and the U.S. dollar and many European currencies were widely used.

Fast-forward to now, and Venezuela to put it mildly is a basket case. The national currency, the bolivar, is for all due purposes completely worthless. Venezuela has the highest inflation rate in the world today, and this has destroyed the value of the national currency. No freedom of speech, the press or the right to peacefully assemble. Store shelves empty of even basic items such as bread, rice and beans, milk and dairy products (certainly no more luxury items since the Venezuelan government imposed strict and crippling controls on foreign currencies which can no longer be found in Venezuela). Crime out of control and instead of police and para-militaries fighting crime they attack unarmed Venezuelan protesters crying for freedom and basic goods. An opposition Venezuelan Congress calling for the impeachment of the president but then being unable to do anything about it because the president controls the judiciary and military. And in all of this mess is Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro residing over a country ready to disintegrate.

Even a military coup would be far, far preferable to seeing the country fall to pieces the way Somalia did. The situation is so bad in Venezuela that Venezuelan children are dying of preventable viruses and diseases such as meningitis, the flu or measles because every clinic and hospital—private or state-run—does not have even have the basic medicines and equipment to operate. Many economic and South America experts are predicting Venezuela will explode and explode in a VERY ugly way. For most who are predicting this, it is not a question of “if” but of “when.”

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