Venezuela’s leader, Hugo Chavez, is destroying his country’s economy with his failed socialist policies and the statist mentality that drives them. Chavez set out to remake Venezuela by more equitably distributing its wealth, but he has instead destroyed it and driven away the foreign capital that fuels emerging economies.
The Economist has documented extensively what it has called “the wrecking of Venezuela.” That country, which is blessed with abundant natural resources, has seen its mineral wealth swallowed up by social engineering programs. It has experienced economic stagnation as the rest of Latin America has prospered. It has suffered immensely from Chavez’s war on the private sector, which has targeted everything from supermarkets to golf courses, and damaged the country’s main engine of economic growth. By interfering with the market economy with price controls, Chavez has disrupted the flow of commerce and has created an artificial economy predicated on graft and waste. As described by Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal, resourceful Venezuelans have found their way around the Chavez economic model, trading with their free Colombian neighbors at the border.
Nevertheless, the lack of economic freedom has expectedly been accompanied by a crackdown on political freedom. In 2007, term limits on Chavez were removed by a narrow majority in a referendum, and since then the de-facto dictator has embarked on a war against dissenters; throwing opposition channels off the airwaves, prosecuting citizens for speaking their minds out, and targeting what is left of an independent judiciary. With elections coming up soon, it is feared that Chavez may attempt to rig the vote.
While blackouts roll the country and judges rot in jail, Venezuela’s authoritarian government has embarked on a foreign policy that is as belligerent as its domestic policy is stupid. The Chavez regime is funding FARC rebels in Colombia, helping ETA terrorists in Spain, and supplying support to its Iranian and Syrian compadres. The dictator has called the United States the “Great Satan,” attempted to install like-minded leaders in other Latin American countries, and has undermined attempts at regional economic integration under an American aegis.
All these actions are counter-productive for both the people of Venezuela and the citizens of the Americas. If Chavez continues down this path he will lose the next election or run his country into the ground. If not, his behavior will earn him a deadly comeuppance from the US, which he narrowly avoided in 2002.