Venezuela, the little Vienna of South America, as a land rich in tropical forests, peaceful highlands, a rich art history, and with a populace comprised of – what some considered to be – the most gorgeous people on the planet. This country is positively bursting with natural and human beauty. With respect to public policy, this nation is perhaps most famous for the political changes, initiated by Hugo Chavez and la Revolución bolivariana for the people. In the United States myriad actors, film makers, writers, and politicians have previously praised the nations economic and social reforms including Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Bernie Sanders.
But a closer examination of these policies and their effects on the people of the Bolivarian Republic reveal a far more horrifying side to what Chavez and his surviving supporters envisioned. Rather than transform into a thriving people’s paradise, Venezuela has, ever since the beginning of this century, has been plagued by an increasing number of socio-economic ills.
15. Venezuela Is The Most Dangerous Place To Drive
To be blunt, driving in Venezuela sucks! Nearly two-thirds of Venezuelans don’t understand simple road rules and almost three-quarters have, quite understandably, come to the conclusion that local authorities have been impotent with respect to enforcing basic traffic safety.
Over time, and keep in mind this will be a running theme through out this article, the motor vehicle fatality rate in the country started out fairly high in the late nineties and has exploded since then. To put specific numbers on the countries the second highest cause of death in 15-29 years old persons is death by car accident, and it’s the leading cause of death in early and pre-adolescent children.
At present Venezuela’s considered the third most dangerous place to drive, right below the authoritarian theocracy Iran and Iraq a country effectively experiencing full on anarchy.
14. Poverty Has Prompted The Murder of Motorcyclists
Aside from problems associated with being safe on the roads, in Venezuela simply owning a motorcycle is a liability. Given the shortage of spare parts for motorcycles (among other things) coupled with rampant poverty for most of the people, motorcycle thefts, specifically, have accelerated in recent years. What’s worse, Venezuelan motorcycle groups have reported that their members have been targeted by elaborate scams in which result cyclists are swindled and eventually murdered by thugs in order to steal their bikes or parts. Although government statistics aren’t available, Venezuelan bikers in the nation’s capital, Caracas, have reckoned that 17 people have been killed in these scams just within 2015.
13. The Country Has Been In A Series of Riots For Nearly Three Years Straight
Since this country has been in at first, slowly, then an ever increasingly rapid decline into poverty and despair since the beginning of this millennium. Although the countries previous leader Hugo Chavez never quite saw the full horrors of his policies, under Maduro, the effects of centralized economic controls have been felt in full. In response to the nation’s decline, a series of protests have erupted across the country, one after the other, since 2014. These protests have included publicized hunger strikes, peaceful sit-ins, mass marches, and even the erection of street barricades to obstruct traffic and attacks on government property. Since the police have been granted rather liberal options for pacifying these protests, peaceful or otherwise, up to and including lethal violence. In total, about 120 people have died during these protests.
12. Mass Incarceration Is Common
Since the Maduro administration has stripped Venezuelans of their constitutional rights, but peaceful protesters have no guarantee that they will not be subject to police brutality or even arrest. Consequently, hundreds of people have been arrested on spurious charges and incarcerated in the nations already bloated prisons.
Over crowding is common, and given the lack of training and material resources to penitentiary guards, prison gangs effectively have control over the incarcerated populace. As a result of thug rule and prison staff neglect, it is common for inmates to face intense intimidation and physical assault, or in some rare cases simply “disappear”. What’s worse, prison management is so corrupt that Human Rights Watch has recently reported that one mass grave, filled with fifteen bodies some of which were beheaded, exists in General Penitentiary of Venezuela in the state of Guárico.
11. Everything In Venezuela Has Been Rationed…Even Utilities
Given the severe breakdown in the countries coupled with the governments chosen, command and control economic system, shortages of goods is sadly a regularity. Everything from infant diapers to powdered milk has been rationed, and price controls on foreign imports for even the most basic goods such as rice and milk, have exacerbated the suffering of the Venezuelan people. But what’s worse are the controls on essentially domestic utilities including reliable electricity and quality water. Such utility rationing – in combination with already sparse, expensive hygiene and subsistence goods – has led to outbreaks of scabies, diarrhea, malaria, and dysentery throughout the country.
10. There’s No Room For Political Descent
Even if you are acting as king of a failing state, as is president Nicolas Maduro, one is never without challengers. Understandably, with the frightening advent of heightened criminality and government controls, a movement of governmental opposition has, through political and peaceful means, risen up against the Chavez-Maduro legacy. Naturally, Maduro has struck back against any political resistance with police state tactics, under the guise of labeling dissidents as fascists, capitalists or actors manipulated by foreign influence.
To be specific, political opponents of the ruling regime – most of whom are peaceful – have been summarily arrested and detained in Soviet-style nighttime roundups and held indefinitely. In the cases of those individual resistance leaders who have been released as a result of international scrutiny, such as the mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma and ally Leopoldo Lopez, they may still be held under house arrest. Further, since Maduro assuming near complete control of the country the constitutional rights of Venezuelans nationwide has been effectively abolished.
9. Most of The People Are Severely Malnourished
A common trait of socialists dictatorships is pronounced economic hardship within the general populace, while the “benevolent” elite, who’ve reallocated all of the wealth “justly”, live in extraordinary luxury. Venezuela is a classic – or rather more gruesome – example of precisely that. While the countries president, Nikolas Maduro, and his cronies eat well, have regular access to basic toiletries, and generally live well. Referring to Maduro himself, he’s considered to be one of the highest paid politicians in the world, with an income of $96 million, between July of 2017 and 2017, and a net worth of $275 million, according to MassMedia.net.
Erstwhile in the general populace, the average Venezuelan’s standard of living has dropped from general poverty over the last few years, into severe impoverishment and malnutrition. In fact, about nine in ten Venezuelans cannot afford food to feed themselves or their family, due to restrictions on trade, inflated money, and government rationing of foodstuffs. In one particularly horrifying case, starving Venezuelan citizens resorted to breaking into a zoo to butcher and eat the menagerie’s horse.
8. The Countries Leader Is (Essentially) An Autocrat
Following the democratic revolution against the nations military dictatorship at the end of the fifties, the president may be granted the powers to rule by decree if a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly approve such an enabling act. This means the president can draft and pass legislation without consulting the Assembly at all.
Five prior presidents have taken advantage of these powers before intermittently, but the current leader, President Nicolas Maduro, has taken full advantage of this authority. Being the anointed successor of Hugo Chavez, Maduro has, for the bulk of his reign…or rather “presidency”, has ruled through decree. It isn’t likely that Maduro will have to give up any of these powers either since he’s also effectively dissolved parliament by eliminating their legislative authority.
7. Despite Overreaching Government Authority, Anarchy Is Rampant
If it’s not obvious already, the republic that used to be the most wealthy in South America, is in a nigh constant state of chaos, despite the attempts by the state to maintain order and control. Besides a massive homicide rate (more on that below) general crime including robbery, kidnapping and home invasion has been on the increase for years. What has been the government’s response? Assignments to state workers requiring the placement of signs in public areas reminding the populace that they are legally prohibited from carrying weapons or, perhaps even more bizarrely, smoking.
Talk about a gangsters paradise.
6. The Countries Conditions Have Triggered A Mass Migration Crisis
Very often in the American news media, the concentration on mass migration has been on countries such as Syria and the greater Middle East. But in upper South America, there exists another refugee migration phenomenon. Since a growing number of Venezuelans can’t find jobs, security, or even food, they’ve boated, bused, or walked to their western and southern neighbors, Columbia and Brazil.
Keep in mind, Brazil’s economy has been on a worrying downturn for the last several years, and Columbia, despite a reduction in poverty since the middle of last decade, isn’t exactly an ideal refugee destination. Even so, the comparatively comfortable conditions in either nation have promoted the mass flight of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees. In summary, one and a half million Venezuelans have fled their home country to neighboring Columbia, Brazil, various Caribbean islands and the rest of the Americas.
5. The Bolivarian Republic Is One of the Least Free Countries in the Globe
If it’s not already evident, freedom is essentially non-existent in Venezuela. But besides the governmental corruption, state abductions on rival political factions, and a lack of civil liberties, property rights aren’t permitted at all. For virtually any reason Maduro’s can seize private assets for any reason, at any time.
Beyond this, the government, in the name of bringing about economic stability and fight the phantom of predatory capitalism, has instituted price and wage controls nation wide. Needless to say, they haven’t worked. As a result, an increasing number of Venezuelan citizens are dependent on smuggling and other black market activities.
4. Venezuela Has the Largest Petroleum Reserves in the World
You might think that impoverished countries like Venezuela are void of valuable minerals or other resources, but, in reality, this nation is awash in petroleum. Of all confirmed oil fields to date, Venezuela has the most active and reserve petroleum fields of any other nation on earth. But rather than provide spur economic activity and bring in foreign investment, the petroleum industry has for decades been nationalized by the government. Consequently, the oil industry has been completely mismanaged and failed to bring in sufficient revenue to save the nation’s floundering economy.
Weirdly, because of Venezuela’s oil production and subsidies for the industry, the country has some of the cheapest gasoline compared to any other country. However, it doesn’t really mean much since most citizens can’t afford (or keep ownership of) a motor vehicle.
3. Venezuela Has the Highest Murder Rate on Earth
With all of the rampant poverty, crime, starvation, police brutality, and general government oppression, people die in Venezuela. A lot. The national homicide is about 90-92 per 100,000, and may possibly peak in the capital city, Caracas, at 119 per 100,000. To explain these figures in a more meaningful manner, according to government source nearly 18,000 – though according to non-government sources that figure’s closer to 28,000 – were killed in 2015 alone. Put it another way, assuming the low figure, that’s equivalent to about half the population of the country of Liechtenstein being murdered every year. The Maduro administration, unsurprisingly, denies this.
2. World of Warcraft Currency is Worth More than the Nations Currency
Venezuela is a textbook case in the horrific effects that monetary inflation has on an economy. Within the nation basic goods – assuming you can find any – prices fluctuate constantly due to currency devaluation. In fact, some economists estimate that the inflation rate in Venezuela will hit 2,200% by the end of the year.
Hyperinflation has so badly depressed the value of the economy Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar is worth slightly less than the fictitious ‘Coin’ from the popular online role-playing game ‘World of Warcraft’. According to some reports, 11,185.95 bolivares are equivalent to about one US dollar, while 10,000 WoW coins have a real world value of 1.21 US dollars.
1. But It Still Could Be A Paradise On Earth
Even with the dismal economic conditions, mass migration, and constraints on the allocation of both natural and industrial resources, Venezuela could be a literal paradise. In addition to the vast petroleum reserves, the country is brimful with other minerals including gold, bauxite, iron, and diamonds.
The entirety of Venezuela is located within a tropical zone and has a varied flora and fauna, extensive fertile substrate, along with pristine beaches making the nation ideal for agriculture and tourism. Given this enormous potential for prosperity, the Bolivarian Republic could be a veritable Eden. Perhaps with the right changes in the direction of more economic and political freedom, it could be.
Sources: businessinsider.com, heritage.com, latimes.com, telepgraph.co.uk, washingtonpost.com
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