Can Corbyn accept that Venezuela is a socialist experiment gone wrong?
It has been horrific to see what has happened to Venezuela over the past few years, under the authoritarian regime of Nicolás Muduro.
After years of rule under Muduro, the country has turned from a thriving democracy to a fictitious dictatorship, with civilians risking retribution by rallying on the streets of the Caracas with a simple message to the administration; “estas terminado!”
The country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with 2 million Venezuelans fleeing the country, and an estimated 2.5 million predicted to leave by 2020. This mass emigration is on the same scale as the Syrian refugee crisis.
Venezuela was once a powerhouse. It was the richest country in Latin America with the largest oil reserves and a pluralist state that was praised worldwide. By 2019, however, its institutions and economy are in shambles; the United states does not recognise Muduro as leader and UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has spoken out in solidarity against the fascist regime which silences opponents and rigs the system from within. The National Constitute Assembly is one case in point; Muduro replaced several Supreme Court Justices with cronies that have helped consolidate Maduro’s power as absolutist-in-chief.
Economically, there is immense poverty and hyperinflation, which has soared to 946 per cent – the highest of any nation state. The effects of all of this have all been documented. Public services such as hospitals are struggling to treat patients with the right medical assistance. The people have been hit hard. They struggle to pay for shopping and are resorting to eating rotten meat from bins just to survive. It seems that Maduro’s hunger for power is starving the populous into desperation.
When you have state intervention and social organisation in the way in the way Venezuela does, corruption and fiscal instability is inevitable. Over the course of a decade, government authorities have seized over 1,000 companies in the private sector and implemented a huge wave of nationalisation. Under Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, growth was booming thanks to oil. In his response, the populist leader brought in many welfare programs, such as improved healthcare and education. But this in turn led to a growing deficit, meaning that after his death in 2015, these programs could not be continued. Add to the fact that oil prices have tanked, and the sustainability of the economy has crashed to monumental lows. Maduro has also rigged the economic system to keep himself in power, giving his circle lower currency rates.
As the social and economic collapse of the Land of Grace continues, many politicians in Britain – particularly on the left of the spectrum – are refusing to recognise the nation’s tragic demise, claiming only that it was, as Kate Andrews put it, “[A] socialist experiment gone wrong”. Critics place the blame on external factors such as Obama and Trump, who, just this week, placed hard sanctions on oil and has backed a coup. Then there is the old age saying this is not the utopia philosophers had envisaged. Foreign actors did not cause Venezuela’s collapse, their leadership created this mess.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had previously extolled the country as an example of how socialism and state intervention can function, which in his eye would provide a basis for governance. The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, thinks the country’s problems were because it took a “wrong turn”. They are belligerently ignoring the reports from the UN, Amnesty International and America. McDonnel won’t intervene or say “stop” to Maduro. If the Islington North MP is to show real Prime Ministerial qualities and win the support of Britons, he should speak out, apologise.
What happens next in this ever-developing story is up for debate and scrutiny. At this time, military intervention – as suspected by Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro – is a hasty reaction which might make the situation worse. But what is needed is a consolidated approach from neighbouring countries to think of a solution to support the population, which may include a negotiated settlement and general election. But what is clear is that the country cannot recover whilst Maduro is in charge, otherwise it will spiral continue to spiral into uncertainty.