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OH HERE IT COMES: Venezuela Is Heading for a Soviet-Style Collapse 

Remember last time an oil economy crashed catastrophically?

Anders Aslund writes: Venezuela is not the first developed country to put itself on track to fall into a catastrophic economic crisis. But it is in the relatively unusual situation of having done so while in possession of enormous oil assets. There aren’t many precedents to help understand how this could have happened and what is likely to happen next.

There is, however, at least one — the Soviet Union’s similar devastation in the late 1980s. Its fate may be instructive for Venezuela — which is not to suggest Venezuelans, least of all the regime of Nicolás Maduro, will like what it portends.

Venezuela has been ailing ever since the decline in oil prices that started in June 2014, and there is no reason to think this trend will shift anytime soon. Energy prices move in long quarter-century circles of one decade of high prices and one decade of low prices, so another decade of low prices is likely. Similarly, the biggest economic blow to the Soviet Union was the fall in oil prices that started in 1981 and got worse from there.

“Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation.”

But the deeper problem for the Soviet Union wasn’t the oil price collapse; it’s what came before. In his book Collapse of an Empire, Russia’s great post-Soviet reformer Yegor Gaidar pointed out that during the long preceding oil boom, Soviet policymakers thought that they could walk on water and that the usual laws of economic gravity did not apply to them. Soviet policymakers didn’t bother developing a theory to make sense of their spending. They didn’t even bother paying attention to their results. The math seemed to work out, so they just assumed there was a good reason.

This is as true of the current Venezuelan leaders as it was of the Soviet leaders. The Venezuelan government, though it doesn’t claim to be full-fledged in its devotion to Marxism-Leninism, has been pursuing as absurd an economic policy mix as its Soviet predecessor. It has insisted for years on maintaining drastic price controls on a wide range of basic goods, including food staples such as meat and bread, for which it pays enormous subsidies. Nonetheless the Venezuelan government, like the Soviet Union’s, has always felt it could afford these subsidies because of its oil revenues.

TOPSHOT - Demonstrators clash with the riot police during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on April 20, 2017. Venezuelan riot police fired tear gas Thursday at groups of protesters seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro, who have vowed new mass marches after a day of deadly unrest. Police in western Caracas broke up scores of opposition protesters trying to join a larger march, though there was no immediate repeat of Wednesday's violent clashes, which left three people dead. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)

But as the oil price has fallen by slightly more than half since mid-2014, oil incomes have fallen accordingly. And rather than increase oil production, the Venezuelan government has been forced to watch it decline because of its mismanagement of the dominant state-owned oil company, PDVSA.

And now Venezuela seems intent on repeating the Soviet folly of the late 1980s by refusing to change course. This is allowing the budget deficit to swell and putting the country on track toward ultimate devastation.

The Soviet Union in its latter years had a skyrocketing budget deficit, too. In 1986 it exceeded 6 percent of GDP, and by 1991 it reached an extraordinary one-third of GDP. Venezuela is now following suit. The Soviet Union used its currency reserves to pay for imports, but when those reserves shrank, the government financed the budget deficit by printing money. The inevitable result was skyrocketing inflation.

It seems as if President Nicolás Maduro has adopted this tried-and-failed combination of fiscal and monetary policy. Venezuela already is dealing with massive shortages as a result of its controlled prices, because the government can no longer afford its own subsidies. But it will get worse from here.

Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation. Inflation is already believed to have reached 700 percent a year, and it is heading toward official hyperinflation, that is, an inflation rate of at least 50 percent a month. Read the rest of this entry »

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As Socialism Shattered Venezuela, the Useful Idiots Applauded 

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Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that.

 writes: When the Cold War ended 25 years ago, the Soviet Union vanished into the ash heap of history. That left the West’s “useful idiots” — Lenin’s term for the ideologues and toadies who could always be relied on to justify or praise whatever Moscow did — in search of other socialist thugs to fawn over. Many found a new heartthrob in Hugo Chavez, the anti-Yanqui rabble-rouser who was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and in short order had transformed the country from a successful social democracy into a grim and corrupt autocracy.

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“Violent crime is out of control. Shoppers are forced to stand in lines for hours outside drugstores and supermarkets — lines that routinely lead to empty shelves, or that break down in fistfights, muggings, and mob looting. Just last week the government deployed 3,000 troops to restore order after frantic rioters rampaged through shops and homes in the southeastern state of Bolivar.”

An avowed Marxist and protégé of Fidel Castro, Chavez gradually seized control of every lever of state power in Venezuela. The constitution was rewritten to strip the legislature and judiciary of their independence, authorize censorship of the press, and allow Chavez to legislate by decree. Before long, the government acquired a stranglehold over the economy, including the huge and profitable energy sector. (Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.)

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“In the beautiful country that used to boast the highest standard of living in Latin America, patients now die in hospitals for lack of basic health care staples: soap, gloves, oxygen, drugs. In some medical wards, there isn’t even water to wash the blood from operating tables.”

With petrodollars pouring in, Chavez had free rein to put his statist prescriptions into effect. The so-called Bolivarian revolution over which he — and later his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro — presided, was an unfettered, real-world example of anticapitalist socialism in action.

[Read the full story here, at The Boston Globe]

Venezuela since at least the 1970s had been Latin America’s most affluent nation. Now it was a showpiece for command-and-control economics: price and currency controls, wealth redistribution, ramped-up government spending, expropriation of land, and the nationalization of private banks, mines, and oil companies.

And the useful idiots ate it up.

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In a Salon piece titled “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle,” David Sirota declared that the Venezuelan ruler, with his “full-throated advocacy of socialism,” had “racked up an economic record that . . . American president[s] could only dream of achieving.” The Guardian offered “Three cheers for Chavez.” Moviemaker Oliver Stone filmed a documentary gushing over “the positive changes that have happened economically in all of South America” because of Venezuela’s socialist government. And when Chavez died in 2013, Jimmy Carter extolled the strongman for “improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.”

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In the real world, however, socialism has transformed Venezuela into a Third World dystopia.

Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that. Venezuelans, their economy wrecked by statism, face crippling shortages of everything from food and medicine to toilet paper and electricity. Read the rest of this entry »


President Maduro Dances Salsa While Venezuela Suffers

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With hunger and violent crime gripping the country and the opposition calling for his head, this is Maduro’s new strategy for winning hearts and minds. That is an uphill battle; most Venezuelans would like him to leave power.

Caracas (AFP) – Venezuelans are running short of food, medicine and patience, but fear not: President Nicolas Maduro is here to cheer them up — by dancing salsa.

“People say I’m crazy for dancing salsa.” 

— President Nicolas Maduro

Grinning under his black mustache, the burly, towering socialist swivels his hips and twirls his wife Cilia Flores in front of the cameras.

“Hands up everybody who dances salsa! Admit it, we’re all crazy!”

“People say I’m crazy for dancing salsa,” he said on one recent broadcast.

“Hands up everybody who dances salsa! Admit it, we’re all crazy!”

With hunger and violent crime gripping the country and the opposition calling for his head, this is Maduro’s new strategy for winning hearts and minds. That is an uphill battle; most Venezuelans would like him to leave power.

“He is ridiculous. It’s offensive. He is laughing at the people. Instead of spending money on television programs, he should be bringing us medicine.”

— Euro Bermudez, 62, coming out of a bank in Caracas after collecting his pension

Wednesday was a case in point as Maduro celebrated his 54th birthday with a live performance by old-school salsa greats El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico.

“What a surprise!” the president exclaimed before taking the first lady for a spin, dancing to the classic “Me libere.”

A former bus driver, Maduro has often sung and danced at campaign rallies.

But his continued capering amid the crisis, and his recent launch of a dedicated salsa radio show, seem like bad taste to some weary citizens.

“He is ridiculous. It’s offensive. He is laughing at the people,” said Euro Bermudez, 62, coming out of a bank in Caracas after collecting his pension.

“Instead of spending money on television programs, he should be bringing us medicine.”

Spoof photo “memes” of Maduro online have shown him dancing in various inappropriate settings: at the scene of a crime or in a long queue for food. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Democratic Socialism is Still Socialism

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Democratic socialism. It’s not the same as socialism socialism, because it’s democratic. Right? Or something, right? People are buying that; people buy that now, right? Apparently. As though adding the word “democratic” in front of a word changes what it means. Just because we toss something to a vote doesn’t change what that something is, nor does it alter whether that something is inherently good or bad.

A couple of examples, because I know you’ll ask: Hamas was democratically elected as the government in Gaza – despite the fact that the destruction of not only Israel, but the eradication of all Jews, is in their official charter. Robert Mugabe, or Bobby Mugabe if you prefer, was democratically elected by a loving majority in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe! How’s that working out?

Venezuela? Well, Hugo Chavez, noted personal favorite friend of Sean Penn, to whom he constantly pointed as being unfairly characterized as a dictator when, in fact, he was blackbookofcommunismdropdemocratically elected as a socialist.

[Order the book “The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression” from Amazon.com]

Well, how’d that workout for Venezuela? Well, it’s now on the brink of collapse despite it being one of the most resource rich nations in the entire world. Basic things like eggs, milk, flour, and toilet paper are either too expensive for the average Venezuelan or simply out of stock… out of stock, mind you… democratically. I know, some of you will say, “Well that’s not fair, because really we knew all along it technically was a dictatorship.” Ok – that’s fair; let’s move on to example number two.

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Denmark? Ok, here’s the time where you point to an entirely homogenous population about one sixtieth the size of America’s, and you point to that as the blueprint? Ok – let’s go there. This is a place where the middle class can’t even afford a car because of the 180% new-car tax. And the Prime Minister was so fed up with Americans pointing to it as a beacon for socialist success that he felt compelled to clarify, “I would like to make one thing clear: Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy; Denmark is a market economy.”

Sweden? I love Sweden! Ok, great bikini team, and thanks to that country my armoire now doubles as a bookcase. Speaking of which, the founder of IKEA – let’s be honest, the only real cool export from Sweden aside from a few good hockey players – left Sweden because of the stifling high tax rate. So, Sweden – good place, not bad people – but a successful model for a viable economy in today’s global market? Incorrect.

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The fact is that, over time, the greatest enemy of socialism is reality. The reality that human nature will invariably pull certain people toward individualism and success and others toward laziness and collectivism. The tension between the makers and the takers always –  always! – leads to socialism’s inevitable collapse. But I know that I can give you examples of failed socialist economies until I’m blue in the face, and you won’t care. Because at least socialism is inherently more morally altruistic than the evil, greedy capitalistic war mongering seen in the West.

Greed? What’s more greedy than wanting to take from someone else something that you haven’t earned? Unlike capitalism – free enterprise, which can only occur truly through voluntary transaction – socialism can only occur at gunpoint. That’s what it comes down to. If you don’t pay your taxes, once you get through the IRS and the auditing and the lawyers and the PR stunts, people make you give the government your money, increasing amount of your money the more successful you are, or they send in scary men with guns to take you away.

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Now, so long as the people having their stuff taken away at gunpoint are in the minority, and the majority feels that they’ll get to benefit from more said taken stuff, you’ll always be able to win that decision through a popular vote and claim the moral high ground through democracy. Read the rest of this entry »


Nicolás Maduro es Encantador y Persuasivo! Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Threatens to Jail Opponents

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Caracas (AFP) – Venezuela‘s President Nicolas Maduro threatened on Friday to jail his political opponents if they follow through on their vow of launching a legislative trial to remove him from power.

Shrugging off a partially-observed strike which the opposition called to raise pressure on him, the socialist president went on the counterattack.

Maduro sharpened the tone in a volatile political and economic crisis that has sparked food shortages and riots in the South American oil producer.

“If they launch a supposed political trial, which is not in our constitution, the state prosecution service must bring legal action in the courts and put in jail anyone who violates the constitution, even if they are members of Congress,” Maduro said in a speech Friday.

Friday’s strike was called after authorities blocked a bid by the center right-dominated MUD coalition to hold a referendum on removing Maduro from power.

After that move, the crisis heated up this week. Opposition lawmakers vowed to put Maduro on trial and exchanged accusations of coup-mongering with the mustachioed president.

Friday’s strike seemed to be only partially observed.

In the capital Caracas and cities such as Maracaibo and San Cristobal, the streets were quieter than normal but public transport was running and banks and some schools opened as usual.

Clashes broke out in recent days between riot police and pro- and anti-government protesters around the country.

Maduro earlier threatened to break the strike by sending the army to take over firms that took part in it.

The center-right coalition’s latest move to pressure the unpopular leftist leader came after anti-government protests drew hundreds of thousands of people on Wednesday.

Maduro vowed to respond forcefully. Read the rest of this entry »


Socialists Enjoying Exercise: Venezuelan President Chased by Angry Protesters 

The confrontation occurred at a routine political event just days after thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to call for Nicolás Maduro’s ouster.

President Nicolás Maduro was chased at a routine political event by angry protesters banging on pots and yelling that they were hungry.

[Watch in Times Video »]

CARACAS, Venezuela — Nicholas Casey reports: President Nicolás Maduro was chased at a routine political event by a crowd of angry protesters banging on pots and yelling that they were hungry, just days after thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to call for his ouster, local news media reported on Saturday.

[Read the full story here, at The New York Times]

Scenes from the confrontation late Friday, which also appeared in videos uploaded to social media, captured the attention of Venezuelans, many of whom blame the unpopular president for the country’s food shortages.

In one video, Mr. Maduro tries to calm the pot-bangers by walking among them, only to be surrounded as the furious crowd yells obscenities.

“What is this?” an astounded voice behind the camera asks in one of the video clips.

Mr. Maduro had traveled from the capital, Caracas, to Margarita Island off Venezuela’s northern coast to inaugurate a number of new public housing units and give a televised address.

During the speech, he denounced his opponents’ calls for his removal from office, calling them “vampires” and saying they were preparing for violence.

Foro Penal, a Venezuelan human rights group, said 20 people had been arrested after the protest in the island town of Villa Rosa. Mr. Maduro’s office made no statement about the episode.

Venezuelan politicians wasted little time on Saturday in using the confrontation to advance their agendas. Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela Prepares for Massive Protests By Arresting Activists 

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2008 Cato Institute Milton Friedman Prize winner Yon Goicoechea is among the arrested.

 As Venezuela prepares for nationwide protests calling for the recall of its wildly unpopular President Nicolas Maduro scheduled for this Thursday, its socialist government is arresting activist leaders and opposition politicians.

In other words, business as usual for the “Chavista” regime, which continues to oversee a complete collapsevenezuelaprotests of the economy and the rule of law in an oil-rich nation once described by delusional liberal economic writers as an “economic miracle,” but which now features forced laborstarvation, triple-digit inflation, extreme scarcity of basic household goods, and frequent political violence.

Among the recently arrested activists is Yon Goiceochea, a former student activist who in the previous decade was a leader in the movement which stopped former President Hugo Chavez from altering the constitution to further consolidate power in the presidency.

[Read the full story here, at Reason.com]

At the height of the protests in late 2007, Goiceochea was quoted by the Washington Post as saying, “This is not a war of left and right,” adding, “We believe that Venezuela has to have democracy. Democracy means respect. Democracy means free expression. Democracy means saying what you want without repression.”

A firecracker explodes at the scene of protests in Caracas, Venezuela. Photograph: Esteban Felix/AP

Goicoechea, who was awarded the Cato Institute’s 2008 Miltion Friedman Prize, was accused by the government of “possessing detonating cords for explosive devices,” according to Bloomberg. In a nationally televised address, Diosdado Cabello — called the “Frank Underwood of Venezuela” by The Atlantic and the Venezuela’s “No. 2 official” by The Wall Street Journal — cited the cash prize Goicoechea received from the Cato Institute as evidence that he was a paid agent of U.S. forces intent on stirring up a violent coup. Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela’s Road to Literal Serfdom

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Friedrich Hayek’s classic book The Road to Serfdom describes the popular delusions that have led to the breakdown of civil society in Venezuela.

Barry Brownstein writes: In his classic 1841 book on financial bubbles, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay observed, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

“In societies turning to socialism, there is no appreciation of scarcity. There is no appreciation that ‘things cannot all be done at the same time, that anyone of them can be achieved only at the sacrifice of others.’”

Mackay covered religious and political delusions, too. “We see one nation suddenly seized, from its highest to its lowest members, with a fierce desire of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious scruple,” he recounts, “and serfdomneither of them recovering its senses until it has shed rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears, to be reaped by its posterity.”

[Order Friedrich Hayek’s classic “The Road to Serfdom” from Amazon.com]

Venezuela is sowing its harvest of “groans and tears.” Due to the breakdown of civil society in the country, even war-plagued Syrians feel more safe in their homes than do Venezuelans. Venezuelans are so hungry that they cried at the sight of food in Columbia. Recently the hungry broke into a zoo to kill a horse for its meat. Literally, they have become serfs that may be required to work 60 days or more in agricultural fields.

“The hard to give up delusion of socialists is that there are coercive plans that will benefit all. Venezuelans have seen the means of production nationalized in the name of the common good and with every intervention their standard of living fell further.”

Venezuela has the world’s worst rate of economic growth, and the worst inflation rate. It has become like “a gangster state that doesn’t know how to do anything other than sell drugs and steal money for itself.” Socialism has virtually destroyed civilization in Venezuela making it seem like a “hurricane [has] swept things away.”

[Read the full text here, at Foundation for Economic Education]

When the history of this tragic period in Venezuela is written, the population will have plenty of “culprits” to blame. In blaming many will eschew their own responsibility. Some will blame Chavez; others will blame Maduro. Some will follow their beloved leaders and continue to blame the “elite” and the capitalists. The true believers will continue to insist there is no inherent flaw in socialism; they will simply say mistakes were made that will not be made again.

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“Believing that the “coercive or arbitrary intervention of authority,” can coordinate and adjust our individual activities is delusional. With this delusion comes disbelief that a market economy can solve problems and advance society. Those who cherish such delusions may find themselves hungry.”

We are not the victims of the world we see. Our delusions, our beliefs have consequences. The fact that our delusions are often invisible to us does not make them any less powerful or any less consequential. Again, Mackay observed that a population subject to delusions “only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

The new idea of freedom “gave the socialists another word in common with the liberals and they exploited it to the full.

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Venezuelans have not yet recovered their “senses.”  Caracas radio host Glen Martinez stubbornly insists that the “reforms” that Chavez instituted will never be reversed. “We are not the same people we were before 1999,” Martinez said. Many share Martinez’s sentiments; daily the true believers still march and  promise to spill their blood in support of the government.

“The fact that our delusions are often invisible to us does not make them any less powerful or any less consequential.”

There is no better book than Friedrich Hayek’s classic The Road to Serfdom to explain the popular delusions that helped to virtually eliminate the market economy and civil society in Venezuela. Writing during the depths of World War II, Hayek intended his book as a warning “to the socialists of all parties.” What happened in Venezuela can happen wherever a critical mass of the population begins to hold certain delusionary beliefs.

Popular Delusion 1: Freedom Means Freedom from Necessity

Hayek points out that freedom in Western countries traditionally meant “freedom from coercion, freedom from the arbitrary power of other men.”

Socialists point to a “new freedom” which is “freedom from necessity” which releases us “from the compulsion of the circumstances which inevitably limit the range of choice of all of us.”

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Hayek adds, “the demand for the new freedom was thus only another name for the old demand for an equal distribution of wealth.”

Believing that these two types of freedom can be combined is delusional. Hayek points out that the new idea of freedom “gave the socialists another word in common with the liberals and they exploited it to the full….Few people noticed [that the word freedom was being used differently] and still fewer asked themselves whether the two kinds of freedom promised really could be combined.”

Popular Delusion 2. Only Coercive Planning Can Coordinate Activity

Almost every individual and organization plans. Writes Hayek, there is no “dispute about whether we ought to employ foresight and systematic thinking and planning our common affairs.”

Hayek thought that to plan or not to plan is not “the real question.” Instead, we should ask if “the holder of coercive power should confine himself in general to creating conditions under which the knowledge and initiative of individuals is given the best scope so that they can plan most successfully; or whether a rational utilization of our resources requires central direction and organization of all our activities according to some consciously constructed ‘blueprint.’”

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Those who cherish such delusions may find themselves hungry.

The humanitarian disaster in Venezuela has been a long time in the making. In 2010, the hungry waited while “2,340 shipping containers with more than 120,000 tons of rotting food (estimated to feed 17 million people for one month)” sat at the government run port of Puerto Cabello. Read the rest of this entry »


As Hunger Mounts, Venezuelans Turn to Trash for Food

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Until recently, Julio Noguera worked at a bakery. Now he spends his evenings searching through the garbage for food.

“I come here looking for food because if I didn’t, I’d starve to death,” Noguera said as he sorted through a pile of moldy potatoes. “With things like they are, no one helps anyone and no one gives away meals.”

“We’re seeing terrible sacrifices across many sections of society. A few years ago, Venezuela didn’t have the kind of extreme poverty that would drive people to eat garbage.”

— Carlos Aponte, a sociology professor at the Central University of Venezuela.

Across town, unemployed people converge every dusk at a trash heap on a downtown Caracas sidewalk to pick through rotten fruit and vegetables tossed out by nearby shops. They are frequently joined by small business owners, college students and pensioners — people who consider themselves middle class even though their living standards have long ago been pulverized by triple-digit inflation, food shortages and a collapsing currency.

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Venezuela’s poverty had eased during the administration of the late President Hugo Chavez. But a study by three leading Caracas universities found that 76 percent of Venezuelans are now under the poverty line, compared with 52 percent in 2014.

Staples such as corn flour and cooking oil are subsidized, costing pennies at the strongest of two official exchange rates. But fruit and vegetables have become an unaffordable luxury for many Venezuelan families.

“We’re seeing terrible sacrifices across many sections of society,” said Carlos Aponte, a sociology professor at the Central University of Venezuela. “A few years ago, Venezuela didn’t have the kind of extreme poverty that would drive people to eat garbage.”

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While some search through the garbage piles for food they can eat, many more are drawn by the opportunity to fetch a few bolivar bills by rescuing and reselling bruised produce.

On a recent evening, Noguera managed to retrieve a dozen potatoes.

“I’m a trained baker, but right now there’s no work anywhere here. So I make do with this,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


FEEL THE DECAY: As Venezuela Craters, Appeal of Socialism Remains

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It is safe to predict that more countries will refuse to learn from history and give socialism a go.

Marian Tupy writes: Three years ago, a well-known American leftist, David Sirota, wrote the following in a Salon essay titled Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle,

Chavez became the bugaboo of American politics because his full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results… When a country goes socialist and it craters, it is laughed off as a harmless and forgettable cautionary tale about the perils of command economics. When, by contrast, a country goes socialist and its economy does what Venezuela’s did, it is not perceived to be a laughing matter – and it is not so easy to write off or to ignore.

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Last Sunday, Nicholas Casey of The New York Times reported in an article Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela’s Failing Hospitals,

By morning, three newborns were already dead. The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward. Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died… The economic crisis in this country has exploded into a public health emergency, claiming the lives of untold numbers of Venezuelans.

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I start with these rather long quotations with a heavy heart. Contrary to Sirota’s glib prediction, I do not intend to laugh off as “harmless and forgettable” Venezuela’s “cautionary tale about the perils of command economics.” I do not find dying children laughable. But then, I did not laugh when I read about starving Ukrainians eating their children during Stalin’s Holodomor.

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I did not laugh when I read of Khmer Rouge soldiers shooting infants off their bayonets in communist Cambodia. And I certainly did not laugh when I saw with my own two eyes children reduced to starvation by the Marxist dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. In fact, there is nothing laughable about the almost incomprehensible degree of suffering that socialism has heaped upon humanity wherever it’s been tried. Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela Isn’t Special, It’s a Perfectly Normal Example of Successful Socialism

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Caracas (AFP) – Marc Burleigh reports: If a visitor to Venezuela is unfortunate enough to pay for anything with a foreign credit card, the eye-watering cost might suggest they were in a city pricier than Tokyo or Zurich.

A hamburger sold for 1,700 Venezuelan bolivares is $170, or a 69,000-bolivar hotel room is $6,900 a night, based on the official rate of 10 bolivares for $1.

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But of course no merchant is pricing at the official rate imposed under currency controls. It’s the black market rate of 1,000 bolivares per dollar that’s applied.

But for Venezuelans paid in hyperinflation-hit bolivares, and living in an economy relying on mostly imported goods or raw materials, conditions are unthinkably expensive.

Even for the middle class, most of it sliding into poverty, hamburgers and hotels are out-of-reach excesses.

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“Everybody is knocked low,” Michael Leal, a 34-year-old manager of an eyewear store in Caracas, told AFP. “We can’t breathe.”

In Chacao, a middle-class neighborhood in the capital, office workers lined up outside a nut store to buy the cheapest lunch they could afford. Nearby restaurants were all but empty.

Superficially it looked like the of any other major Latin American city: skyscrapers, dense traffic, pedestrians in short sleeves bustling along the sidewalks.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (C) poses for a picture with his family while recovering in La Habana March 13, 2012. Chavez said he will return home from Cuba where he is recovering from cancer surgery next Sunday, to head up a re-election campaign. REUTERS/Handout/Miraflores Palace (CUBA -Tags: - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR2ZAC6

Hugo Chavez poses for a picture with his family in La Habana March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace

But look closely and you can see the economic malaise. Many stores, particularly those that sold electronics, were shuttered.

“It’s horrible now,” said Marta Gonzalez, the 69-year-old manager of a corner beauty products store.

“Nobody is buying anything really. Just food,” she said as a male customer used a debit card to pay for a couple of razor blades. Read the rest of this entry »


With Sean Penn’s Help, Venezuela Finally Achieves Utopian Socialist Paradise

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The country is poised between chaos and dictatorship

“THIS government is going to fall!” chanted hundreds of protesters alongside the Avenida Libertador in central Caracas. Staring them down were ranks of security forces—from the police, the national guard and the feared, black-uniformed SEBIN (secret police)—charged with making sure that does not happen. Looming above was a huge grinning portrait of the late president, Hugo Chávez.

salon-wrong

March 2013…good times, good times.

The protesters’ aim on May 18th was, as it has been on two previous occasions this month, to march to the offices of the National Electoral Council (CNE). The supposedly independent, but nakedly biased, institution has been delaying its consideration of a petition it was handed weeks ago, the first stage of a process to recall Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, through a referendum. With government forces blocking all routes to the CNE, the protesters were never likely to get close.

venezuela-protest-barricade-march-13

When a handful broke through the cordon, some attacking the police, the authorities had the excuse they needed. Multiple, deafening volleys of acrid tear gas burst above the crowd. At least 18 people were wounded and 26 detained. Pamela, a retired agricultural engineer in her 70s, was standing outside her home overlooking the avenue, holding a small handwritten cardboard sign saying “Maduro. Resign Now!” Tears in her eyes, she retreated inside. “This breaks my heart,” she said.

sean_penn_chavez__bolivia

The regime may feel the day was a success. The protests were not huge. The poor have yet to stream down from the barrios en masse to demand the president’s ouster. But they are enraged and the government is worried. Almost 70% of Venezuelans want Mr Maduro to leave office this year, according to a recent poll. That demand is fuelled by the appalling deterioration of living standards under his incompetent rule. Venezuela is suffering the world’s deepest recession. Self-defeating price and currency controls and rampant corruption are causing shortages of everything from medicines to rice. “I am here because I am sick of queuing from dawn,” said José Galeano, a protester who describes himself as a poor man. “This has to end.”

No food, but plenty of tear gas in reserve

Across Venezuela, small protests are now commonplace. Social media are awash with videos of shoppers plundering supermarkets and brawling with each other. As crime soars, the lynching of petty criminals is becoming more common.

[graphics: A political and economic guide to Venezuela]

[Read the full text here, at The Economist]

The desperation such incidents reveal is dismissed by the increasingly delusional Mr Maduro during his endless television appearances. The shortages, he says, are the consequence of an “economic war” waged by enemies at home and abroad. Some in Caracas joke that he must be the only man who can claim to fight a fictional war, and then lose it. But they fear the direction his rule might now take. Read the rest of this entry »


Hugo Chavez’s Ambassador Daughter is Venezuela’s Richest Woman

High society: The daughter of Hugo Chavez may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion.

  • Diario las Americas claims that Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, has $4.2billion in assets held in American and Andorran banks
  • Hugo Chavez famously declared ‘being rich is bad’ and during his lifetime railed against the wealthy for being lazy and gluttonous
  • Efforts to determine Chavez’s wealth have been made before, without much luck

Pete D’Amato reports: The daughter of Hugo Chavez, the former president who once declared ‘being rich is bad,’ may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets.

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion, Diario las Americas reports.

The figure would make Gabriela Chavez wealthier than media mogul Gustavo Cisneros, whom Forbes named the wealthiest Venezuelan earlier this year with $3.6billion in assets.

High society: The daughter of Hugo Chavez may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president's second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion, Diario las Americas reports

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion, Diario las Americas reports

The Miami-based newspaper did not detail what evidence there was outlining Chavez’s assets, though there have long been rumors she held a sizable fortune.

Last year, reporter María Elvira Salazar displayed what appeared to be a receipt showing millions in a bank account belonging to Gabriela Chavez withdrawn in the United States.

The receipt displayed the name Frabz Federal Bank, a fictitious bank used in a meme of fake ATM receipts.

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president's second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2 billion

Others close to Chavez managed to build up great personal wealth that was kept outside the petrostate. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Remember America’s First Experiment with Socialism? 

crossesinsnowLO

Ed Morrissey in last week’s Hot Air:

…The University of Dayton history professor tells the tale of two colonies that nearly failed thanks to a dalliance with commue-based economics, which fell victim to the same sadly predictable consequences seen when 20th-century nations tried the same model on vast scales. The Jamestown colony in particular suffered through two years of famine and death before Captain John Smith called a halt to the attempt at imposing a Utopia:

The early colonists began their adventure with what they thought was a beautiful idea. They set up a common storehouse of grain from which people were supposed to take what they needed and put back what they could. Lands were also held in common and were worked in common. The settlers owned no land of their own. Though there was no name for this system, it johnsmithwas an ideal socialist commune. And you can probably guess what happened. It began to fall apart almost immediately. As the colonists learned, when everyone is entitled to everything, no one’s responsible for anything. A colonist who started his workday early or stayed late received the same provision of food as a colonist who showed up late, went home early, or didn’t work at all.

[Read the full text here, at Hot Air]

After about two years, the settlement was reduced to eating shoelaces and rats. Half of them died of starvation. Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) took control of the colony and scrapped the socialist model. Each colonist received his own parcel of land. Private property had come to the New World. “He who won’t work, won’t eat!” Smith told them, citing the Biblical admonition. Well they worked. And they ate. And the colony was saved. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Meaning of Socialism: Q&A with National Review‘s Kevin Williamson


What’s the real definition of socialism? How is it distinct from regulation and a social welfare state? Why are intellectuals still enamored of a system that brought us Stalin, Hitler, and more recently Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong-Il? And what can the United States learn from Sweden about free enterprise and capitalism?

Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie sat down with Kevin Williamson, who is deputy managing editor of National Review and author of a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, to discuss the meaning of socialism in history and the current moment.

 


PEOPLE POWER! #SOCIALISM WORKS!


Meet Venezuela’s Useful Idiots

Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Defenders of the Venezuelan regime would never allow the White House to arrest opposition leaders and shut down unfriendly media outlets. So why the double standard?

Dictatorship and Double Standard

Michael Moynihan writes:  At the southernmost point of Central Park, on a small strip of sidewalk abutting 59th Street, hundreds of Venezuelans swarmed a statue of Simon Bolivar, the Caracas-born liberator of South America and a figure now most commonly associated with the bolivarian revolution of Hugo Chavez and his rechristenedBolivarian Republic of Venezuela. But it’s an association that when mentioned inthis crowd produces furrowed brows and narrowed eyes, quickly followed by a rapid-fire recapitulation of Chavez’s many crimes.

“Duarte was merely cataloging the massive shortages of basic goods (rice, milk, toilet paper) that have crippled Venezuela in recent years, not engaging in a bourgeois, fascist bakeoff.”

The necessary symbolism of the meeting point trumped practicality: the crowd quickly swelled, spreading like an inkblot from the small patch surrounding Bolivar into a lane of midtown Manhattan traffic. They banged pots. They shouted slogans about the Cubanization of their patria, from which many are exiled. They carried signs detailing spiraling crime rates (23,000 murders last year), many plastered with grim photos of those abused and murdered, and others with mordant slogans (“In Venezuela everything is scarce, except bullets”).

We are far from the bloody streets of Caracas; these protesters are ringed not by heavily armed and body-armoured National Guardsman, but are politely attended to by a handful of paunchy and bored New York City cops. There was no threat of violence here–with the single exception of a slobbering, toothless, and possibly blotto Spanish speaker who, while ambling past the crowd, shouted something that drew the ire–and very nearly the flying fists–of a man with a large Venezuelan flag tied around his neck–the anti-Chavez superhero.

Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela: The Left’s Favorite ‘Socialist Paradise’ is Sliding into Poverty and Dictatorship

Genesis Carmona is carried away by motorcycle, after being shot in the head (Photo: EPA)

Genesis Carmona is carried away by motorcycle, after being shot in the head (Photo: EPA)

Tim Stanley writes:  How are things coming along in Venezuela, that paradise of democratic socialism? You must remember Venezuela. That’s the country that Diane Abbott said was showing “a better way”, which Owen Jones told us had proven that “you can lead a progressive, popular government that says no to neo-liberalism”? The apple in the eye of Marx, the last hope for humanity in a world of fat cat banksters and austerity Scrooges. The Copacobana of the international revolution. Viva!

“How is Venezuela doing? …It’s going to hell in a handcart, that’s how it’s doing.”

How is Venezuela doing? Well, tens of thousands of protesters are in the streets, the army’s been sent to crush revolt, an opposition leader has been arrested and supporters of the government just shot dead a former beauty queen. It’s going to hell in a handcart, that’s how it’s doing.

Read the rest of this entry »


Rock the House: Hugo Chavez’s Daughters Refuse to Leave Presidential Party Palace

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (C) poses for a picture with his family while recovering in La Habana March 13, 2012. Chavez said he will return home from Cuba where he is recovering from cancer surgery next Sunday, to head up a re-election campaign. REUTERS/Handout/Miraflores Palace (CUBA -Tags: - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR2ZAC6

The late dictator’s children won’t move out of the president’s official residence, which is filled with antiques and priceless art

It’s hard times in Venezuela these days. The economy is in shambles, crime is spiraling, and the opposition is leading increasingly strident protests on the streets. To make matters worse, President Nicolás Maduro can’t even deal with the crisis from the comforts of the presidential palace.

Hugo Chavez's daughter Maria Gabriela tears up as her late father receives a posthumous award. (AFP/Getty Images/Leo Ramirez)

Hugo Chavez’s daughter Maria Gabriela  (AFP/Getty Images/Leo Ramirez)

Constitutionally, of course, Maduro has been able live in La Casona, a luxurious villa in the heart of the capital, since he was sworn in last year. The only problem: Almost a year after Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, passed away, his three grown children—Maria Gabriela, Rosa Virginia and Hugo Jr.—are still living in the villa. Apparently, they have no intention of leaving.

La Casona (Wikipedia)

The two daughters have allegedly converted La Casona into a social club for friends of the family. According to recent media reports, neighbors complain of “deafening” parties. Fast-food restaurants and catering agencies refuse to deliver to the mansion, allegedly, because the Chávez kids have stopped paying their bills. Even concert organizers are complaining; Chavez’s daughters allegedly force them to hand over dozens of free tickets so they can share them with their friends. (Both the country’s Information Ministry and the Chávez family were unavailable for comment.)

Originally built in colonial times, the glamorous La Casona residence was acquired by the government in the 1960s, during the presidency of Raúl Leoni. The mansion features six main bedrooms and several more for guests. There’s a swimming pool, a private movie theater and a series of private gardens.

Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Oliver Stone Says Protesters in Venezuela are ‘Sore Losers’

Asked for his thoughts on the recent protests, Oliver Stone described the students as “sore losers.”

…Chavez successor, Nicolas Maduro, won a narrow election in 2013. But this came after former President Hugo Chavez announced he would alter the Constitution so he could be President for life and then announced he would rule by decree without any input from legislators…

Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuelan Regime Raids Homes Searching for Opposition Leader Amid Violent Protests

leopold-lopez-Reuters

Frances Martel  reports:  Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro has a violent situation on his hands, as protests against the socialist regime escalate and the death toll rises. Reuters reports that protesters have vowed to continue until Maduro resigns, but Maduro has only escalated the oppression, raiding Caracas homes in search of opposition leader Leopoldo López.

[The Dictator’s Learning Curve at Amazon]

The streets of Caracas–already among the world’s most violent thanks to more than a decade of rule under Hugo Chávez–were aflame this weekend as Venezuelans used the national “Youth Day” holiday to trigger protests against the socialist dictatorship this weekend. This Youth Day, a holiday celebrating a battle of independence against Spain, three student protesters were reported dead and 23 injured thanks to government violence. The protest itself was peaceful; violence began when it culminated and police agitated the remaining protesters.

“I tell you, Maduro, you are a coward. You will not force my family nor myself to submit. To my family: Strength, I love you”

López tweeted yesterday. He also posted a video describing the protest and the next steps for his supporters…

Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela: Where The Mafia And The Military Come Together

 Members of the National Guard near the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela. (GETTY IMAGES)

Members of the National Guard near the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela. (GETTY IMAGES)

Fermín Lares  reports:  For the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, the murder of a former beauty queen wasn’t so much a tragedy as an opportunity. Although Venezuelans have become accustomed to violent crime – at an annual average of 79 per 100,000, the country has the world’s highest homicide rate after Honduras – the horrific murders in Carabobo, involving as they did a much-loved celebrity and her family, convulsed the entire nation in shock. Enter Maduro, who loudly declared that he would use an “iron fist” against Venezuelan criminals.

[See also:  Venezuela Jails 100 ‘Bourgeois, Barbaric, Capitalist Parasite’ Businessmen in Crackdown]

Sure enough, within days of the killings, seven men said to belong to a gang known as “Los sanguinarios del Cambur”  (“The bloodthirsty ones of Cambur”) were in custody. But if Maduro was expecting plaudits from a country whose citizens are even more fiercely divided than during the rule of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, he must have been sorely disappointed. The swift response of the authorities in the Monica Spear case was a stark contrast to the thousands of other murders – there were a total of 24,763 murders in 2013 alone, according to the independent Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) – that are seldom investigated or resolved.

To the casual observer, it is not immediately clear how the various strands that compose Venezuela’s current economic and political crisis relate to this fundamental breakdown of law and order. What therefore needs to be understood is that, after 15 years of Chavista misrule, the Venezuelan state is not an enemy of the criminal networks that have conquered the country, but their ally.

Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela Jails 100 ‘Bourgeois, Barbaric, Capitalist Parasite’ Businessmen in Crackdown: Obama Observes Wistfully, Longingly…

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters/Reuters

“Bourgeois, Barbaric, Capitalist Parasites! Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Andrew Cawthorne and Deisy Buitrago report:  Venezuela‘s socialist government has arrested more than 100 “bourgeois” businessmen in a crackdown on alleged price-gouging at hundreds of shops and companies since the weekend, President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday.

“They are barbaric, these capitalist parasites!” Maduro thundered in the latest of his lengthy daily speeches. “We have more than 100 of the bourgeoisie behind bars at the moment.”

The successor to the late Hugo Chavez also said his government was preparing a law to limit Venezuelan businesses’ profits to between 15 percent and 30 percent.

*Sigh*

*Sigh*

Officials say unscrupulous companies have been hiking prices of electronics and other goods more than 1,000 percent. Critics say failed socialist economic policies and restricted access to foreign currency are behind Venezuela’s runaway inflation.

Goodyear has to lower its prices even more, 15 percent is not enough, the inspectors have go there straightaway,” Maduro said in his evening address, sending officials to check local operations of the U.S.-based tire manufacturer.

Since the weekend, soldiers and inspectors have gone into 1,400 shops, taken over operations at an electronics firm and a battery-making company, and rounded up a handful of looters.

Read the rest of this entry »


Hugo Chavez’s legacy: How his economically disastrous, politically effective ideology will haunt the country he ruined.

Even before Hugo Chávez died, he had become a ghost. A strange, unfamiliar quiet had fallen on Venezuela for weeks as people waited to hear the voice of the president who had been part of their daily lives for nearly 14 years. That’s because Chávez spoke to Venezuelans constantly. In his first 11 years in office, he addressed the nation, on average, every two days. His remarks, usually improvised, typically ran more than four hours. If you add up these talks, which all radio and television stations were required to broadcast, they would amount to 54 full days.

And then there was silence. Venezuelans last heard their president on Dec. 8 when he announced that he was returning to Havana for his fourth operation to treat a recurring bout of cancer. He wouldn’t return to Venezuela until Feb. 18, slipping into a military hospital in Caracas in the middle of the night. (His advisers later admitted that his ability to speak had been impaired by a tracheal tube that had been inserted to assist his breathing.) Chávez had made the trip home, but he never truly returned. He was present but could not be seen. The eerie quiet was only broken with the announcement, delivered by Vice President Nicolás Maduro late Tuesday, that the 58-year-old president was dead.

What has Chávez bequeathed his fellow Venezuelans? The hard facts are unmistakable: The oil-rich South American country is in shambles. It has one of the world’s highest rates of inflation, largest fiscal deficits, and fastest growing debts. Despite a boom in oil prices, the country’s infrastructure is in disrepair—power outages and rolling blackouts are common—and it is more dependent on crude exports than when Chávez arrived. Venezuela is the only member of OPEC that suffers from shortages of staples such as flour, milk, and sugar. Crime and violence skyrocketed during Chávez’s years. On an average weekend, more people are killed in Caracas than in Baghdad and Kabul combined. (In 2009, there were 19,133 murders in Venezuela, more than four times the number of a decade earlier.) When the grisly statistics failed to improve, the Venezuelan government simply stopped publishing the figures…

More — from Slate Magazine

(via Instapundit)


Venezuelan secret service erased our data, claims journalist

Argentina’s top TV journalist Jorge Lanata has alleged that he was held in the basement of Caracas airport for nearly two hours while Venezuela’s secret service erased his team’s camera, computer and cellphone memories. Only then, he says, were they allowed to leave the country…

via guardian.co.uk.


Update: Tanks in the streets as Venezuelan electoral council declares Hugo Chavez victory

Update 10:50 p.m.: According to the Associated Press, Venezuela’s electoral council has declared that Hugo Chavez beat Henriques Capriles in Sunday’s presidential election with about 54 percent of the vote, despite exit polls showing otherwise.

Venezuela Twitter users have claimed Chavez’s victory was wrought with election fraud, and that the socialist incumbent president sent tanks into the streets of his country as those exit poll reports showed him losing. A picture of the tanks surfaced on Twitter Sunday evening.

The British Guardian newspaper reported that Chavez also sent troops armed with AK-47s into Venezuela’s streets to fight against any protests in case unrest came as a result of the news…

via >> The Daily Caller