Where are the Hollywood backers of socialism in Venezuela?
As the real-life tragedy of Venezuela unfolds and the country deteriorates into one of the most hellish places on Earth, the silence of some of former Socialist president Hugo Chavez's Hollywood supporters is deafening. Amid civil unrest and violence, citizens protest triple-digit inflation, rising crime, and food shortages, even General Motors has announced it is closing its operations in the country, a decision that came after its factory in Valencia, a city of almost one million people, was seized by government authorities. Once heralded as the vanguard of a new South America, Venezuela has become a failed state and rarely has an industrialized country fallen so far, so fast.Venezuela is living proof that wealth can be easily squandered by socialism creating poverty and shortages and the breakdown of civilization. The leftists who supported this mess are too ignorant of history to comprehend the disaster they have pushed on others while they themselves enjoy the fruits of capitalism.
Inflation, bribery, and corruption are rampant as the country experiences shortages of foodstuffs, electricity, and basic medicines. Fresh water must be rationed, while infants and mothers die routinely in Venezuelan hospitals. The murder rate in the capital, Caracas, is 120/100,000 people, six times greater than the murder rate in Chicago.
As an original member of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries, Venezuela has been dependent on oil revenue for the last half century. Some of the country's problems have been occasioned by the drop in oil prices from $100/barrel in 2014 to about half that today. But as important as the drop in oil prices have been, the policies and government corruption of Chavez and his handpicked successor, the current President Nicolas Maduro, have been even more consequential.
Chavez, the icon of Latin American socialism, famously excoriated the rich and established programs intended to redistribute oil wealth to the poor. Meanwhile all that time, billions of dollars of public funds were diverted into secret Swiss bank accounts. The major beneficiaries of the Chavez regime appear to have been his family and friends. His daughter is reported to be a multibillionaire and the richest person in Venezuela. By contrast, Venezuelan doctors make an average of $2.20/day.
The 20-year Chavez version of socialism was a constant source of adulation for his supporters on the Left, who were seduced by his machismo and strident anti-Americanism. Charmed by his ideology, they ignored the corruption that particularly hurt the poor, who couldn't afford to pay the bribes. His supporters also overlooked the brutal measures to limit political dissent, the crackdown on free trade unions, censorship policies, and virulent anti-Semitism.
When Chavez died, three of his most notable American cheerleaders — Sean Penn, Michael Moore, and Oliver Stone — eulogized him with nothing but praise for his accomplishments. After Chavez's death in 2013, Penn told the Hollywood Reporter, "Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion ... Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of vice president [Nicolas] Maduro."