EspañolApril 14 marked one year since Nicolás Maduro became president of Venezuela. Prior to that, Maduro served as foreign minister and executive vice president. During his first year in office, Maduro continued with the “Plan for the Fatherland,” designed by the late Hugo Chávez, who introduced the idea of 21st Century Socialism and the declared goal of ending the “model of savage capitalism.”
As a result of these declarations by the eccentric former president, the country has become a worldwide focus for both criticism and praise. Today, Venezuela finds itself ideologically divided and economically devastated.
In statements published on the Ministry of Communication and Information website, the president has urged Venezuelans to “build a new culture of savings and overcome the vices of consumerism.” He argues that, “consumerism does not cause happiness, because capitalism creates a false feeling that through consumerism you think you have a good standard of living.” Regarding the sort of socialism he is pursuing, he said, “to build a new economic model we need a new ethic, a new culture of saving and production.”
Maduro has also said that Venezuela possesses a successful social and economic model that stands up to the social injustices of capitalism. “Now the task is to gain public support and, in doing so, I ask for the country’s support to address our economic difficulties.”
Maduro’s statements, however, contrast with the reality lived day to day by the residents of the South American country. In the words of the president: “We have a successful social economic model compared to capitalism that privatizes everything and denies social rights.”
The socialist pamphlet distributed by government lists the various achievements of Maduro’s first year in office, including disarming the public, the implementation of the Homeland Security Plan, and other measures purportedly to promote peace within the country. However, it says nothing about any economic or social achievements.
The Real Achievements of 21st Century Socialism
The facts speak for themselves:
1. Scarcity and rationing: in March, the shortage of basic products reached 60.2 percent. The shortage index rose nearly 15 percent since the same period in 2013.
2. Inflation: in February, official inflation was measured at 2.4 percent for the month, causing the yearly index to reach 57.3 percent, according to a report in March by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV).
3. Companies shutting down: victims of this climate of instability, companies like Iveco have suspended operations in the country, and many airlines have been forced to scale down and reduce the number of flights.
4. Business registration database: the central database was created to control the cost structures of companies and “plan the delivery of preferential dollars.”
5. The creation of the agency of “Fair Costs and Prices“: According to the Fair Price Law established in January, companies can only receive a maximum profit margin of 30 percent and are subject to penalties of up to 14 years in prison for those that violate price controls. “Speculation causes much harm to our economy and various industries within the country, and the government is responsible for taking severe measures,” said Maduro.
6. Division of society, violence, and the repression of student protests.
7. The lowest minimum wage in South America: according to the central bank, the minimum wage in Venezuela is US$63 per month, if you take into account the new official exchange rate in effect since the implementation of Sicad II.
8. Exhaustive controls over currency exchange: Venezuela now has four different exchange rates (three regulated by the state, and the parallel or black-market dollar).
9. Falling oil exports: exports to United States have fallen to a 25-year low, after a sharp decrease in production from state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
10. Compromised press freedoms: newspapers have problems importing newsprint due to the prevailing shortage in the foreign currency exchange market.
11. Internet purchases restricted to a maximum of $300: the maximum amount of goods and services that can be purchased abroad over the internet has been further limited.
12. Militarization of economic power: during his first 9 months in office, Maduro has installed 368 uniformed officers in political office. In addition, he appointed the general of the army as the minister of finance.
13. The establishment of “Occupational Immobility,”which prohibits the firing of workers.
14. The regulation of leases and the obligation to sell the property after 20 years of renting it.
15. The detention and incarceration of business owners reported for “usury” and the shutting down of websites that publish the parallel-dollar price.
16. Creation of the Vice Ministry for Supreme Social Happiness: the new agency will be tasked with the management of the great “social missions.”
17. Christmas moved up by decree: Maduro created a Christmas fair and paid bonuses in the second week of November.
18. Lack of basic medical supplies in Venezuela’s hospitals.
19. The expulsion of opposition leader María Corina Machado from the National Assembly: Machado was accused of “treason” for accepting the invitation of Panama to speak before the OAS.
20. Maduro threw out three US diplomats and accused them of sabotage.
21. Establishment of the Ministry of International Communication: the new agency will work toward defending Venezuela’s public image worldwide.
22. The imprisonment of Leopoldo López: one of the charismatic leaders of the opposition is still in jail to this day. He was condemned by Maduro as a “fascist and destabilizer.”
Juan Carlos Hidalgo, a Latin America public policy analyst with the Cato Institute, describes the measures taken by Maduro in his first year as president as taken straight from the socialist handbook. Hidalgo believes the government “imposed draconian controls on prices and is looking for companies to accuse of speculation. As a result, there is a widespread shortage of food and medicine, and people have to wait in line for hours in supermarkets.”
He adds that “the scarcity index produced by the Central Bank of Venezuela reached 28 percent in January, which means that one in four commodities is unavailable at any time. Somehow, toilet paper is now more valuable than bolivars.”
In one of his most polemic announcements, Maduro declared he would take control of the “sensationalism” within certain media outlets (those in opposition) and concluded: “They’ll call me a dictator, and I don’t care.” One asks, is this not already the case?