Category Archives: Bolivarianism

Glimpsing the Truth about Venezuela Amidst the Blizzard of Lies

Tulio: Venezuelan socialism was authoritarian and proto-communist. Scandinavian social democracy is not at all. I don’t think Chavez looked to Norway for inspiration but rather to Castro.

Keep in mind that nearly everything you read about Venezuela in the US Controlled Media unfree press is a lie. I have yet to see even one story written about that country that was not a lie from start to finish.

The last sentence is completely untrue.

Chavez himself said that Cubans have their way, and we have ours. Different systems for different countries. He never tried to copy the Cuban model. He was trying to do something completely different.

An Eternity of Lies from the Venezuelan Opposition

The first sentence is also completely untrue.

It was never even 1% authoritarian.

Venezuela has one of the freest presses on Earth, and all in all, it is one of the freest countries on the planet. I have read the Opposition press, and it is simply shocking. The Opposition media is so openly dishonest that frankly they probably ought to be shut down on that basis alone. They shameless lie in the wildest ways you could imagine every single day of the year. Their lies have provoked riots, arson and murder. Imagine Fox News during Obama except 5X worse, and that will give you some examples.

There were regular calls to assassinate Chavez and other government officials and nothing was ever done. Yes, the Opposition press regularly, almost daily, called for the murder of the President, and the government did not lift one finger against them.

All of the Opposition press participated in an illegal military coup. They should have been shut down on that basis alone. How can you allow an openly traitorous press?

The Opposition down there is so evil that they even fake exit polls in order to validate false charges of electoral fraud. Venezuela is the only on Earth where I have seen the actual faking of exit polls. Faking exit polls is a grievous crime against democracy because they were one of the few ways that we can tell if an election was honest or not.

Venezuela’s elections are said to be the freest on Earth. I agree. In the last election when the US and Opposition lied and said there was massive fraud, a recount was done. Fully 60% of the ballots were recounted under careful observation and there was not one single ballot in error. The Supreme Court then said, “Ok, 60% without one single error is good enough, no need to count the rest.” The Opposition then screamed fraud, and Obama Administration stomped their feet and screamed fraud also. Do you really think there was 1% chance of fraud in that election?

“Liberals” Hillary Clinton and John (Satan) Kerry led the charge in demanding new elections and demanding that the Chavistas share power with the Opposition. That’s like the Democrats lose an election, and they demand that the Republicans share power with them by filling half the Executive Branch with Democrats.

True, he replaced a lot of the army, but those people who were replaced had participated in a military coup. The army needs to support the regime.

Yes, he replaced most of the judiciary, but this has to be done everywhere in Latin America. An insanely corrupt elite judiciary is a major part of the problem down there, and every time they have a revolution,  one of the first things they do is a “judicial reform.” This means throwing out all of the corrupt judges of the elite and putting in some real judges. You know, people who believe in laws and stupid stuff like that.

Venezuela is vastly more democratic than the US has probably ever been. We have probably never had one day of democracy in this stupid country, and it’s getting much worse. This is because our class enemies who run this country do not believe in democracy. In fact, they have an extreme hatred of democracy.

Sins of the Organized Crime Gang Called “The Opposition”

All of the Opposition figures participated in the military coup and they all should have been put in prison if not shot on that basis alone. Instead they were all set free. All of the Opposition figures who are now in prison were guilty of extreme corruption and financial crimes or abuse of the judiciary. And almost 100% of them were guilty of participating in plots to assassinate the President. One of them ever raised an entire army of hundreds of men on her rural estate. Their purpose was to assassinate the President and seize power. Those few who were not guilty of money crimes or trying to kill the President are guilty of provoking violent riots in which ~40 people died. They were behind those riots all the way down to organizing them at the ground level and distributing guns and bombs to the rioters.

 

The Opposition gets away with murder down there and nothing is done. They rioted in their neighborhoods for years on end, and the police mostly stood there and watched them burn stuff down. Almost no country on Earth except pre-coup Ukraine has gone as easy on rioters as Venezuela has. Even with the latest riots, the police were very hands-off. Once again, they were probably more moderate in putting down those riots than any other police force on Earth. The regime knows that if they do anything heavy-handed at all, the US will scream “police brutality” and “civil rights abuses.”

Bolivarian Economics: China Is Vastly More Socialist than Venezuela

With the exception of oil, the whole economy is in the private sector. China is orders of magnitude more socialist than Venezuela.

All they did was create some social democracy. They built a lot of free to cheap housing, upgraded a lot of infrastructure, wired up the whole country for electricity, subsidized food prices for the poor, sold cheap household furnishings as My Happy Home stores. They created free public education and spent massively on educational facilities. They created free health care and spent hugely on medical care for the people. They promoted a lot of organizing and governing at the local level. They did a land reform by confiscating a lot of untilled land and turning it over to landless peasants to farm. They gave land titles to some local municipalities to grow their own food and run their own factories and enterprises. That’s more or less what China has done.

Chavez did great things for civil rights in Venezuela. Rights for Blacks, mestizos, mulattos and zambos were dramatically increased. Indian rights were expanded greatly, and they were given title to much of their land.

Women’s rights were also expanded dramatically, and the country even introduced civil rights for gays, which is hard to do in Latin America.

73% of the population still supports socialism and Bolivarianism.

The Chavistas massively improved lives in all ways for the poor, the lower middle class, the working classes, and in some ways for the middle classes though the latter do not realize this.

True there was a lot of talk about building socialism, but frankly the consensus on the Left is that they never got around to it. Bolivarianism was never Communist. It was always 100% democracy.

There was a lot of criticism on the Hard Left saying that all Venezuela had done was create a social democracy instead of going to socialism. Comparisons with Norway and Sweden were common.

In Latin America, Liberalism = Communism = Death

You must understand that if you even try to implement the mildest social democracy down in the Latin America, you are a Communist terrorist who must be shot dead. Anything even hinting at liberalism or Left is called Communism, and the attitude of the Right down there is “Kill all Communists.”

If you are in a labor union, you are a Communist because all labor unions are Communist. All human rights organizations are Communist. Everyone preaching Liberation Theology is a Communist. Most professors and students and public universities are considered to be Communists as are most public school teachers, especially because they have very militant unions. All peasant organizations are Communist. Really, every single grassroots popular organization down there is Communist.

PS The US supports this ideology 100%.

The Opposition’s History and Future Project

The Opposition never lifted one finger for the people. They ran that country for decades or really over a century and they did do one damn thing for the people the whole time. Before Chavez took power, 89% of the population lived in poverty in an oil rich nation. 91% of the population could afford only one meal per day. Malnutrition was rife. Health care was for fee for service and simply unavailable to people without the money to pay for it. Same with optometry, dentistry, the whole thing. Educational facilities were poor and falling apart because the elites in government all sent their kids to private schools, and paid no taxes, hence there was no money for public education.

here was no public housing. Sewage ran down the gutters of the streets on the hillside slums where most people lived. There was no clean water. Higher education was expensive and out of the reach of most of the people. In the rural areas most people were landless peasants and a tiny group of rentier rich owned almost all of the fertile land, much of which lay fallow. Death squads roamed the countryside and every year, they murdered ~50 peasants.

The system was profoundly racist, and if you were not White or mostly White, you stood little chance of making money or succeeding in politics. It was a Whites-only elite with no openings for non-Whites. In fact, much of the Opposition was openly racist. The Opposition openly called him “Mono” which means “monkey.” This is a reference to the fact that he is of mixed Indian, White and Black blood. Most of their fury over Chavez was because some guy who looked like the gardener or the maid was running the country and telling the White rich what to do.

I am surprised because the commenter is a Black man who apparently supports the viciously racist Venezuelan Opposition.

And you Americans are mystified at why countries go Left? Why in the Hell do you think?

The Opposition has no project. The project of the Opposition has always been to roll back all of Bolivarianism and take things back to the good old days described above. They have no other project because they cannot have another project. The Opposition are elites who support a project that is “everything for the elites, nothing for anybody else.”

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Some Comments on Shortages and Price Controls in the Venezuelan Economy

Sam: If you buy rice in Venezuela the smartest thing to do, not necessarily the most honest, is to immediately move it over the border and resell it for a huge profit. Then smuggle it back for another huge profit.

Of course that is exactly what is going on. Also an unbelievable amount of hoarding. The stores in the middle and upper class areas are full, stocked to the rafters, so the business community is supplying them just fine. It’s just the poor areas that they are not supplying.

The price controls were put in after the first time the Opposition tried to blow up the economy. They had a lockout strike where businesses all over the country simply closed their doors. Factories too. A lot of employees tried to invade businesses and factories to run them themselves, but it was hard. This so ruined the economy and caused such horrendous inflation that price controls were put in as a necessity to stop the inflation. So it’s the Opposition that created the conditions for the price controls.

The price controls worked just fine for many years. They were put in in 1993. It’s only when the oil price crashed that they became a problem.

Sam: Why don’t they try just subsidizing just the poor with enough money to buy basic rice and oil?

There are Bolivarians who are saying to get rid of the price controls. I agree with them.

Sam: Blaming the US for this not working is just stupid as I can easily see a way to game the system in seconds.

There is also a plot to blow up the economy. This would be the third such plot. The first two were defeated – lockout strike and oil strike – but this one is working very well. There is a ton of hoarding going on. The US has been behind all of these plots to blow up the economy.

Sam: Blaming the US for this not working is just stupid as I can easily see a way to game the system in seconds. Surely the people in Venezuela are not so stupid that they can’t see a way to game it also.

Yes, the business sector is just gaming the system. I cannot really blame them. Capital will just go wherever the profits are highest.

It also makes everyone into a criminal. If the only way you can get food is to game the system or deal with black marketeers then everyone will become complicit making everyone a criminal.

It’s not the only way to get food. The stores in the middle and upper class areas are full. And the stores in the poor areas are full too. Non price controlled stuff is often quite available. Perhaps it is expensive though. It is the cheap staples that are hard to get.

Reuters: But obtaining goods at those prices requires waiting in long lines that are increasingly the site of robberies or lootings.

The looting is exaggerated, and there are police guarding most of the lines.

You realize that every piece on Venezuela in the Western press is part of a propaganda war, right?

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Debunking Myths about the Crisis in Venezuela: An Insider’s Perspective

Via Venezuelanalysis. This is one of many posts that I will post laying out the continuous lies going on in the Western press all out war against Venezuela. One wonders what this war is even all about. Supposedly the Bolivarian government is a Communist, socialist or Marxist government.

Debunking Myths about the Crisis In Venezuela: an Insider’s Perspective

By Javier Hasse – Benzinga, July 26th 2016

Venezuelanalysis

After three years as a correspondent in Venezuela, BBC’s Daniel Pardo decided to share a look into five myths he’s identified in relation to the country’s situation, as perceived by people abroad. Those up-to-date with the news know that almost every mainstream media outlet paints a gloomy picture of famine, insecurity and censorship. But, how bad is the situation really?

1. There’s Famine

While it is true that some areas in Venezuela are experiencing food shortages, and most people (90 percent according to an Encovi poll) have declared they now eat less and worse, there is no such thing as a widespread famine.

According to U.N. criteria, a famine is defined by severe food scarcity in more than 20 percent of households, a global acute malnutrition rate above 30 percent and death rates above 0.02 percent — two deaths per 10,000 people per day. In comparison, the most pessimistic figures for Venezuela point toward 20 to 25 percent malnutrition rate and a death rate that does not even reach one person per 1 million people per day.

2. Venezuela and Cuba Are the Same

Pardo cited three main arguments people are using to argue that Venezuela has “Cubanized”: long lines to purchase rationed products, a dual economy and a militarized government. And, while there is some truth in these statements, Venezuela remains a capitalist economy with a still large private sector — and presence of international brands like McDonald’s Corporation MCD 0.67% and a large list of U.S. and Spanish banks.

Moreover, Venezuelans have free access to the Internet and the media; Facebook Inc FB 0.52%Netflix, Inc. NFLX 2.06%Twitter Inc TWTR 1.52% and Alphabet Inc GOOG 0.4% GOOGL 0.23%’s YouTube are available for everyone, opposite to Cuba. And, of course, Venezuelans can leave the country freely, which Cubans — arguably — cannot do.

It should be noted that none of the statements above imply contempt for the Cuban way, but are just a mere differentiation between two countries.

3. A Dictatorship Is Installed in Venezuela

While there is much debate among scholars regarding how to categorize Venezuela, one thing is pretty undisputed: It is not a traditional dictatorship — living in Latin America, I can assure you a dictatorship looks nothing like that!

 First off, Pardo explained, opposition exists (even though limited in its expressions, it’s there) and elections are conducted periodically — although results can be questioned. Now, agreeing on the fact that Venezuela is not a dictatorship is not the same as talking about a full-blown democracy — although the minimum criteria are met.

4. Everyone and Their Grandma Hates President Nicolás Maduro

Again, this is a straight-out lie. Maduro, like many Latin American (and world) leaders, is a polarizing figure. People tend to either love him or hate him; no grays. In this line, 20 to 30 percent of the country’s population supports the acting president, diverse polls have shown. However, analysts have argued these numbers are rigged, in the sense that many don’t dare to criticize the government, for fear of losing of housing, food and other benefits.

One way or another, “30 percent support is more than what the presidents of Brazil, Chile or Colombia boast nowadays,” Pardo added.

5. People Cannot Feel Safe In The Streets

While it is true that crime rates are quite high in Venezuela, people still go out, even at night, and most return home safely. However, one must keep a low profile, Pardo expounded. Showing riches or opulence are bad ideas, but this applies to almost every country in the world.

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Lies about Venezuela: The “Socialist” Lie

The Bolivarian government of Venezuela is constantly said to be a communist, Marxist or especially socialist government. In fact, it is none of those things. The country has a capitalist economy. The government has used some Keynesian mechanisms to try to regulate the free market, which is exactly what gets done in many nations all over the world, especially in Europe, the Arab world, Africa, Japan Southeast Asia and Central Asia. The Keynesian model of regulated capitalism is one of the major models utilized on the planet today. So all you commenters screaming about Venezuela – I guess you are Libertarians who are opposed to Keynesian economics, correct?

It is constantly compared to Cuba and the USSR and the command economies that caused so many problems in those places. It is even suggested that the long lines are for “rationed products” just as they were in Cuba and the USSR.

Problems:

Economy: There is no command economy in Venezuela. There is no rationing of anything, much less food. Venezuela cannot be said to have a Communist, Marxist or even socialist economy unless you define socialist as social democracy. Yes, Venezuela is about as socialist as most European countries and so many other nations around the world that in one way or another are social democracies. So when you scream that the Venezuelan system is a “failed socialism,” what you are really saying is that social democracy is a failed system. You are saying “France and Sweden are Communist countries.” The insane conflating of social democracy and Communism makes you a…Libertarian, or better yet, a Republican.

The “socialism” that the media has been screaming about has really just been nothing more then Keynesianism – capital controls and price controls after all are simply Keynesian mechanisms utilized in order to regulate free market capitalism. So when you call Venezuela “failed socialism,” what you are saying is that Keynesianism is a failed system and that radical free market capitalism is the only viable solution. So you are an Ayn Randist. You’re Glenn Beck, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul and Milton Friedman.

There never was any socialism in Venezuela anymore than there is socialism in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait. In fact, the Gulf model was the “socialist” model that the Bolivarians were following. So when you scream and call Venezuela “failed socialism,” you are saying that the Gulf states are Communist countries. You are also saying that the Gulf economic system is “failed socialism.” Those economies look failed to you? Me either.

Nothing new about the Bolivarians. Everything the West has been screaming about has been the case for decades in that country. The oil company was nationalized by the pro-Western parties in 1974. I guess they must have been Communists. Only Commies nationalize oil companies.

For decades before Chavez came in, price controls were regularly used in Venezuela by the pro-Western parties. I assume they were utilized to try to deal with the inflation that has always been a problem down there. In fact, the pro-Western parties in that time even used currency controls. Nations all over the world use currency controls.

Venezuela has always had a serious inflation problem. Sure it is running 150% inflation now, but during the 1980’s before Chavez came in, inflation was averaging ~100%/year or between 50-150%. There’s nothing new there. Venezuela’s always had horrible inflation. Even the social democratic or socialist nature of the Bolivarians is nothing new. in fact, one of the two main opposition pro-Western parties, the AD, is a social democratic party or was the last time I checked. In fact, this leading party of the opposition is actually a member of the Socialist International! So if you want to complain about failed socialism and all that crap, why don’t you start with the opposition?

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Another Explanation for Venezuela’s Economic Crisis

It’s Chile 1973 all over again.

Are you familiar with what the US and the Chilean Right did in Chile in 1973 to get rid of Allende? Remember Kissinger said, “We are going to make the Chilean economy scream”? They created economic chaos, then used that as a pretext for riots and violence, and then amidst all the chaos, they started loudly screaming that a coup was necessary to restore order. Then a couple of coup attempts followed which did not work. Then they activated death squads and started assassinating Allendists. The Chief of Staff of the Chilean Army was assassinated.

A fascist guerrilla movement was activated by the CIA which ran around starting riots everywhere and setting off bombs at government and opposition locales.

Furthermore, there was a media war in the West of hysterical near-continuous lies. Time Magazine was one of the worst actors in that regard. The Western media printed stories that said that Soviet Navy vessels were off the coast of Chile and that Soviet troops had entered the country and were training at bases Allende had set up. All of these hysterical stories were complete lies, and they were all planted by the CIA. Nevertheless, the entire Western media printed them without even bothering to figure out if they were true or not.

There was a huge trucker’s strike which ruined the economy because the trucks were used in the transportation network that distributed goods to stores. The truckers were paid huge sums by the CIA and the opposition to go on strike.

Finally there was an actual coup supported by the CIA. During this coup, the Chilean Air Force attacked the Presidential Palace where Allende resided. That would be like if the US Air Force started strafing and bombing the White House trying to kill the US President. Can you imagine how outrageous that would be? President Allende picked up a large machine gun and ran to a window on an upper floor of the palace and started shooting at the planes. While he was doing this, he was killed by the strafing and bombing of the Air Force. So the Chilean military assassinated the President of Chile!

All of these things are exactly what is happening in Venezuela right now, down to the letter.

It is literally Chile 1973 down to the exact last tiny detail.

The US has has done this exact model in many other places, especially with Aristide in Haiti.

Here it is, 43 years after the 1973 coup, and the US is doing the same thing all over again. That shows that in 43 years, US foreign policy has not changed one iota. Our foreign policy now is exactly the same as it was back then.

US foreign policy is the same under both Republican and Democratic Presidents. Barack Obama is Richard Nixon. The former is a “liberal,” and the latter was a “conservative.” John Kerry is Henry Kissinger. The former is a “liberal,” and the latter is a “conservative,” but none of that matters in US foreign policy, as it is always the same under “Democrats” as well as “Republicans” and “conservatives” as well as “liberals.”

This is known as “the bipartisan foreign policy consensus” and one of the fears of the people who run this country was that the Vietnam War destroyed this cooperation pact between the two parties on foreign policy. But the breaking of that pact, if it took place at all, did not last long, as the Allende coup happened during what was supposedly the height of this split in the bipartisan foreign policy consensus.

It truly is one party: The Republicrat Party.

I think the Alternative Left should on principle oppose all coups and regime change efforts, as they are all from the Right anyway. Why should we support rightwing and pro-US coups? Why should we support rightwing and pro-US regime change? The Hell with that.

That ought to be a dealkiller for joining the Alt Left too. If you support rightwing and pro-US coups and regime changes, you are out of the Alt Left just like that. We should not tolerate anyone who thinks like that.

Another Explanation for Venezuela’s Economic Crisis

Peter Bolton – COHA

March 28th 2016

Reports in the English-language press last week highlighted a series of small-scale street protests in Venezuela that bemoaned the scarcity of certain basic products, chronic shortages of medical supplies, and continued power and water outages throughout the country.

According to Reuters, for instance, more than a thousand such protests occurred in January and February and, taken together, “show the depth of public anger” and “could become a catalyst for wider unrest.”[1] News accounts proclaiming Venezuela’s state of emergency are not new but in recent weeks have reached hysterical levels, with the Boston-based Global Post claiming that Venezuela’s economic situation is now “worse than 1960s Cuba.”[2]

The mainstream narrative explanation is that the crisis is the result of economic mismanagement and the ideological rigidity of the country’s “authoritarian” Chavista led-government.

For instance, Andreas E. Feldmann, Federico Merke, and Oliver Stuenkel, writing for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote last November that “Venezuela’s steep recession has been worsened by economic mismanagement leading to mounting inflation, a widening fiscal deficit, and growing shortages of essential goods including food, soap, and diapers.”[3]  Similarly, Arlecchino Gomez at The Daily Signal, wrote, also last November, that Venezuela’s recession “was largely due to government incompetence and mismanagement.”[4]

The Workings of the “Free” Market

These sentiments are strongly predicated on the standard line of economic thought prevailing in the Western media and political class: that stringent price and currency controls are distorting the mechanisms of the “free” market and have led to stagnant production, soaring inflation and a burgeoning black market in U.S. dollars and consumer goods.

The explicit or strongly implied conclusion is that the crisis proves beyond doubt that socialism “doesn’t work” and that the solution to Venezuela’s ills is a return with gusto to Chicago School economic policy and hence a restoration of the unimpeded mechanisms of the market. Making this point in Forbes magazine, Tim Walstall goes so far as to compare the situation in Venezuela with the collapse of the Soviet Union; he argues that the solution “is to do as Russia did at the end of their socialist nightmare… [and implement] an immediate move to full blown free marketry [sic].”[5]

To achieve this, “regime change” is presented as an imperative prerequisite and the only viable way for things to improve. Michael Shifter, writing in Foreign Affairs, says that even though many on the Latin American left initially found Chavismo an “appealing alternative to market-based approaches,” these days “few dispute that it has failed.”[6]

The Alternative Thesis

Within Venezuela itself, however, this analysis is just one of two competing narratives, both of which are discussed and taken seriously in discussions of policy, governance, and economic dynamics. The economic mismanagement thesis is the natural position taken by the Venezuelan opposition and its allies.

But the fact that it is practically the only narrative reported in the English-language press misrepresents the intricacies of Venezuela’s economic problems while revealing how Western media heavily favor the opposition’s analysis, often by its own admission. (Rory Carroll of The Guardian, for instance, boasted that he moved almost exclusively in opposition elite circles while based in Caracas as the paper’s Latin America editor.)

But there is another narrative, favored by the government and the pro-Chavista social movements and civil society sectors, which, it is important to stress, are independent of the government. This perspective can loosely be called the economic war thesis. It explains the crisis in terms of the economic and social dynamics at play outside policy and governmental action.

It holds that business sectors friendly to the opposition are waging an aggressive and protracted campaign of economic sabotage to deliberately stir up social unrest to destabilize and discredit the governing Chavista bloc and in the ensuing chaos bring about an end to the PSUV government and the installation of a new one made up of opposition parties. The central pillars of the economic war thesis are that these hostile sectors have been engaging in acts such as hoarding and price speculation and have purposely generated scarcity in pursuit of calculated chaos.

Naturally, all of the allegations that make up this narrative are dismissed out of hand by the opposition, which argues that they amount to a desperate propaganda stunt to shift blame from the government’s own incompetence onto its political opponents. President Nicolás Maduro’s use of the term “bourgeois parasites” in particular has been seized on by opposition commentators to portray him as a hopeless buffoon desperately holding onto to power and flailingly seeking to prop up a failed political project.

Friendly commentators in the Western press are equally disparaging, with the aforementioned Michael Shifter, for instance, claiming that these accusations “have no merit,” but do serve to “show that any semblance of cooperation between the executive and the assembly to alleviate the country’s economic collapse is, at least for now, far-fetched.”[7] Similarly, Jeffrey Taylor writes in Foreign Policy, “Maduro’s response [to shortages and currency crises] has been to blame everything on scheming “Yanquis,” Venezuela’s “far-right elite,” the “parasitic bourgeois,” and, of course, the opposition, “even though he has effectively neutralized its leadership.”[8]

But though more scholarly research is necessary for a detailed and considered analysis of the myriad factors contributing to Venezuela’s economic situation, it is worth giving the claims of Chavismo a fair hearing. A fuller picture shows that this alternate thesis should not be so glibly dismissed.

Take hoarding, for instance. Before Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998, the economic levers of society were near-exclusively in the hands of a social elite of overwhelmingly light-skinned Venezuelans: the inhabitants of the wealthy neighborhoods of Venezuela’s urban centers and wealthy landowners of the campo.

Not only were they in charge of importation, distribution and wholesaling of all manner of goods for the Venezuelan markets, but they also had a stranglehold over the state apparatus needed to profiteer from effective importation in the first place. A central goal of Chavismo was to wrest control of the economic levers from this elite and more evenly disperse it throughout society. The Chávez and Maduro administrations have sought to democratize economic decision-making and predicate it on serving the public interest rather than the pursuit of private profit.

Confronting Entrenched Privilege

Political psychology provides important insights into the socio-economic dynamics of Venezuelan society. In his book, Angry White Men, sociologist Michael Kimmel argues that much of white men’s rage in the United States is the result of privileges that were historically bestowed on them gradually becoming less automatic. As historically disadvantaged sectors gain more opportunities and influence, the change appears to the previously favored group as a great injustice.[9]

The same dynamic is evident in Venezuela: an unaccountable elite of overwhelmingly white, Euro-descent Venezuelans hold positions of influence and has had control of many of the important economic decisions. In great part the Chavista movement was based on giving voice to the country’s poor majority, which incidentally is overwhelmingly black, brown, indigenous, and/or mixed race.

Hugo Chávez was himself of mixed-race heritage, with European, native Venezuelan, and African ancestry. The mere idea that such a person (or mono, meaning monkey, as the opposition frequently called him) could be president and give voice to the dark-skinned chusma was seen as a veritable insult to the Venezuelan elite.

The Chávez and Maduro governments have attempted to transition Venezuela away from a society that has been not only inherently racist and classist, but also highly rigid, stratified and oligarchic. Problems inevitably arise because this elite already holds the reins and can aggressively resist a recalibration of economic and social power. In 1998, the highly corrupt business class controlled almost every economic structure imaginable from distribution of food and production of oil to systems for obtaining dollars and importing consumer goods.

As James Petras and Henry Veitmeyer argue in their 2013 book What’s Left in Latin America? Regime Change in New Times, “The government’s socialist project depends on mass social organizations capable of advancing on the economic elite and cleaning the neighborhoods of rightwing thugs, gangsters and paramilitary agents of the Venezuelan oligarchs and [Colombia’s] Uribe regime.”[10]

Since these are the people who were already in positions of economic power and influence when the Bolivarian process began, their ability to throw a wrench in the government’s efforts for reform has been formidable. Ryan Mallet-Outtrim, writing in Venezuela Analysis, points out that “Venezuela’s private sector has long attacked the socialist government.” So much so, he adds, “that for years Venezuelans have acknowledged that scarcity of basic consumer goods spikes around important elections, as businesses seek to pressure voters into turning against Chavismo.”[11]

Evidence of such efforts by pro-opposition sectors has not been lacking. Immediately following the opposition victory in the 2015 National Assembly elections, for instance, social media commentators indicated that staple goods miraculously began to reappear on shelves throughout the country.[12] Tellingly, some of the products had expiration dates that suggested that the problem was not with production but rather with distribution, which is largely controlled by the right-wing business elite. By creating this kind of scarcity, the elite were essentially trying to starve the public into rejecting the revolution, a tactic influenced by the United States’ economic blockade against Cuba.

When these dynamics are taken in the wider context of Venezuelan politics over the last two decades, they begin to seem less and less ridiculous and more and more plausible. Throughout the period of Chavismo there have been times when these aggressive tactics of economic sabotage have been too obvious to allow for the opposition’s usual equivocation.

During the so-called oil strike, for example, opposition forces led by Venezuela’s largest business association, Fedecamaras, orchestrated a nationwide disruption of oil production in hopes that the ensuing economic chaos would destabilize the government and precipitate a coup.[13]Taken in the context of this history of instigated pandemonium, the economic war thesis emerges as at least equally worthy of consideration as its major competitor.

Internal and External Challenges to the Revolution

None of this is to say, of course, that there are no legitimate criticisms of the central government, far less that the opposition’s explanation for the economic crisis should be dismissed as casually as it dismisses the government’s. Yet there are mitigating factors that must be raised in the government’s defense. The Bolivarian process has attempted not just to pay the social debt that was owed the country’s poor majority, but also to radically transform society by offering an alternative development model to the neoliberal consensus of the 1980s and 1990s that plunged the entire region into disarray.

The Chávez and Maduro administrations have attempted this task while facing constant hostility not only from an aggressive internal political opposition that has often resorted to violence, but also from the hemisphere’s hegemon, the United States. Washington, which almost instinctively has been opposed to Chavismo from day one, has consistently interfered in Venezuela’s internal affairs in the hope of crushing the Bolivarian process.

From a Bush administration-backed[14] and CIA-aided[15] coup in 2002, in which then-President Chavez was nearly removed from power by force, to refusals to recognize Chavista electoral victories, threats of sanctions, and covert funding for opposition candidates, the United States had been determined to do everything possible to ensure that it would fail. The United States has viciously opposed anything that threatens the dominance of the unfettered neoliberal capitalist vision that it has sought to defend, and then spread, throughout the world.

As William Camacaro and COHA Senior Research Fellow Fred Mills wrote early last year in Counterpunch, “A great deal hangs in the balance with regard to the feasibility of advancing a democratic socialist project while under the continuous attack of a U.S.-backed opposition, elements of which are bent on restoring the neoliberal regime.”[16]

The U.S. mainstream media, overwhelmingly owned by large corporations and loyal to their interests, naturally reflects and promulgates the ideological contours of this worldview. Herein lies the explanation for why the debate has been so narrow, so inordinately skewed toward the opposition’s account of the situation, and so disregarding of the complexities and subtleties of the discourse regarding the admittedly tragic and desperate circumstances in which the Venezuelan people find themselves.

[1] “Small Protests Proliferate in Simmering Venezuela,” The New York Times, accessed March 21, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/03/17/world/americas/17reuters-venez….

[2] “Venezuelans in the US Say Their Country Is Worse Than 1960s Cuba,” Global Post, accessed March 21, 2016, http://www.globalpost.com/article/6749177/2016/03/21/venezuelans-us-say-….

[3] “Venezuela’s Political Crisis: Can Regional Actors Help?,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accessed March 21, 2016, http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/11/30/venezuela-s-political-crisis-can….

[4] “Venezuela’s Economic Crisis,” The Daily Signal, accessed March 21, 2016, http://dailysignal.com/2015/11/09/venezuelas-economic-crisis/.

[5] “Venezuela’s Economic Catastrophe Isn’t About To Happen, It Has Happened,” Forbes, accessed March 21, 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2016/02/07/venezuelas-economic-c….

[6] “Venezuela’s Meltdown Continues,” Foreign Affairs, accessed March 21, 2016, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/venezuela/2016-03-10/venezuelas-….

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Venezuela’s Last Hope,” Foreign Policy, accessed March 21, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/10/venezuelas-last-hope-leopoldo-lopez-….

[9] “Angry White Men: A Book Review,” Huffington Post, accessed March 21, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tristan-bridges/a-review-of-angry-white-m_….

[10] James Petras and Henry Veitmeyer, What’s Left in Latin America?: Regime Change in New Times, Routledge (2016).

[11] “How Bad is Venezuela’s Economic Situation?,” Venezuela Analysis, accessed March 21, 2016, http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/11832.

[12] “Basic Goods ‘Suspiciously’ Begin to Appear in Venezuela Stores, TeleSur,” accessed March 21, 2016, http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Basic-Goods-Suspiciously-Begin-to-…–20151214-0018.html.

[13] “Venezuelan General Strike Extended,” BBC News, accessed March 21, 2016, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1918189.stm.

[14] Venezuela Coup Linked to Bush Team,” The Guardian, accessed March 22, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/apr/21/usa.venezuela.

[15] “The CIA Was Involved in the Coup against Venezuela’s Chavez,” Venezuela Analysis, accessed March 22, 2016, http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/800.

[16] “Revolution, Counter Revolution and the Economic War in Venezuela,” Counterpunch, accessed March 21, 2016, http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/01/27/revolution-counter-revolution-and….

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The Smashing Success of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Project

Tulio says, sarcastically:

Because Bolivarianism has worked out so well in Venezuela.

It’s been a smashing success as far as alleviating poverty has gone. The poverty rate was 90% when he got in, and now I think it is 25%. He radically expanded schooling, medical care, public transportation, sewage systems, and gave jobs to so many slum dwellers. He built cheap food markets all over the cities so the poor could afford to buy enough food to eat. He had stores called My Happy Home that sold lots of household items for quite cheap, cheap enough so poor people could afford them.

Chavez went around the country in the smaller cities and rural areas building small homes for families. They were quite spartan and small, but he gave them to these people for free! They were so happy because previously they had been living in slums. Rural poverty has been dramatically reduced. Chavez’ followers occupied lots of large farms and drove the large landowners off the land and set up cooperatives there so they could grow their own food. Before they had been malnourished impoverished landless peasants. The rural poor love Chavez.

In 1989, 90% of the population was poor. The poor majority has benefited enormously from Bolivarianism. That is why he and his allies got re-elected, what? 20 times? He also dramatically expanded public housing in the slums. He really made an incredible dent in urban poverty. In fact, one of the problems is that so many poor people did so well under Chavez that they become middle class and then they started voting conservative and biting the hand that fed them.

You can even look at figures like caloric intake. There is a lot of propaganda along these lines, but the fact remains that Venezuelans are getting plenty of food to eat. Caloric intake has gone way up for the majority of people under the Chavistas. Of course, when Chavez got in, ~90% of the people weren’t even getting enough food to eat.

The upper class, the upper middle class and unfortunately some middle class elements have been very unhappy because they have monopolized the economy since Independence. You see in 1989 when there was a 90% poverty rate and 90% of the people could only afford one meal per day? The country was awash in oil money then but it was all being hogged and robbed by a voracious, venal oligarchy. The wealthier classes have suffered. They lost a lot of their wealth and privileges. Too bad! I say good!

Bottom line is the poor majority and the working classes and peasants have benefited incredibly from Bolivarianism. That is really the majority or the vast majority of the people. It’s been great for ~70% of the people.

A minority of the people, the wealthier classes, lost a lot of their wealth and privileges as wealth that was previously monopolized by them was redistributed to the masses. Bolivarianism has been objectively bad for ~30% of the population, a minority. The opposition can’t win an election. They have hardly one a single election since Chavez came in. Even Congressional, mayoral and gubernatorial elections are typically wild sweeps by the Chavistas and a total wipe-out for the opposition.

They can’t win because they represent the interests of the wealthier minority of classes, the former oligarchy and ruling class. The poor, the workers and the peasants see the Opposition as the enemy. These same people ruled the country for 165 years since Independence and all they did was enrich themselves and they never did a damn thing for the vast majority of the poorer people. The Chavista voters don’t trust the Opposition because they figure that if they get in, they will bring back the system that screwed these people for 165 years. The people are with the Chavistas, for good reason. The Opposition can never win because they lack majority support. What’s the problem?

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What To Do about the Awful Slums of Latin America?

brown paper bag writes:

Robert, I realize this is somewhat unrelated, and that there may be a better post to ask this, but what do you suggest should be done about the favelas in Brazil, and the seemingly hopeless impoverishment elsewhere?

I do not know. Isn’t Chavez Bolivarian Movement in Venezuela trying to address problems like that? I would say that the solution to those awful slums in Latin America would be a Venezuelan model. Every country in Latin America with awful slums like that should try to go the Bolivarian route. One thing is for sure, the standard capitalist model is utterly failing to deal with that problem.

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Mayor of Caracas Arrested

The mayor of Caracas, a fascist named Antonio Ledezma, has been arrested by Bolivarian authorities. A huge crowd is forming outside the SEBIN security forces building in Caracas. I believe SEBIN may be the Venezuelan equivalent of the FBI. Ledezma, along with a couple of other fascists – Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the Popular Will Party who is now in jail where he belongs, and former legislator Maria Corina Machado – had recently called for regime change in Venezuela and a government of national transition.

They are just sore losers. They lost the last election, although it was very close. They election was probably as free and fair as any election anywhere on Earth these days. There were election observers everywhere, paper ballots, the voter could see his vote tallied as he voted to see if it was marked correctly, both parties had poll watchers at every polling station and votes were counted by a neutral institution.

Immediately after the sore loser fascists lost, they started screaming “Fraud!” The Obama Administration and the opposition had plotted this strategy for months. If the opposition were to lose, the strategy was to charge fraud and then go from there. It didn’t matter if the election was fraudulent or not, they were just going to scream fraud anyway to try to force their way into office undemocratically like fascists always do.

That Obama was in on this crooked strategy shows just how sleazy and wicked US imperialism is. The Chavistas have to go one way or another. If we can’t vote them out of office, we will try to get them out by other means, including violence. Of course this is SOP for US imperialism since Day One and we have always had contempt for democracy when the voters elect the wrong guys.

The election was very close, 51-49, but Machado won as the new Chavez. Immediately the opposition started screaming fraud although there was no basis for making this claim. They circulated all sorts of wild charges that suggested an unfair election. Most if not all of these charges were apparently just made up out of whole cloth.

The next day the Venezuelan media (75% opposition owned) which makes the US media look like Mother Theresa and tells more lies than truths, began running all sorts of wild stories that seemed to be completely made up. They were accompanied by genuinely alarmiong photographs. For instance, one photograph showed ballot boxes thrown into a ravine. The Venezuelan press went wild with the claim that this was one of many cases were ballot boxes from opposition districts were simply thrown into canyons and never counted.

The Western “free press” printed all of these stories as if they were true without even bothering to check any of them out. Turns that the ballot boxes photo was from an election a few years back. After the vote had been counted, some of the ballot boxes were disposed of in the time honored Latin American fashion of throwing them into a ravine as litter. So the crime was littering and not vote fraud and it happened 3 years ago in another election, not yesterday in this election.The newspaper that originally ran those photos apparently knew full well that they were fake and ran them anyway, CIA style.

The opposition went into a virtual frenzy with all of these crazy charges and a lot of opposition supporters got all riled up. They went on a wild rampage and attacked Bolivarian party offices and the offices of Bolivarian officials all over the country. In addition, they attacked many of the social missions that the government had set up. Special attention was given to the clinics for the poor that are staffed by Cuban medical workers because the opposition hates those clinics more than anything. Some Cuban health care workers were wounded and killed in shootings and bombings. A number of these buildings were burned to the ground.

The basic idea, typical of US imperialism, that is the US clients decided that if they lost at the ballot box they were going to take power by force and shoot their way into force. Usually when US imperialism loses a free election in the 3rd World, the US then tries to overthrow the democratically elected government by force. Out attitude is we get the last vote no matter what.

The riots and chaos did not overthrow the state, so the fascist maniacs named above gave out orders to their followers to take to the streets and show your rage and topple this government. It was called “the forced exit” campaign. Months of wild rioting followed, with street barricades set up all over Caracas and regular riots on a daily basis. Police attempts to dismantle barricades were met with violence.

When it was all over, ~35 people were dead and many others were wounded. Quite a few of the dead had simply been murdered as  a number of the rioters were armed with small arms and bombs. A significant number of the dead were police who were murdered by the rioters. Others were often innocent passerby who got caught up in the riot. All in all, the rioters were responsible for ~70% of the deaths. The police were responsible for some deaths and there were a number of cases of police abuse of the rioters. But you would have to wonder how the US would respond to such a situation.

At some point, they were not able to riot and shoot their way into power and overthrow the government by force Maidan style, so the riots petered out. However, the state did charge Maria Corina Machado with incitement to riot and a number of other crimes. Of course she was guilty of all of them. She was imprisoned for a number of months and frankly she was just where she belonged, behind bars. The Western media went nuts claiming that the Chavistas were “persecuting the opposition” by throwing a leading opposition figure in jail.

Leopoldo Lopez has recently been jailed on similar charges as he was one of the other masterminds behind the violent riots.

Now that Antonio Ledezma has been arrested, it appears that all three of the ringleaders of the riots have been arrested at one point or another. No one knows that the mayor has been charged with, but I assume he has been charged with crimes surrounding his masterminding of the riots. The opposition is throwing a huge fit about “the jailing of the opposition mayor” and you can expect to see plenty of stupid lying headlines in the press tomorrow about this event.

This is a developing story and I will be following it as I have a feeling this is going to head into a great big mess here.

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Ownership and Regulation of Basic Utilities in the US, 2014

Daniel writes:

What about a mostly free market domestically, but limited economic internationalism (since I think globalism is a sovereignty stealing scam), a basic income (partly as a way to say “that’s it, you get nothing else. Spend it wisely” so as to avoid entitlement culture and single motherhood subsidizing), good immigration based on a points system?

And utilities and infrastructure done by the gov.

I have no problem with most of this other than the anti-single mother stuff and the “mostly free market” stuff which I dealt with other posts.

The rest of it is not bad at all.

Economic nationalism is going to be very hard to do. Both parties in the US and every major party in every large country on Earth is down with this IMF, World Bank, TPP, NAFTA, WTO free trade agreement scams. Even the “liberal” or “Leftist” Democratic Party is on board with all this stuff. If you look at Europe, apparently most social democratic parties in Europe are down with the globalism thing too. The globalist madness seems to have captured the elites of much of the world from Right to Left and it is going to be very hard to build any opposition to them. This is mostly because most governments in the world supporting globalism are controlled by the corporations of that nation. We have made some progress in Latin America with the Bolivarian system and with the BRICs plan of Russia, but it is an uphill battle.

How do we promote a project that both the Republican and Democratic Parties are determined to implement. How do we oppose it when much of the rest of the world is drinking the globalist crack. It is a depressing project.

Infrastructure and utilities run by the state would be a good thing. I think infrastructure is still run by the state here, but there seems to be a determined bipartisan project led by the Republicans do defund infrastructure spending at every level. Why do the Republicans want the country to fall apart. I don’t know. Why doesn’t someone ask them?

Utilities run by the state is a great idea, but just recently we had electricity degregulated in a number of states. It was a disaster at least in California, but the deregulators don’t admit it, and they have stated that they are determined to keep pushing this until they get it through. Privatization of water has not yet succeeded in the US, though this is a corporate goal. We deregulated the phone and cable companies with the Communications Act in the Clinton Era, but what is bizarre is that the vote was somethign like 450-14. Yes that is correct. The vast majority of liberal Democrats voted for that scam. And here we are, 20 years later, with the ruins of communications degregulation lying all around us for anyone to see, and hardly anyone has turned against it. Neither party wants to re-regulate the phone or cable companies.

The cable companies obviously need regulating as they are a classic example of an unregulated monopoly. You see anyone even suggesting that we should regulate the cable monopolies? The phone companies are formally still regulated, but the truth is that it is pretty much a hands-off approach now and they get to abuse any way they see fit. The phone companies are for all intents and purposes unregulated monopolies in the US. The cable and phone companies run the Internet, and the Internet is not regulated at all. Instead it is run by tow of the most evil industries in the US, the unregulated phone and cable companies. There are efforts now to put in some basic regulations (to treat the Internet as part of the regulated public airwaves which clearly it is) but they are having a very tough time. The terrifying battle over Net Neutrality shows just how badly the pro-people forces have lost control of the narrative.

The cell phone companies are also using the public airwaves, at it is obvious that they need to be regulated too whether they are monopolies or not. They are actually not monopolies, but the industry is extremeely stupid and wasteful (for example, each company built its own cell towers instead of having one set of public towers used by all of them), and while the companies are not yet monopolies, there is not much competition. The cellphone companies are operating on the model of Let’s all collude to screw the customers! This is actually the case for a number of industries. All of the “competitors” in the industry agree that they are going to screw the consumers as much as possible to rake in maximum profits. One would think that a pro-consumer company would rise from the muck but it doesn’t seem to happen. This is a clear case of market failure and it is more common than you think. We are now seeing the beginnings of some real pro-consumer competition with these cellphone rats, but it’s been slow going.

So as you can see, we are having a hard time holding onto regulating the utilities that we do regulate and there is a constant danger of looming deregulation. New monopolies were deregulated and there are no plans in sight to re-regulate them. Existing regulated companies are poorly regulated and given largely free reign to abuse society as much as possible. The possibility of regulating new utilities such as the Internet have run up against tsunami-like corporate lobbying and overcoming these colossal efforts seems daunting.

As you can see, having the state run or at least regulate (For Chrissakes!) utilities is a great idea, but it is running into all sorts of problems, probably the worst of which is that both parties and a huge sector of the population including all the corporate media are hooked on the Deregulation Crack. The deregulation narrative has penetrated deeply into ordinary society such it has nearly become a national Zeitgeist.

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Chile Versus Venezuela: The Real Story

Jeorg writes:

I largely subscribe to you view. But it is exactly like in the Bigfoot world: same people or same events – and two TOTALLY different points of view about it/about them? Is Dyer the devil (or just a clown) or the holy saver of the bf community?

Assigned to this issue: Is Chile – and other parts of Latin America –  now so strong, because of decades of socialism that redistributed public wealth among the people OR because of the more liberal, free-market policies even those socialist governments have adopted in recent years (especially Chile and Brazil)? I am with you, Robert, but one can  see it totally different like this free-market think-tank guru.

First of all, the Right lies all the time about Venezuela. It has actually been a smashing success, maybe not for the rich and the top 20%, but for everyone else it has been. It’s been a wild success story. Now, maybe if you lay the figures out, Chile looks better, but so what? Chile is just about the only place where even partway neoliberal model even works at all.

Everywhere else on the continent, and indeed in the world, it’s caused nothing but disaster. Generally what happens is you get slow economic growth, and you have a massive redistribution of wealth from the bottom 80% to the top 20%. So neoliberalism in the US basically takes money from everyone making less than $80,000/year and gives it to the people making more than $80,000/year.

This is what neoliberalism does everywhere. Furthermore, it has dismantled health and welfare systems all over the world and the truth is it has killed millions of people due to disease, lack of medications, etc. Education systems have been dismantled. Unions are wiped out and pared way down.

The Right lies about Chile. After the coup, Pinochet called in the Chicago Boys and they implemented some of the most radical free market projects ever tried anywhere. This quickly caused an extreme economic crisis and a huge depression followed. Pinochet then threw the Chicago Boys out, reversed a lot of their crazy neoliberal stuff, and adopted a more state-centered approach to growth involving a lot of government involvement and spending.

Society then began a long, slow climb out of the horrible depression. It is the growth coming out of this Depression that the neoliberal liars refer to as “Chile Miracle.” When Pinochet left office, the economy was about where it was when Allende was in in 1973.

Pinochet did do a lot of crazy things. He privatized Social Security, which is probably going to be a very bad idea. He engaged in massive wealth redistribution that shifted a huge amount of wealth from the bottom 2/3 of wage earners, who were horribly immiserated, upwards to the top 1/3 of wage earners, who got a windfall. Society ended up extremely polarized, and the class hatred is so thick you can cut it with your knife.

The rich live on hills in mansions with high walls and even barbed wire sometimes, guard dogs, you name it. Every night, the poor move up from the ravines into the hills to steal from the rich. So wealth gets redistributed one way or the other, you see, either legally or illegally. There are regular demonstrations and riots which often turn deadly. There are also regular street protests between a radicalized Left and a Right that still loves Pinochet. There are attacks in these street fights and sometimes people are killed.

Pinochet never took apart the state health system, and the education system is not bad, but it has been defunded by the state, so the public schools are literally falling apart, as in their roofs are caving in. The rich won’t pay taxes, so there is no money to fix the schools. The students riot all the time. Sure, the Left is radicalized, but Bachelet sort of had her hands tied when she was in and she could not do a lot of the good stuff she wanted to do. I think a real rightwinger actually won the election last time around.

The Right lies because there is a lot of socialism in Chile. There is the foundations of a welfare state. On the other hand, there is some free market bullshit too. It’s not some neoliberal radical free market laissez faire paradise.

Venezuela has done very well under Bolivarian socialism, but apparently Chile has better figures. But Venezuela is probably a nicer place to live. The government cares about the masses in Venezuela, whereas in Chile, the whole system is set up to enrich the top 1/3 and screw everyone else.

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