People are starving in Venezuela, and socialism is to blame. People are standing in line for food that they will never taste. Americans love to think such tragedies cannot happen here, but some of us aren’t so sure.
“The Venezuelan story still remains for many as the story of another Latin American country that has failed. We think of it as ‘that’s Latin America, and we are the United states, and that would never happen here.’ Why would it not happen here?” asked Erick Brimen, founder and partner at NeWay Capital and a member of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. In a terrifying video, Brimen — who was born and raised in Venezuela — argued that the tragedy of Venezuela could certainly happen here.
“Venezuela had a democracy, a constitution, you know, division of power in government, but people were not educated in the principles of freedom, and they vote for whoever promises more,” Brimen warned. In the short 7-minute video, he laid out the history of Venezuela and how it became the way it is today.
The country had great promise and opportunity, especially in its vast oil reserves. “But as that wealth got into the hands of government, what was a great opportunity became actually a huge temptation, that disintegrated into corruption,” the Venezuelan narrator explained. More government control of the economy resulted in inequalities, “where some would be exposed to international competition whereas others would be protected because they were friends with those in power.”
This cronyism fostered social unrest, as prices rose and riots formed across the country. That’s when Hugo Chavez showed up.
Brimen argued that Chavez hit on some very real problems: “cronyism, government, rigging the system. He was promising to fix it by directly attacking the problem, which at the surface was income inequality. It was about the rich verses the poor.” The masses liked this message, and the business elite saw him as a manipulable puppet. “It’s easy to forget he was democratically elected, by a landslide, many times.”
Once elected, Chavez grew bolder. The video shows footage of the Venezuelan president declaring, “We do not want to be rich. To be rich is bad and inhumane. I tell it to you like it is, and I condemn the rich.” He eventually embraced full expropriation of private property.
Next Page: How Chavez became more and more dictatorial, and why it can totally happen here.
“In the beginning it was some penalties here, a few confiscations there,” Brimen recalled. “When the cronies were no longer willing to play ball, he just turned around and used another group of unscrupulous business leaders. By the time it was obvious to many, it was already too late.”
Chavez actually took to the streets, leading crowds and ordering blanket confiscations “as if he was God,” Brimen explained. The video shows footage of the president asking about building after building, and as he hears that each is privately owned, he declares, “Expropriate it! Expropriate it!”
The Venezuelan government even proceeded to censor the media. “Initially it was very subtle, just a fine here and a fine there, but once you accept that, then it’s just a matter of degree,” Brimen said. Opposition voices found themselves silenced by government force. Eventually, Chavez’s orders “just flat out closed newspapers and TV channels.” There is no voice of opposition in Venezuela today, he lamented.
“Government could never become this powerful and this tyrannical, had it not first been crony,” Brimen said. Crony capitalism enables political movements to increase government on both sides — first for one group, and then for their opposition. At each step, government grows, and power becomes more firmly entrenched. Eventually, it can destroy an entire country.
So could it happen here? Absolutely.
“The piece of paper that we hold so dearly here, the U.S. Constitution, is just that, it’s a piece of paper,” Brimen warned. “The only thing keeping tyranny away in the U.S., the only thing keeping liberty alive, is that people understand it and that they themselves defend it.”
The native Venezuelan said he was thankful for the opportunity to move to the United States, and will dedicate himself to defending its vision of liberty. “But if this country disintegrates in the same way, where are we going to go? What’s the next beacon of hope?” Great question.
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