Venezuela’s Maduro: The U.S. wants to turn my military against me!

Ain’t too many people still with you, bro.

In case you haven’t heard, Venezuela went all in on feeling the Bern more than a decade ago. Socialism has been about as complete a disaster there as it’s possible for a thing to be. Just to give you one example: How does a country with more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia end up with a gas crisis? I’ll tell you how: A corrupt central-planning goverment mismanages its resources while making it impossible for anyone to earn a profit producing or selling anything.

You say the difference is that Bernie wants “democratic socialism”? I hate to tell you this, but Hugo Chavez was popularly elected, and popular elections have kept his successor Nicolas Maduro in office. The problem is not that the socialism isn’t democratic. It’s that it’s socialism.

And now Maduro, who the opposition is trying to recall, is entering the paranoid/delusional everyone-is-out-to-get-me phase, where among other things he’s blaming the U.S. for trying to turn the Venezuelan military against him:

The United States “dreams of dividing” a “Chavista” military fiercely loyal to Venezuela’s socialist government, president Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday, as the military comes under scrutiny in the crisis-gripped OPEC nation.

Maduro and the opposition are at loggerheads over a referendum to recall him. Authorities say the vote will not happen this year, while the opposition says an unpopular Maduro must be removed to keep a brutal recession from worsening.

Some opposition supporters hope factions of Venezuela’s opaque but powerful military will nudge the former bus driver and union leader to allow the vote.

But to the tune of “Fatherland, Socialism, or Death,” the armed forces so far praise late leader Hugo Chavez and his self-described son “Maduro,” who lacks his predecessor’s army background.

During military exercises to prepare Venezuela against what authorities say are threats of foreign invasion, Maduro reiterated he has the military’s backing.

“These armed forces are wholly ‘Chavista'” he said, flanked by top commanders as state television showed images of rifle-totting soldiers and civilians trekking through the lush jungle or guarding oil service stations.

“From the empire, they dream of dividing our armed forces… fragmenting them, weakening them,” he said of the U.S. government, his ideological foe.

I don’t know about that last part. I can’t think of a single way that Barack Obama is Maduro’s “ideological foe.” Obama is just fortunate enough – even though I don’t think he sees it this way – to be constrained by a legislative branch that occasionally puts some restraints on his own socialistic tendencies, not to mention the fact that the U.S. had a much more fundamentally strong economy when Obama took office than Venezuela ever had. The damage done by Chavez and Maduro has been done to a much less steady base.

At any rate, I doubt it’s going to take a military coup to topple Maduro. The people will only stand for so much of this:

On the economic front, things went south after oil prices collapsed in 2014. The country heavily relies on the commodity for its export revenues, and it previously relied on oil’s higher prices tofund many of the government’s social programs. Most notably, a bombshell New York Times report elucidated how the country’s economic crisis had led to a huge public-health emergency.

Venezuela has also been suffering from water and electricity cuts amid a prolonged drought. The government has come up with some unorthodox strategies to combat the situation — such as changing daylight saving time, urging women to cut use of hairdryers to save electricity, and forcing holidays for state employees.

And on top of all that, Venezuela has also been struggling with security issues. The country still has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and it has seen episodes of vigilante violence.

Most recently, the Associated Press’s Hannah Dreier reported how a 42-year-old Venezuelan man, Roberto Bernal, was burned alive over $5 — but “amid the general haze of violence, Bernal’s killing didn’t even stand out enough to make the front pages or provoke comment from local politicians.”

Contrary to what Bernie Sanders would have you believe, the Chavez revolution was very much like the one he is trying to foment here. Chavez was able to whip the people into a frenzy against supposed rich oppressors and convince them more economic power should be concentrated in the hands of the government. When Chavez died, the much less charismatic Maduro took over, and the fatally flawed socialist system remained in place. It’s a terrible thing for the people of a wonderful country who deserve much better.

I’m praying that Venezuela can find a way back from this. And that the United States isn’t dumb enough to go down the same road.

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