I have two VIPs this week: Andrés Guilarte and Jorge Andrés Galicia Rodriguez. They are two students who grew up in Venezuela and know personally what happens when a nation embraces socialism. They spoke last week in a Heritage Foundation webinar and shared their experiences. Venezuela became impoverished as a nation, but the middle class took a deep drop in prosperity.
Guilarte is a university student and an outreach fellow at The Fund for American Studies. He stated that his nation was once prosperous, and that he was reared in a stable home without want. He said that life began to change when Hugo Chavez won the presidential election in 1999.
However, 2013 saw the quality of life decline swiftly – “we didn’t even know if we’d have three meals a day.”
The government in Venezuela, they didn’t care if people didn’t like that, they didn’t care if their liberties were going to be taken or their lives were going to be left out of options. [He said that conditions got so bad that middle-class families began eating garbage.]
Rodriguez is also a university student and outreach fellow at The Fund for American studies. His experience was similar to that of Guilarte.
When I was a child, I used to have great birthday parties. I used to have the latest versions of my favorite video games. My life was really, really great for me and my whole family.
But then since at least the year 2013, 2014, that situation changed almost completely to the point that where in my house, for example, we didn’t even have constant water supply. Electricity was constantly failing, food was really hard to come by.
Rodriguez shared a story of when his family attempted to assist a homeless man. The man said that he was more worried about them than he was about himself. He knew how to live off the street, and the Rodriguez did not but would soon have to learn. “I know that you people that are from the middle class are going to be in the same situation as me at some point in the future, and you’re not going to be able to eat from the trash can.”
According to Guilarte, there are still many Venezuelans who embrace socialism despite its failures. They were indoctrinated with socialism as children and still believe it is wonderful. He used to call himself a socialist because of the indoctrination in the school system. “They tell you that Chavez was the biggest guy in the world, that he led the revolution, he was like Jesus on earth.”
Guilarte said that the indoctrination works, and some members of his family thought that life would be better under the Chavez regime than the previous corrupt governments. He said that “his eyes were opened” and he saw that he was on the wrong side when college friends began to protest the government. Guilarte did had the desire to help people but understood that the only way to help them is to fight for liberty. He realized that some people have to hit “rock bottom” before they can be helped.
Additional comments were made by Lee Edwards, distinguished fellow in conservative thought at The Heritage Foundation. He said that some proponents of socialism make excuses for its failures and cause misconceptions. “Socialism has never failed because it’s never been tried” is one misconception.
This isn’t true, Edwards said, because socialism has been tried in many places and failed. He pointed to three countries in particular – Israel, India, and the United Kingdom – that attempted to implement socialist policies after World War II.
Israel experienced catastrophic inflation, half of India’s population was stuck in poverty, and the U.K. became the “sick man of Europe.” …
Edwards, Rodriguez, and Guilarte agreed that there is a difference between socialism in Venezuela and the pro-market economies of the Nordic countries, such as Denmark. Guilarte described it as follows:
I don’t see the governments of Denmark and Sweden taking the means of production … from the business owners. I don’t see them attacking the freedom of the press, attacking freedom of movement, attacking freedom of speech. I don’t see their people being so oppressed that they have to go to the streets and expect to literally be killed by their own government officers, by the police, by the military.
I have not visited a socialist nation, such as Venezuela, but I have visited Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. One bus driver in Norway told us that the nation provided free college and other free things, but their tax rate was more than fifty percent. The people are hard working and respectful. I did not see any graffiti in any of the areas I visited. I did not see even one piece of garbage on the ground except the morning after a big concert in a park in Sweden.
The homes and outer buildings looked like they had been freshly painted for our visit, and there were no broken-down cars or other pieces of junk lying around. Every area was picture perfect made even more so by the beautiful scenery all around. The people were friendly, happy, and helpful. I did not see any homeless people in the streets. The system of government in the Nordic countries is not socialism even though they may have some socialist practices that are paid by high taxes from citizens.