As the great socialist experiment in Venezuela reaches its logical conclusion it is hard not to wonder what is next for the beleaguered nation. Despite its massive natural resources, the country once lauded as an ‘alternative to austerity’ by democratic socialists and social democrats the world over now stands on the brink of total collapse.
Far from the socialist paradise promised by Hugo Chaves when he began is ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ the Venezuela of today is a land of hyper inflation, power cuts and shortages. Price controls, designed to keep life’s essentials affordable, have had the opposite effect, forcing goods to be sold for less than cost price, and putting retailers and producers out of business.
While the long queues for bread and other staples are hardly shocking to those of us who have taken an interest in Venezuela over the past few years, the situation today is much more grave. Rolling blackouts and failures in the water network have reduced vast swathes of the Bolivarian Republic to a post industrial state, while the lack of even basic medicines has turned some illnesses usually considered no issue in the developed world into life threatening conditions.
The Labour Party has never been short of apologists for tyranny, and Venezuela is no exception. They take the form of a group of once obscure left-wingers, led by Easington MP Grahame Morris, which includes none other than Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, and John McDonnell. Despite rampant corruption, persecution of political opponents by the late President Chaves and his successor Nicolas Maduro, the suppression of the free press, and crippling loo roll shortages, the UK supporters of this regime have found little reason to change their minds.
There seems little we as Conservatives can do today. Indeed, lobbying politicians from our own party to put pressure on Maduro may be counterproductive, supporting his claims that Venezuela’s problems are not the result of socialist policies, but a neoliberal imperialist conspiracy. However, the day we can help may come sooner rather than later, the pace of the regime’s decline is increasing each day. Maduro’s days in power are numbered and the day he is finally removed from office is the day we can help.
When the day comes, we should call on our Government to support the reestablishment of Venezuela as a free and democratic nation, open to trade, and with increased living standards fuelled by the free market. As we wait for this to happen and the situation in Venezuela plays out like the final chapters of Atlas Shrugged, we can take comfort in the idea that amidst the nation’s crippling toilet paper shortage, the vast tomes of Marxist literature that inspired the Bolivarian Revolution may be put to some practical use.
Chris Rowell is a Senior Public Relations Consultant based in the North of England. He ran Andrea Jenkyns MP’s successful 2015 General Election Campaign, which unseated sitting Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. He is a member of the Conservative Way Forward National Organising Committee.