By Jon Dougherty
The slow collapse of Venezuela, foreseen years ago by seasoned political scientists and analysts who have watched this story play out time and again whenever countries ditch capitalism for socialism, may finally be about to climax.
Reports on Thursday claimed that the once-prosperous South American oil giant is now suffering widespread blackouts, which the conspiratorial and hapless president, Nicolas Maduro, is blaming on U.S. “sabotage.” Other reports said that food stocks in the country are so low that there’s only about a week’s worth left.
â€œThe suffering people of Venezuela are about to experience the most dramatic shortages they have ever faced, the implications of which we cannot fully predict,â€ Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has taken up Venezuela’s cause, said at the outset of a Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on U.S.-Venezuelan relations and the humanitarian crisis that Maduro’s policies have intensified.
“Venezuela is just a handful of days away from running out of basic staples, wheat, and cornmeal and cooking oil, again, because of complete and utter mismanagement,” he continued.
â€œAll of the leaders of Venezuela are overweight, and yet the people, on average, are losing 24 pounds in a year,” Rubio railed. “I assure you, none of the Maduro regime cronies are going to go hungry, but millions of Venezuelans are going to continue to go hungry and [it will be] exacerbated in a way we have not seen.â€
The Associated Press reported:
Much of Venezuela plunged into darkness Thursday evening, creating chaos as people struggled to navigate their way home amid what appeared to be one of the biggest blackouts yet in a country where power failures have become common.
The power outage began just as commuters were leaving work. Hundreds crammed the streets of Caracas, forced to walk because subway service was stopped. A snarl of cars jammed the streets amid confusion generated by blackened stoplights.
Like all Marxist/socialist ‘revolutionaries,’ however, Maduro’s thug regime blamed the outages not on years of bad economic policies but on an “electrical war” launched by Washington.
Information Minister-cum Chief Propagandist Jorge Rodriguez pointed a finger at ‘right-wing extremists’ (sound familiar?) and their alleged intent on creating havoc by leaving Venezuela without power for several days — but of course, he offered no proof.
â€œA little bit of patience,â€ Rodriguez urged worn-out, tired, and hungry citizens on state television. â€œIf youâ€™re in your home, stay in your home. If youâ€™re in a protected space or at work, itâ€™s better for you to stay there.â€
There was little patience, however, as AP noted:
But as night wore on in Caracas, patience was running thin. Residents threw open their windows and banged pots and pans in the darkness. Some shouted out expletives and Maduroâ€™s name in a sign of mounting frustration.
The outage comes as Venezuela is in the throes of a political struggle between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, the head of Congress who declared himself the nationâ€™s rightful president in January and is recognized by the United States and about 50 nations.
Guaido blasted Maduro’s regime on Twitter. â€œHow do you tell a mom who needs to cook, an ill person who depends on a machine, a worker who should be laboring that we are in a powerful country without electricity?â€ he wrote, using the hashtag #SinLuz, meaning without light. â€œVenezuela is clear that the light will return with the end of usurpation.â€
The U.S. attempted to deliver aid to Venezuela last month, but the “Chavistas” — loyalists to the regime using the name of ‘revolutionary’ predecessor Hugo Chavez, who began the nightmare withÂ his socialist policies earlier this century — intercepted it, claiming that it was a Trump administration plot to overthrow Maduro.
â€œIt certainly is not desirable, and it is not the path that this administration is taking,â€ special envoy Elliott Abrams answered when he was asked during the Senate hearing if the president is planning to oust Maduro using military force.
Rubio noted that food and other aid is only â€œdistributed to those who are compliant or loyal to the regime,â€ adding that Maduro allowed Russian aid to be distributed to his people but not aid sent from the U.S., to avoid allowing Washington to gain any leverage.
â€œIf you go to a Maduro rally, you get food,â€ he said. â€œIf you vote for Maduro â€” and they know how you voted â€” you get food. If you donâ€™t vote or donâ€™t vote for him, you donâ€™t get food. They have used it as a weapon. This is why he objects to the humanitarian aid.â€
Some are blaming U.S. sanctions, which have seen Venezuelan oil sales decrease by 40 percent, for the current crisis. Others who have been watching Venezuela implode for a decade know better, however.
â€œThis has been going on for years because they’ve stolen the money â€” they steal all of the money,â€ Rubio said. â€œAs of today, Venezuela has about six, seven days left of fuel supplies. This in the most oil-rich country in the world, and this is because they have destroyed the domestic production capacity.â€
The AP added:
Venezuelaâ€™s electrical system was once the envy of Latin America but it has fallen into a state of disrepair after years of poor maintenance and mismanagement. High-ranking officials have been accused in U.S. court proceedings of looting government money earmarked for the electrical system.
The government keeps home power bills exceptionally low â€” just a couple dollars a month â€” relying heavily on subsidies from the Maduro administration, [which]Â is under increasing financial duress.
The nation is experiencing hyperinflation projected to reach a mind-boggling 10 million percent this year, is grappling with food and medical shortages and has lost about 10 percent of its population to migration in the past few years. Venezuelaâ€™s economic woes are likely to increase as U.S. sanctions against its oil industry kick in.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10