Thursday, February 15, 2007

21st Century Socialism Takes Hold

With much fawning admiration from European and American leftists, Hugo Chavez has spent the last five years turning Venezuela into a model of "21st century socialism." To no one's surprise, Chavez's brand of socialism looks very much like that 'ol 20th century socialism. As usual, it started with the "nationalization" of various industries, imposition of price controls, and attempts at central economic planning. To these "innovations" Chaves promptly added rule by decree, supression of dissent, the closing of newspapers, the harassment of opposition leaders, much bellicose rhetoric againts the US and the West, and generous support to other beleaguered dictators and autocratic governments including Cuba, Zimbabwe and Iran (financed by the people of Venezuela, of course - like all other socialists, Chavez excels at dispensing other people's money).

Buoyed for several years by sharp increases in the price of oil, Chavez has been able to hide the inevitable economic consequences of his policies, but socialism's economic failure can never be hidden for long.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has threatened to nationalise stores that sell meat above a government-set price.

The government says supermarkets have been artificially boosting prices of basic foods by manipulating stockpiles.

But critics blame regular food shortages on prices imposed four years ago, forcing shops to sell at a loss.

Many privately-owned supermarkets have suspended sales of beef, milk and sugar after one chain was temporarily closed for pricing meat above allowed levels.

The government has already seized goods that it says are being hoarded to drive up prices.

The products have been sold at government-run Mercal supermarkets, which sell staple foods at discount prices in poor areas, and at makeshift distribution centres.

Chavez thrives on economic misery, which he creates and then spins into an excuse to sieze even more power for himself. Just like that 'ol 20th century socialism.

President Chavez told a gathering of pensioners in the capital, Caracas, that he was waiting for the "first excuse" to take over privately-owned outlets that manipulate prices.

"If they insist on violating the interests of the people, the constitution and laws, I will take away the warehouses, the shops, I will take away the supermarkets and I'll nationalise them," he warned.

He has stepped up his nationalisation programme since winning re-election in December.

In recent weeks, he has bought stakes in electricity and television companies from US firms.

Anyone who defies Chavez is acting against "the interest of the people," and deserves to have his or her property siezed. Chavez, you see, is the people. Just like Castro, Stalin, Mao, etc. Does anyone in Latin America ever get tired of this crap? Apparently not, since we seem to cycle through leftist revolutions and counter-revolutions there every few decades, always with the same results.

Venezuela's inflation rate rose to a two-year high in January, with consumer prices rising 18.4% in 12 months.

Earlier this week, the government raised the prices it sets on staple foods, but retailers said they had not gone high enough to take account of their increased costs.

Some private companies are also concerned about President Chavez's intention to make them allow their employees time during the working day to study socialism.

Perhaps he plans to distribute his own "Little Red Book" whose lines those happy, happy workers of Venezuela can memorize whilst they starve.

Everything old is new again, it seems, in Caracas. But like a rerun of a syndicated TV show, the ending is always the same.


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