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A New Home in Vonnegut’s Venezuela

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Venezuela’s big-daddy socialism descends into dystopia. But the Venezuelan nightmare isn’t so much Orwellian as something more akin to the late Kurt Vonnegut’s imagination.


After all, it really could be more amusing than terrifying . . . if only a work of fiction.

Like a Vonnegut satire, we find Venezuela to be a country without food on its grocery store shelves, folks desperately searching for scarce medicine and toilet paper, hundreds of thousands clogging border crossings. And yet, the elected-president-become-dictator just announced — to glorious fanfare and by the supreme generosity of the national government — that the 87 Venezuelan athletes returning from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will each be appropriated a free house.

And awarded cash!

Isn’t socialist equality grand?

Of course, with inflation projected to surpass 700 percent this year in Venezuela, that cash just isn’t worth what it used to be . . . even a few days ago.

The Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chávez’s name for his socialist re-making of the country, has been able to accelerate progress so rapidly that in less than two decades this once oil-rich nation, where foreign refugees flocked in search of greater freedom and opportunity, is today rated the world’s worst economy and the scene of a reverse migration of more than a million citizens voting with their feet, fleeing across the border.

The Big Brother scheme of government isn’t to blame for every calamity. (Just for making each one worse.) The big problem is the country’s and the government’s dependence on oil revenues. The price of oil is way down. Anyone can hand out money when times are good. But times are no longer so good.


A drought has also affected the flow of what heretofore had been cheap hydroelectric power. But markets change, as does weather (you heard it here, first), and people and peoples must adapt. And will adapt, and thrive —allowed the freedom to do so.

The Land of Grace is also suffering a severe drought of individual liberty and a super-abundance of government control. In July, President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded Chávez in 2013, commanded that the minimum wage be increased 50 percent. According to the National Post, “the latest studies show that salaries still fall far short of the amount needed to obtain basic household goods and food.”

Still, Pres. Maduro and Chávez’s Fifth Column Movement haven’t given up. To fight hunger, Maduro decreed that citizens can be conscripted — drafted into service — for 60 days, andforced to pick crops. One online headline aptly read: “Venezuela brings back feudal serfdom to try to alleviate food shortages.”

But, hey, isn’t socialism still cool? What’s not to like about a five-day weekend every week?

Earlier this year, in response to hours of nagging electrical blackouts each day, President Nicolás Maduro decreed that workers would work just two days a week to save on electricity. If you put in the hours of time to actually do the Common Core math, you’ll finally discover that folks are then left a five-day weekend.

Well . . . if you work for the government.

And, let’s face it: those additional two days off can be very effectively used to scrounge for food.


“Venezuela is convulsing from hunger,” the New York Times reports, noting that, “the nation’s food is now transported under armed guard. Soldiers stand watch over bakeries. The police fire rubber bullets at desperate mobs storming grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. A 4-year-old girl was shot to death as street gangs fought over food.”

Maybe Jesus will save them?

No, not that Jesus. Remember, this is Vonnegut.

I’m referring to Alfredo Serrano, a Marxist professor of economics from Spain, whose beard and long hair prompted Pres. Maduro to call him “the Jesus Christ of economics.” Serrano holds tremendous sway with Maduro, who speaks glowingly of Serrano as “a very intelligent, very qualified man who’s building new concepts for a new economy of the 21st century.”

I wonder if Pol Pot once sounded so grandiose. The Cambodian dictator also forced many people out of cities into agricultural work.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the powerful Professor Serrano “calls for even more state controls on manufacturing and food supply.” Suffice it to say that Venezuela’s economy has clearly not risen from the dead.

And Venezuela’s impatiently starving masses want change. Enshrined in their constitution is the right to recall the president — a particularly popular right at present. Nearly two million Venezuelans have signed the recall petition. But the Maduro dictatorship refuses to take prompt, lawful action to facilitate the recall.

In addition to dragging their feet on nuts-and-bolts of the recall, Maduro’s underlings are unjustly harassing and even arresting citizens circulating the recall petition — just as previous electoral opponents of the regime have been arrested on trumped-up charges and often sentenced to long prison terms.


Now, Pres. Maduro has ordered five high cabinet minsters to review the recall petitions for the names of government workers in their employ and to fire any workers found to have actually used their rights.

This is socialism with a very anti-democratic face. And in times like the present, with the Venezuelan government holding all the political and economic cards, the thuggish tactics may work.

As the late President Gerald Ford warned, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take everything you have.”

Where else has just such an injustice taken place? It wasn’t in Vonnegut’s Tralfamadore, but in the capital city of the United States of America. An employee of Gallaudet University was placed on leave from her job back in 2012 for signing a Maryland referendum petition to ban same-sex marriage.

But it can’t happen here. Right, Sinclair?

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