Spotlight on Venezuela

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As our current Administration continues to guide us down the path toward full-blown socialism, it is worth keeping tabs on President Obama’s comrade Hugo Chavez, and the slow-motion destruction that his policies have caused in the Western Hemisphere’s other “worker’s paradise,” Venezuela.

The saga of Chavez’s systematic wrecking of his country’s oil industry (which accounts for 95% of Venezuela’s export revenue) through nationalization and cronyism, as well as his ambitious spending programs that continually drained the Venezuelan national treasury of virtually every dollar it earned in oil exports, is well-known. Of course all of this spending was done with only the best of intentions, as Chavez repeatedly announced that he intended only to give back to the people of Venezuela what was always rightfully theirs.

But last month, in a desperate attempt to manage currency shortfalls that have arisen as a result of the crippling combination of Venezuela’s declining oil production capacity and the drastic 2008 world-wide drop in crude oil prices, Chavez announced that the bolivar (Venezuela’s national currency) would undergo roughly a 50% devaluation, with the exception of commodity prices which would remain subsidized by the government and continue to trade at the previous exchange rate of 2.6 bolivars per US dollar. In other words, ordinary Venezuelans saw the value of their savings cut in half overnight. In Caracas, shoppers flocked to stores to buy what they could before the new prices took affect. And after the French-owned supermarket chain Exito announced price increases in the wake of the currency devaluation, Chavez ordered the stores seized and nationalized, via assimilation into Venezuela’s Socialist Market Corporation.

Oh, and did I mention that all of this came directly on the heels of wide-scale electricity rationing? It seems that deteriorating grid infrastructure combined with an insufficient amount of rainfall have made the country’s main hydroelectric power generating system unstable.

Needless to say, many Venezuelans have become angry and disillusioned with the Chavez regime. This past week, tens of thousands of protesters clashed with police, who brandished barbaric weapons and, apparently, had no problem with using them on protesters:

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One Venezuelan blogger pointedly asked, “How many forms of torture can you count on this picture … I count at least three: the fingers in the eyes, the breaking wrist and the humiliation of having to hold tight to your own clothes. And who knows how many others we can count, starting with the image of this armored cops and whatever they did to this kid. Amnesty International is taking notice. The numbers of government expressing their concern keeps growing.”

But what about our own government? Or the unofficial Hugo Chavez Fan Club that resides in Hollywood? As with Iran, it seems that the Obama White House has yet again embarrassed itself by choosing to make friends with a regime that seems to be headed toward the same kind of economic disasters and human rights violations that have plagued virtually every socialist worker’s paradise for the past eighty years. Thankfully, Barack Obama still hasn’t bowed to Hugo Chavez … but I’m not holding my breath.

"Here's what we do need a lot more of: Tebows"
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