Venezuela: Useful Idiots Roundup

For those who enjoyed my Fidel Castro roundup from last month, I thought it might be fun to do a similar roundup of what the useful idiots have said over the years about Venezuela during the dictatorships of Chavez and Maduro.

Unless you have been living in a cave for the last couple of years, you undoubtedly already know that after almost 18 years of "Bolivarian socialism" the economic situation in Venezuela has become desperate.  For news just in the past few months, you might consider:  The New York Times from Christmas day ("No Food, No Medicine, No Respite: A Starving Boy's Death in Venezuela");  The Independent from December 16 ("We're living in the end of times: Starving Venezuelans giving away children to survive"); Legal Insurrection from November 26 ("Starving Venezuelans Flee Socialist Nightmare By Boat"); The Hill from October 24 ("My Native Country of Venezuela Is Starving").  There are plenty more such stories if you can stand it.

So, how about a few quotes from the idiots:

Linda Poon in Wired, April 25, 2016 (!) ("Venezuela's Economic Success Fueled Its Electricity Crisis"):

Earlier this April, . . . president [Maduro] called on women to stop using hairdryers, and to save them only for “special occasions.” He also asked citizens to hang their clothes instead of using dryers and to embrace the heat. . . .  The current crisis is essentially what [Professor Victor] Silverman [of Pomona College] calls a problem of the country’s own economic success. . . .  “The Venezuelan economy reduced poverty at one of the most rapid rates in the world, and certainly one of the most rapid rates in Latin America over the past 20 years,” he says. “That meant people had the money to buy refrigerators, air conditioners, and … hairdryers.”

Ben Norton in Salon, December 7, 2015 (!) ("13 years after failed U.S.-backed coup, right-wing opposition wins Venezuela election"):

For 17 years, the PSUV has enjoyed enormous popularity in Venezuela. Its economic and social programs drastically reduced poverty, created universal healthcare, and promoted widespread literacy and education. Compared to its Latin American neighbors, Venezuela has consistently led the region in reducing poverty.

Peter McLaren (of Chapman University) and Mike Cole (of University of East London) in, June 11, 2014 ("Austerity/Immiseration Capitalism: What Can We Learn From Venezuelan Socialism?"):

While democratic socialism may sound utopian in the European context, and positively unimaginable in the United States, there is [in Venezuela] a viable alternative to the neoliberal model in existence. It is incumbent on the left to think seriously about what can be learned from the Bolivarian revolution. That revolution can provoke us to imagine an alternative to capitalism, whether through forms of freely-associated producers planning and allocating the social wealth, syndicalist and Marxist forms of socialism, or self-governing popular assemblies or autonomous communities.

Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian, November 7, 2013, ("Sorry, Venezuela haters: his economy is not the Greece of Latin America"):

For more than a decade people opposed to the government of Venezuela have argued that its economy would implode. . . .  How frustrating it has been for them to witness only two recessions: one directly caused by the opposition's oil strike (December 2002-May 2003) and one brought on by the world recession (2009 and the first half of 2010). However, the government got control of the national oil company in 2003, and the whole decade's economic performance turned out quite well, with average annual growth of real income per person of 2.7% and poverty reduced by over half, and large gains for the majority in employment, access to health care, pensions and education.

David Sirota in Salon, May 6, 2013, "Hugo Chavez's Economic Miracle":

[A]ccording to data compiled by the UK Guardian, Chavez’s first decade in office saw Venezuelan GDP more than double and both infant mortality and unemployment almost halved. Then there is a remarkable graph from the World Bank that shows that under Chavez’s brand of socialism, poverty in Venezuela plummeted (the Guardian reports that its “extreme poverty” rate fell from 23.4 percent in 1999 to 8.5 percent just a decade later). . . .   Additionally, as Weisbrot points out, “college enrollment has more than doubled, millions of people have access to health care for the first time and the number of people eligible for public pensions has quadrupled.”

Richard Gott in the New Statesman, January 30, 2013 ("Hugo Chavez: Man against the world"):

[Chavez] brought hope to a continent. . . .  [H]e has not only helped to construct and project Venezuela as an interesting and important country for the first time, at ease with itself and its historical heritage, he has reimagined the continent of Latin America with a vision of what might be possible.

Sean Penn in the Huffington Post, August 5, 2011 ("A State Department That Can"):

The American people have grown accustomed to hearing the Venezuelan president referred to as a dictator, not only by media representatives but by members of the leadership in both parties. This is a defamation, not only to President Chavez, but also to the majority of Venezuelan people, poor people who have elected him president time and time again. This is not a dictator supported by the wealthy classes, but rather, a president elected by the impoverished and at the service of the Venezuelan constitution, a document not unlike our own. He is a flamboyant, passionate leader.

Bernie Sanders in Valley News (Vermont), August 5, 2011 ("Close The Gaps: Disparities That Threaten America"):

These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger. Who's the banana republic now?

Nobel Prize-winning economist (and economic advisor to Hillary Clinton campaign) Joseph Stiglitz, quoted in Venezuela Analysis, October 11, 2007 ("Joseph Stiglitz, in Caracas, Praises Venezuela's Economic Policies"):

Venezuela's economic growth has been very impressive in the last few years. . . .  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appears to have had success in bringing health and education to the people in the poor neighborhoods of Caracas, to those who previously saw few benefits of the countries oil wealth.

You could go on with this all day if you want.  The important thing to understand is that, as long as you claim to have improved "healthcare" and "education," and you utter the right platitudes about "social justice," you can put out completely fake economic statistics and these dopes will fall for it every time.  Meanwhile, on August 10, 2015 the Mail Online reported that the richest person in Venezuela was none other than Maria Gabriela Chavez, daughter of the recently-deceased dictator.  They reported her wealth as $4.2 billion, almost entirely held in foreign banks and non-Venezuelan currencies, of course.  Somehow, none of the linked articles above mentions the case of Ms. Chavez.