Hugo Chavez Successor: Loot the Stores!

David Paulin, an Austin, TX-based freelance journalist, covered Hugo Chavez's rise to power while based in Caracas as a foreign correspondent. He also reported from the Caribbean while based in Kingston, Jamaica.


MaduroHugo Chávez must be rolling over in his grave — convulsed with laughter. Bread-and-circuses socialism has hit new heights in Venezuela as Chávez’s hand-picked successor Nicolás Maduro ordered the military occupation of electronic chain stores – and forced them to offer “fair prices.” Prices had been rising, but not anymore.

Under President Chávez, bread-and-circuses populism also was the rage: nationwide stores were set up to sell food at below-market prices – an effort that, ironically, led to food shortages. Now, Maduro is taking Venezuela’s entitlement culture a step further — putting government-set prices on things like plasma television sets, refrigerators, and washing machines.

Venezuelans are overjoyed.

Since Saturday, thousands have been mobbing electronic stores to get a bargain. Prices are so low that even anti-government opponents have joined the mob that’s enjoying the temporary fruits of Chávez so-called “21st Century socialism.” A number of store managers and owners have been arrested, accused by Maduro of illegal price gouging, speculating, and unfair lending. “We’re doing this for the good of the nation,” said Maduro. “Let nothing remain in stock …We’re going to comb the whole nation in the next few days. This robbery of the people has to stop.”

Critics called it “state sponsored looting.” Store shelves were cleaned out. But Maduro, who faces make-or-break municipal elections in a month amid a deteriorating economy, vented his fury at Venezuela’s allegedly unscrupulous retailers – the “parasitic bourgeoisie” as he called them, and lumped them together with Yankee imperialists and his political opposition.

It was right out of Chavez playbook, but taken to new heights – or lows. Bread-and-circuses populism, to be sure, has existed in Venezuela long before Hugo Chavez, along with ample amounts of authoritarianism, statism, and corruption.

The chaos among bargain hunters – caught on the YouTube clip below — continued through Monday; and so the government sent out thousands of members of its security forces and civilian militia to ensure crowd control at electronics shops – those not already cleaned out or, in some cases, looted by shoppers who didn’t want to pay even the government’s dirt-cheap prices. Next on Maduro’s hit list are clothing stores and automobile dealerships.

Venezuela is an oil-rich yet impoverished country. But it wasn’t always poor. During the 1970s, it was dubbed “Saudi Venezuela” as oil prices soared and petro-dollars trickled down to most everybody. Those days are long gone – yet many Venezuelans persist in their belief that oil wealth ought to make them rich; and so they’re quick to accept Maduro’s conspiracy theories about why consumer goods are unaffordable. To them, dirt-cheap electronics and appliances are part of their birthright by virtue of their oil wealth.

Venezuela’s rising prices and food shortages reflect the economic realities of Venezuela’s command-and-control economy – a 54 percent inflation rate and shortages of dollars caused by draconian currency exchange controls.

Dollars, of course, are needed to import goods, but they’re hard to come by. On the currency black market, a greenback sells for nearly 10 times the official rate. Mismanagement and currency controls are blamed for the shortages of basic goods, including toilet paper and cooking oil.

Venezuela’s slide into mob rule has been brewing for years. Earlier into President Chávez’s first term, 14 years ago, he had suggested that people who rob could be excused; they were only hungry and poor, after all. And then there were a number of instances of squatters occupying empty apartment buildings, with tacit government approval. The concept of private property, the cornerstone of a vibrant economy, was whittled way little by little – from squatters taking over apartment complexes to Chávez’s nationalizations of large swaths of the economy, after declaring himself a socialist.

With Venezuela’s economy in a tail spin, the government has become increasingly paranoid, as underscored by the recent detention of Miami Herald Jim Wyss whom the National Guard and military intelligence held for three days. His crime: asking questions about chronic food shortages and upcoming municipal elections. He was released on Saturday as Venezuela drifted into mob rule.

What’s next for Venezuela? Cuba at one point had an answer on how to rev up its cash-strapped economy: drug trafficking. Those days appear to be over thanks to the Reagan administration’s vigilance; but drug trafficking has also been a source of revenue for Venezuela, enriching Venezuelan narco-generals, high-ranking officials, and in particular Lebanese-born businessman Walid Makled, who ultimately had a falling out with the Chávez administration and is now in a Venezuelan prison.

Venezuela’s government has never demonstrated a great interest in stopping drug trafficking within its border; and so the recent destruction of 13 civilian airplanes, allegedly for drug smuggling, suggest that corrupt Venezuelan military men and officials may be waging a turf war for control of Venezuela’s drug trade; the country is a transshipment point for Colombian cocaine. Reports vary as to whether the planes were shot down on destroyed on the ground after being forced down; and that includes the fate of a Mexican business jet whose recent destruction has drawn protests from Mexico’s government. Venezuela claimed the Hawker 25 was loaded with cocaine.

In the go-go days of high oil prices, Venezuela was considered a beacon of democracy for the region. Caracas was a charming place — the “city of red roofs.” Venezuela’s long decline has accelerated under socialism and anti-Americanism. The worst is yet to come; or as Venezuelan economist Jose Guerra said in a tweet: “Food today, hunger tomorrow.”

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  • Naresh Krishnamoorti

    Unlike Cuba, Venezuela is a rich country with lots of oil wealth. Much of that wealth was stolen by Hugo Chavez, Maduro, and their criminal cronies. It’s estimated that Chavez and associates have stolen $100 billion of the $1 trillion in oil revenues earned by Venezuela since 1999. That money should be located, confiscated, and returned to the Venezuelan people.
    Obama is doing the same thing in America. He diverts taxpayer dollars to his crony capitalists, like Solyndra and the company that produced the healthcare.gov website, who then funnel the money back to him in the form of political donations, while raping small business owners and crushing the middle class to pay for his giveaways to parasites, both rich and poor.

    • m4253y

      naresh, you are all over the map in your diatribe. take a deep breath and exhale, repeat a few times then, and only then give your head a shake.

      what you are sadly confusing in your diatribe is the battle of socialism vs. free markets and capitalism.

      the socialists will always steal from those who have and give it to those who don’t in exchange for power and control. anyway, hopefully you can figure it out for yourself. ’nuff said.

      • Guest

        So no capitalist ever stole anything? Remember Dennis Kozlowski for starters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Kozlowski). And BTW, I am a staunch supporter of capitalism but not when it results it this kind of criminality.

        • m4253y

          you are missing an overtly obvious point. crime is crime irrespective of regime. are you suggesting that free markets and capitalism is crime? is that your definition? is totalitarianism/socialism your cure?

          • philbest

            Exactly, any system will have its criminals. It is a diversion to point to the criminals that exist (and get caught and prosecuted) under free market capitalism. Criminals exist in totalitarian regimes, in fact it is usually the regime itself that has a monopoly on crime.

            This is irrelevant to comparing free market capitalism as a system, to planned economies as a system. Which you support, merely shows whether you are a reasonable and rational person.

        • Well Done

          With capitalism, there is always gov’t to intervene. With socialism, there is no authority left to intervene. Rarely, the military are able to take over and try to re-establish normalcy, as happened in Egypt. Note that America’s leaders are campaigning against what the Egyptian military did.

      • Naresh Krishnamoorti

        Either you’re an Obama supporter, or you don’t understand what socialism is, or you don’t understand what crony capitalism is. Otherwise you’d be able to decipher and agree with what I wrote. Socialists (and even communists) always use crony capitalists (like Armand Hammer) when it suits their purposes. Obama gave taxpayer money to Solyndra because the principals of Solyndra and their VC backers were big contributors to Obama’s political campaigns. Similarly, Chavez and his business associates became very rich off of government corruption. I made no reference at all to free markets and capitalism, except to imply that free markets and capitalism are crushed under Chavez/Maduro and equally crushed under Obama.

        • m4253y

          naresh, you are quite thick. one example occurs under capitalism and is the exception to the rule and the other is the rule under socialism that is the standard.

          armand hammer is a socialist fyi…if in anything i wrote leads you to assume that i am a supporter of the grand caliphate, you are touched in the head.

    • PouponMarks

      Obama’s biggest payoff will come later from the Middle Beast Oil fortunes. Like the Clintons, the amount to be paid will be huge.

  • Fritz

    It’s basically a repeat of what happened in Chile in the early 70s, hyper inflation, price controls, shortages, and nationalization. But unlike Venezuela the takeover by communists and the conversion of Chile into a Cuba/Soviet colony was stopped through action but it citizens, and rightly or wrongly by a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet. The Cuban regime needs to be destroyed, they really are a cancer in this hemisphere wreaking havoc and destruction where ever they get involved.

    • Omar

      Indeed, you are right. While Chile was able to defeat the Brezhnev Doctrine and the Communist empire (and eventually return to civilian democracy via electoral referendum in 1988), Venezuela has had a hard time trying to get rid of the Castro family dictatorship-backed autocracy of Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela is a colony of Communist Cuba. In fact, because Venezuela is a Cuban Communist client state, Maduro’s Castro-backed dictatorship should be called the Cuban Raj (in reference to the British Raj which ruled the subcontinent of India-today’s states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh- from around the 18th century until 1947) and Communist Cuba should be called Castrogonia (Cuban American blogger and activist Carlos Eire’s term for Communist Cuba). The Castro brothers would not stop their colonization and dominance in Venezuela. Castrogonia wants to rule all of the Western Hemisphere (and maybe the world with alliances with despotic regimes like Communist China and Islamist Iran). Since the United States is the greatest democratic and free-market country in the world, we are a threat to Cuban imperialism. Since the Cuban Communist imperialists and their colonial client states in Latin America constantly refer to America’s efforts to bring freedom and democracy to different parts of the world as so-called “Yankee imperialism”, we shall respond to them using the same pejoratives they use on us. We should refer to Cuban imperialism as “Met imperialism” (in reference to the New York Mets baseball team, since both the Yankees and the Mets are baseball teams located in New York City). We need to defeat both Castrogonia and the Cuban Raj and to bring freedom and democracy to Cuba and Venezuela, respectively. This poster from Babalu Blog should describe what we need to do to spread freedom and democracy in Latin America. The poster says, “Down with Cuban imperialism in Latin America!” “We will save Latin America!”: http://babalublog.com/2013/09/02/end-cuban-imperialism-in-latin-america/

      • luis segui

        BIGOT Omar

        • Omar

          BIGOT Segui

        • Guest

          Luis you have quite an argument style. You have declared everyone you disagreed with in the last 6 months on any from forum from ABC to FPM a bigot.

          Do you think much?

    • Well Done

      The left in their attempts to rewrite history (the only way to make Socialism look good), have glossed over what Allende was actually doing to Chile and, instead, still assure us Pinochet was the bad guy. Some activist yuppie judge in Spain – Garzon, I believe – even tried to have Pinochet arrested. Note that the ski-goggle sun-tanned creep Garzon never went after Castro…

      • Rocky Mountain

        Well, if you recall the UK actually detained Pinochet in Britain for a few months I believe when he had come for specialist medical care.

    • Drakken

      Pinochet was the savior for Chile, what is needed now in Venezuela is a military coup to stabilize and and purge these commi leftist once and for all time and put the country back on the right path, otherwise burn Mfer burn

  • m4253y

    You can call this whatever you wish but make no mistake about it, it is socialism to the core and it always ends up in ruin followed by rebirth guided by none other than free market capitalist principles as the only cure.

    this is the path the caliphate is going down and The USA must decide now to either continue this experiment and suffer or end it now and avoid the destruction of forced wealth redistribution.

    laugh at the chavez’esq type fools, but remember, he who laughs….

  • Rocky Mountain

    “an effort that, ironically, led to food shortages” You mean “an effort that, inevitably, led to food shortages.”

    • NAHALKIDES

      Exactly so – price controls setting the price below market levels must inevitably lead to a shortage of the controlled commodity.

  • Veracious_one

    as soon as businessmen figure out that the government is out to destroy them there will be no businesses running….having everyone dependent upon the government is a leftists wet dream….

  • http://islesofmyst.co.uk/ Raibeart MacIlleathain

    Welcome to the United States in 2017. Regardless of who wins. The death spiral isn’t just obamacare. It’s the Late Great US Economy.

  • patron

    Looks like Chicago

  • Well Done

    This is a problem that faces many prosperous countries; a gov’t lies its way into office, promising to help “the poor”, and within a few years there are many more “poor”. The only “poor” helped are friends of the government, and since the producers are being looted, harassed by tax officials, even arrested, the economy stagnates. I’m not referring to Venezuela. I’m talking about America, you idiots!

    • Guest

      LoL!

  • Tod

    Soldier of Fortune Magazine Reported that Hugo Chavez has a serious cocaine problem.

    I know many people would sneer at such reporting and would rather trust the NYT. Yet, I find that their reporting is better than the MSM. So this drug problem is no surprise. The fish rots from the head.

    On another note the stupid dumb _ss bus driver Maduro is going to make Venezuela a failed state.

    • filter

      um, HAS a serious cocaine problem…?? Not saying this isn’t true, but- he’s dead.
      I also have read this about the mad mullahs of the iranian religious leadership.

  • Gee

    I wonder what he is going to do when the store owners refuse to restock the shelves. Then they won’t have to worry about prices – there won’t be anything to buy.

    The automobile dealerships already are totally empty.

  • Hass

    They looked like the Muslime POTUS’ relatives going shopping.

  • Dyer’s Eve

    You’ve gotta love that word ‘socialism’. It should be printed on every toilet roll. Winston Churchill nailed it when he said; ‘Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy’. How true.

  • Phil

    I hope Obamao doesn’t get any ideas from this.

  • antioli

    The tactics of another failed dictator.
    Like Castro admitted he failed at three things.

    Breakfast, Lunch and Diner .

  • M2000

    Hey Maduro want fair prices? Try Capitalism oh wait you don’t have logic as a leader. Wish someone had the guts to get rid of him.

  • cacslewisfan

    Great article, and yet if you point this disaster out to a Socialist they’ll say “It’s because the US sabotages them all the time! It’s not like that in Sweden!”

  • filter

    People get the government they elect.

  • DireMouse

    Price controls ALWAYS lead to empty shelves. Pity the people of Venezuela, who fail to accept the sad fact that stupid voters lead to stupid government; this whole mess is the Venezuelan peoples’ own doing – they elected the idiots.