The plight of this country has little to with drop in oil prices and more to do with chronic economic mismanagement by a corrupt socialist government. If ever a country provides a case of the evils, and I mean evils, of socialism it is Venezuela. A mere 30 years after the collapse of Soviet Russian we see centralized government actions done in the name of the people which have lead to the suffering of millions.There are food shortages, violence, unrest, and roaming government inspired vigilantes terrorizing the population into submission.
And, what, you might ask has this got to do with a blog called the Way of Beauty? The answer is that it was first the decline in the culture of faith that allowed the socialists to gain power in the first place. Venezuela shows that beauty and faith are things that matter for these are the values that bind a society together stably and for the greater flourishing of all people. I will come to this later in this article.
What was once a flourishing democracy collapsed into poverty and anarchy within 15 years because the introduction of socialist policies. Yet this is a story that is barely covered in the news and the reason is that it doesn't correspond to the narrative of those who run the media outlets. If Venezuela gets a mention at all in the large media outlets, for example on the BBC website, then the country's problems are attributed to the drop in oil prices. This is a complete misrepresentation and it is a terrible glossing over of the real cause of the problems, which were present before the oil price dropped. They can be attributed to what can only be described as brain-dead economic policies that began with the dictator Chavez and which his successor Maduro only made worse. Guided by Cuban advisors, they have succeeded in bring the country to its knees faster even than Cuba managed it themselves and starting from a position of much higher prosperity. Chavez, was always viewed positively by the media in Britain and it seems that they can't bring themselves to admit now how wrong they were.
I was reminded of this recently when I attended the Action Institute annual conference, Acton University, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The mission of the Acton Institute is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles. They are concerned for the poor and oppressed and
In his address to those present, Kris Mauren, one of the co-founders of the Acton Institute, gave special mention to the plight of Venezuela today and said just this. Acton is one of the few organizations that is prepared to talk about this and they understand. There were several Venezuelans present at the conference and I spoke to them about this and they recognized with gratitude that here was one place that understood the problems their country was going through.
I told them also of my concern and prayers for their country (I pray to Our Lady of Coromoto, the patroness everyday). I wished I could do more. I sent them a link to an article I had written about Venezuela. The articles is here: How A Loss of Faith Can Lead to the Reduction of Freedom and Economic Properity. This explains how important the culture of faith and beauty is in maintaining a stable society in which the human person can flourish, and how when this is undermined, there can be terrible consequences.
It was revealing to hear the Venezuelans present at Acton describe with such sadness the terrible situation in their country and how its plight seems to be ignored by the rest of the world for largely ideological reasons. Here is the letter I received from one of these Venezuelan attendees after the conference - I have removed all personal details to protect him. The greater sadness is that since I wrote this article, 18 months ago, the situation has only got worse:
Thank you for keeping in touch after we met in Acton University. I read your articles and found them spot-on and inspiring. For us it’s important that other people around the world share our situation. There is no doubt that inequality/poverty is a fertile ground for these populist regimes to arise, this can happen in any developing country. However I never thought it could happen to Venezuela!!! Now we are in the middle of a struggle to get rid of this corrupt government.
Our president and others around him thinks (or makes people think) they are catholic but in reality they are fascist, evil people that don’t care about the suffering of the poor, only about remaining in power. You mention this in your article and it is really true. You also mention that Venezuelans are very family oriented which is also true. So many of my friends and co-workers have decided to leave the country looking for a better future; I don’t want to but I keep asking myself if that is the best way to secure a prosperous future for me and my family.
I’ll keep checking your blog from time to time to stay in touch and if you need any information or if you come to Venezuela (not really a good idea now…) let me know.
As requested by this man, I am posting this to promote their cause. Other than that I can only close with my daily call to the patroness of Venezuela, Our Lady of Coromoto, and I ask you to pray also to Our Lady for the people of Venezuela and all the poor throughout the world.