The New York Times front-page story Saturday brought the latest sad update from the failed socialist state of Venezuela – with a strange but predictable omission. Reporter Anatoly Kurmanaev graphically described the day-to-day tragedy in “Venezuela’s Fall Like A Civil War – A Once Robust Economy Has Become a Ruin.” But the culprit is left unnamed? Socialism, installed in the once-prosperous country by strongman Hugo Chavez, to disastrous results, is not mentioned a single time. Not even the generalizations of "left-wing" or "left" make appearances.
The Times is positively allergic to the word, not daring to even mention it in multiple stories about the collapse of Venezuela’s socialist economy, especially as the buzzword “Democratic socialism” gains adherents who are pressing the U.S. Democratic Party left-ward.
Kurmanaev managed to cite failed Communist states in his lead without labeling them as such.
Zimbabwe’s collapse under Robert Mugabe. The fall of the Soviet Union. Cuba’s disastrous unraveling in the 1990s.
The crumbling of Venezuela’s economy has now outpaced them all.
Venezuela’s fall is the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years, economists say.
“It’s really hard to think of a human tragedy of this scale outside civil war,” said Kenneth Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard University and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. “This will be a touchstone of disastrous policies for decades to come.”
To find similar levels of economic devastation, economists at the I.M.F. pointed to countries that were ripped apart by war, like Libya earlier this decade or Lebanon in the 1970s.
The Times audaciously tried to spread the blame to Trump, while avoiding the S-word, preferring the euphemism “misguided policies.”
But Venezuela, at one point Latin America’s wealthiest country, has not been shattered by armed conflict. Instead, economists say, the poor governance, corruption and misguided policies of President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, have fueled runaway inflation, shuttered businesses and brought the country to its knees. And in recent months, the Trump administration has imposed stiff sanctions to try to cripple it further.
As the country’s economy plummeted, armed gangs took control of entire towns, public services collapsed and the purchasing power of most Venezuelans has been reduced to a couple of kilograms of flour a month.
In markets, butchers hit by regular blackouts jostle to sell decomposing stock by sunset. Former laborers scavenge through garbage piles for leftovers and recyclable plastic. Dejected retailers make dozens of trips to the bank in hopes of depositing several pounds’ worth of bills made worthless by hyperinflation.
Here in Maracaibo, a city of two million on the border with Colombia, nearly all of the butchers in the main market have stopped selling meat cuts in favor of offal and leftovers like fat shavings and cow hooves, the only animal protein many of their customers can still afford.
The crisis has been compounded by American sanctions intended to force Mr. Maduro to cede power to the nation’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó. The Trump administration’s recent sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company have made it difficult for the government to sell its main commodity, oil. Together with the American ban on trading Venezuelan bonds, the administration has made it harder for Venezuela to import any goods, including food and medication.
Mr. Maduro blames the widespread hunger and lack of medical supplies on the United States and its opposition allies -- but most independent economists say the recession began years before the sanctions, which at most accelerated the collapse.
Kurmanaev made comparisons to Communist states without risking the actual word.
By contrast, the median economic decline in the former Soviet republics was about 30 percent during the peak of the crisis in the mid-1990s, the institute calculates.