On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, HBO's John Oliver blamed oil prices for the current chaos in Venezuela: "What is wrong with Venezuela? Well, the short answer is everything. The low price of oil, which accounts for 96 percent of Venezuela's exports, has triggered an economic collapse — causing massive inflation and shortages of food and medicine." While Oliver rightly mocked Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, he failed to point out the role of the authoritarian leader's socialist policies in crippling the economy there. [video below]
The host led his show with the Latin American issue. Oliver first hinted that the oil-rich country had a similarity to North Korea: "We begin in Venezuela — AKA, North South America. They have been in the throes of an economic crisis; and recently, things have escalated sharply." After playing a clip from a newscast about the "twelve days of violent clashes" there, the left-wing comedian continued with his oil explanation about the collapsing economy in Venezuela.
Oliver spent the rest of his monologue on the issue making fun of three recent statements from Maduro — including his suggestion that the women of Venezuela stop using hair dryers to save electricity. He concluded with the dictator's announcement that his country would the largest military exercise in its history. The host snarked, "So, it seems to me Maduro has got two choices: either step down and make his people happy; or, at the very least, make sure those tanks are firing loaves of bread."
The transcript of the monologue on Venezuela from the May 22, 2016 edition of HBO's Last Week Tonight With John Oliver:
JOHN OLIVER: Just time for a quick recap of the week, and we begin in Venezuela — AKA, North South America. (audience laughs) They have been in the throes of an economic crisis; and recently, things have escalated sharply.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE JOURNALIST 1 (voice-over): It's been twelve straight days of violent clashes here in Venezuela — on one side, students and the middle class; on the other, police and pro-government groups.
OLIVER: Twelve days of violent clashes — that is a terrible situation, and an even worse Christmas carol. (audience laughs) So — so what is wrong with Venezuela? Well, the short answer is everything. The low price of oil, which accounts for 96 percent of Venezuela's exports, has triggered an economic collapse — causing massive inflation and shortages of food and medicine. And their current president, Nicolas Maduro, is not handling it at all well. He recently suggested punishing business owners who've ceased operations by jailing them and seizing their factories.
NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): An idle factory will be a factory handed over to the people. But we're going to do it. Fuck it, the time has come to do it. (audience laughs)
OLIVER: Right. Wait; wait; wait! No good, well-thought-out government action has ever included the words, 'fuck it.' (audience laughs) Lincoln did not abolish slavery by saying, 'Fuck it, you're free! Fuck it! What are they going to do? Fuck it!' (audience laughs, cheers, and applauds) And one of Maduro's plans to cope with electricity shortages isn't much better.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE JOURNALIST 2 (voice-over): President Nicolas Maduro asked women to stop drying their hair.
MADURO: I always think a woman looks better when she just runs her fingers through her hair and lets it dry naturally. It's just an idea I have. (audience laughs)
OLIVER: What? 'It's just an idea you have'? Well, un-have it, then, because that is next-level creepy. The — the only way he just saved energy was through millions of Venezuelans immediately turning off their TVs, saying, 'This stays off forever. I cannot risk hearing that man talk about women's grooming again.' (audience laughs) It's frankly no wonder that in a recent poll, 70 percent of Venezuelans are in favor of Maduro's removal from power — which is what makes what he did this week especially troubling.
MADURO: I have called for the armed forces and militia to hold national military exercises to prepare us for any scenario.
OLIVER: Yes, while his citizens are starving, Maduro decided now would be a great time to spend money on the biggest military exercise in Venezuelan history — which is bound to inflame tensions even more. So, it seems to me Maduro has got two choices: either step down and make his people happy; or, at the very least, make sure those tanks are firing loaves of bread. It might seem stupid, but it's just an idea I have. (audience laughs and applauds)