Jordan Candler / August 8, 2017

A Reporter’s Alarming Encounter With Venezuelan Socialism

Reality and firsthand experience have a remarkable way of deflating any utopian fantasies one might assume.

Socialism and deniability tend to go hand-in-hand. Inevitably, however, the initially obscure slippery slope known as socialism eventually turns to reality, though almost always too late, as one journalist discovered in South America. Politico chronicles the experience of former Associated Press reporter Hannah Dreier and her just-concluded three-year venture inside Venezuela. Dreier first entered the country denying the impressions being portrayed by the media. By the time she left, she came to a better understanding of just how easily statism morphs into authoritarianism and poverty.

As Dreier tells it, “I went down there, it was a great place to live, which sounds crazy now, but it’s beautiful. You walk around on the street and there are these wild parrots flying above you and these huge Andean mountains off in the distance. And I had a lot of friends who were my same age. They were young professionals and they traveled all over the world, and they were buying apartments, and we’d go to the beach every weekend. We’d go to these crazy clubs that were still left over from all the oil wells. And it just felt in some ways like a paradise.”

Dreier rightly recalls how the nation was once blessed with unprecedented wealth. “The tragedy of what’s happened is that there is just no reason for this level of misery to ever come to Venezuela,” she says. “It was a country that was making it.” She admits, “I spent my first year there really trying to argue that it wasn’t collapsing, because there was already this narrative that it was a dictatorship where people were starving. … I really thought that was a false narrative created by the media. I was almost like what Maduro says today; I was totally on board with that idea, that the media was whipping up a frenzy. And, I think it wasn’t until the people in my life started to lose weight that I really realized that things had changed.”

The dramatic change occurred in 2015, when crime became rampant, electricity and water began being rationed, and food and medical supplies became scarce to non-existent. Dreier herself was robbed and apprehended by secret police brutes. By 2015, the black market became imperative. On reflection, she says, “If I had a magic lamp and I would make three wishes, it would be to be able to expose the corruption that’s rocked Venezuela. There’s been so much money stolen, billions of dollars, and we don’t know where it’s gone. I’m sure a lot of it is in Swiss bank accounts and in Panama.”

Dreier concludes: “People keep saying things to me, like, ‘Oh, it’s the beginning of the end in Venezuela,’ or, ‘Wow, we’re going to see a change in Venezuela soon.’ People seem to think that it can’t go on like this because it’s just so awful it can’t possibly go on. And my experience down there has, if it’s taught me one thing, it’s taught me things can always get worse, and worse, and worse, and there’s no rule that says that a miserable situation has to end, just because it’s too miserable.”

This reporter’s tale is germane proof of columnist Rich Lowry’s astute observation: “Venezuela is a woeful reminder that no country is so rich that it can’t be driven into the ground by revolutionary socialism.” While we don’t know for certain Dreier’s political leanings, it’s safe to surmise via her interview that she was willing to give socialism the benefit of a doubt. But reality and firsthand experience have a way of deflating any utopian fantasies one might assume.

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