The Jury Is In: Latin America’s 21st Century Socialism Has Failed

By: Rafael Ruiz Velasco - May 19, 2016, 4:42 pm
21st century socialism has failed
Argentina’s Kirchner and Rousseff are out of power, Maduro is about to leave, and Morales failed to achieve indefinite reelection. (Ideas de Babel)

EspañolAt the beginning of the century, it was conceivable to think of Latin America as being in a socioeconomic and cultural movement completely dictating the political destiny of South America.

The movement was best known as “Socialism of the 21st Century” Disguised with attractive symbols of love, brotherhood, equality, and freedom, and represented by charismatic leaders like Che Guevara, the movement quickly positioned itself as a new solution to our problems.

But today the results are clear: the bet on socialism in Latin America has failed.

In Argentina, disapproval toward the end of Cristina Kirchner‘s second term was high due to an acute economic crisis caused by mismanagement of monetary policy, excessive controls, and endless corruption scandals involving high-ranking public officials, including the president herself.

The recent elections eventually gave a crushing blow to the Argentinean status quo, with the victory of current President Mauricio Macri.

Ecuador, at the hand of Rafael Correa, seemed to be the glory of socialism in Latin America: a developing country with economic growth born out of socialist ideologies. However, such policies usually have a “mirage” effect and Ecuador was no exception.

When growth comes at the expense of debt and high tax rates, it usually ends up discouraging the only real source of wealth that a country has: entrepreneurship. Today, Correa is the target of harsh criticism for political clumsiness and tax hikes in response to the terrible earthquake that happened last April, among other things.

In Brazil, Lula da Silva and President Dilma Rousseff are the figureheads of failure. The country received attention in response to its rapid growth, which led to it earning the honor of hosting two major sporting events: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The World Cup was held amid public protests expressing discontent about excessive spending on stadium construction while education budgets were cut. The Olympics will be held with a politically defeated Dilma Rousseff out of office, as she faces impeachment on corruption charges.

In Chile, Michelle Bachelet seems to solve everything with governmental “bonuses” and social programs. This has resulted in considerable economic slowdown despite the country having led Latin America economically in recent years. Now, the country is struggling to attract foreign investment.

José “Pepe” Mujica of Uruguay was perhaps the most charismatic president in the country’s history. It is virtually impossible not to sympathize with this good-natured figure driving an old Volkswagen and wearing sandals.

The legalization of marijuana helped Uruguay embrace freedom and open up development. But some decisions — such as passing a law censoring the media — teaches the lesson that looks can be deceiving if not backed up by real action and policy.

Evo Morales gave speeches about equality and love for indigenous people in Bolivia, and then made employees tie his shoes. Recently, he came under attack for suppressing freedom of expression through social media.

The well-known situation in Cuba has not improved. Poverty is actually worsening while Castro wears new Adidas and a Rolex. Socialism advocates argue for broad advances in health and literacy but they forget that the price to pay cannot and should never be freedom.

They refuse to admit that a country in which its inhabitants are willing to risk their lives on a raft may not be the paradise the government claims it is.

Venezuela is perhaps the most painful of all cases. Nicolás Maduro continues to grant himself more and more power, to take political prisoners and do nothing to stop shortages of basic goods.

In these situations, everyone’s first impulse is to opt for a change. Things are not going well but could be much worse if we do not work  to correct things. In each of the above countries, there are lessons that cannot be ignored.

It is necessary to identify and adamantly reject policies that propose government intervention in the economy, avoid speeches disguised as social justice that generate friction within society and identify the charismatic and populist leaders who lack authenticity.

Don’t buy magic solutions or speeches from a “political messiah.” Our commitment to progress and development will help us attain freedom.

Rafael Ruiz Velasco

Rafael Ruiz Velasco earned a degree in Business Admininistration from the University of Anáhuac in México. He's passionate about development, project management, soccer, economics, and comic books.

World Leaders Shut Eyes to Venezuela’s Hunger Games

By: Antonella Marty - @AntonellaMarty - May 19, 2016, 12:11 pm
Venezuela Hunger EspañolVenezuela is tearing itself apart but no one is speaking up. There isn't a single Latin American president raising his or her voice against starving Venezuelans suffering under the country's communist, Chavista regime. In Venezuela, poverty, death, and "hungerism" prevail, the inevitable consequence of communist, socialist or Marxist ideologies. Read More: What Maduro’s New State of Emergency Means for Venezuela The earthquake of corruption and shortages that has been shaking the country for almost two decades has left it in ruins, and there are plenty of numbers to show for it: Inflation in Venezuela is predicted to reach 700 percent within the year, which would be the world's highest. According to the Confederation of Venezuela Industry, in the Chavista era, approximately 8,000 businesses have closed. More than 70 percent of Venezuelans believe President Nicolás Maduro should step down. There were 2,138 protests and more than 170 lootings between January and April this year, according to the Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict. That's about 18 per day. Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world. There were 28,000 in 2015. That's 76 violent deaths per day and three per hour. According to an Encovi survey, 87 percent of Venezuelans can't afford to buy food. According to the National Federation of Farmers, 2015 saw Venezuelans reduce their meat consumption by 42 percent compared to 2012 — the largest drop in 55 years. Ninety percent of citizens said they buy less food due to scarcity. According to polling group Datanálisis, there are shortages of basic food in 80 percent of supermarkets and 40 percent of homes. While Latin America's infant malnutrition rate hovers around 5 percent, the Bengoa Foundation found that it was near 9 percent in Venezuela as of 2015. Public medical systems have reported that 44 percent of operating rooms are non-functional, and 94 percent of labs do not have sufficient supplies. The Venezuelan people have no medicine, electricity, food or water. What they do have, and plenty of it, is street crime and homicide. Normally, when we're missing something from the fridge, we grab the keys off the counter and make a run to the supermarket. Not in Venezuela. Venezuelans get in line at dawn for food. The appearance of a food truck causes pushing, piling up, running, looting. People have lost their patience. They skip meals. Food is now a luxury. Some of the scarcer products are regulated with price controls: oil, grains, sugar, juices, coffee, chicken, beef, pork, milk, shampoo, detergent, corn, cornmeal, toothpaste, fish, deodorant, diapers, toilet paper, chlorine and razors, among other things. The reality that the Chavista ruling elite doesn't want to admit is that the price controls they enacted is exactly what's causing the widespread shortages. If there is hunger in Venezuela today, it is the government's fault. "We need food," one woman said. "How long will this situation last? It's too much. A child cannot endure hunger, the children need to eat to grow." In a country with one of the largest oil reserves, how is it that electricity, water, medicine and so many other basic products are running out? The answer is simple: Corruption, bad management, and socialism. // One must be pretty naive, to say the least, to believe that price controls can result in anything good. It's fine for a governmental entity to claim to know the most about needs and lives of its people, but not to impose strict regulations that ultimately eliminate the things that fulfill those needs. Price control is a policy that has always failed wherever it has been tried. Shortages Kill People As one could expect, the scarcity also affects the supply of medicine in Venezuela. People suffering from high blood pressure, respiratory problems, diabetes or infections are turned away at the pharmacy because there simply isn't enough medication to go around. They die in their homes from something that is curable in virtually every other country. "Here, the majority of patients who wind up unemployed will die," said an expert at the University Hospital in Caracas. Newborns die, the elderly die, the sick die. Those who survive do everything they can to set foot in the airport in hopes of finding a better future. They are all victims of Chavismo. It's high time that we denounce the real culprits and their failed ideology.

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