These 15 Photos of Venezuela Show How Socialism Fails

June 16, 2017

These 15 Photos of Venezuela Show How Socialism Fails Zdorov Kirill Vladimirovich /

The vivid imagery in Frances Martel’s photo essay, “The Fruits of Socialism: Venezuela in 20 Pictures” exposes the human tragedy spawned by socialism’s failure in oil-rich Venezuela. Read on as we drill deeper to learn the real facts about socialism, and try to understand why it’s so disturbing that over 50% of millennials view socialism favorably.

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Image via 1000 Words /
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George Castellanos / AFP
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(We omit several photos from Martel’s collection due to their graphic nature. Click here to see the full collection)

Socialism has never succeeded: Castro’s Cuba, the collapse of the USSR, Greece, Mao’s Great Leap Forward in China, and now, the human tragedy and horror in Venezuela, are vivid examples.

Venezuela: poverty, oppression, and social unrest

Can you imagine your family eating trash, to survive or babies dying from malnutrition and common diseases due to lack of medicine? Imagine having your savings wiped out by 1600% annual inflation and your paycheck worthless. Or even if you have money, the shelves are empty; common items like soap, toilet paper, diapers, and medicine are either gone or severely rationed.

That’s Venezuela today. Hugo Chavez’s Utopia has fallen to the usual socialist ills: Corruption, incompetence, and poor productivity.  And, as history repeats, the duped people usual suffer the results: poverty, oppression and economic failure, and loss of liberty.

How did beautiful Venezuela, which as recently as 1998 was rich with oil revenue and was a growing economic powerhouse in South America, crash into economic and social disaster, corruption, and chaos?

Socialist Hugo Chavez promised a better life

In 1998, far left radical and Bolivarian socialist Hugo Chavez was elected as president. He won by promising to provide a better life for the many poor and disadvantaged, by sharing the wealth from oil, the country’s main export.

Chavez immediately directed Venezuela’s oil revenues toward social welfare programs designed to boost his popularity. Additionally, he took control of important oil projects, nationalized U.S. oil company assets, banks, and newspapers and turned them over to either bureaucracies or his cronies to run.

He also imposed price controls on retail and capital goods, but the government-set prices were too low. Since there was no profit incentive for sellers, stocks of everyday items like soap, diapers, toilet paper and even medicines disappeared from store shelves.

Chavez had destroyed free market pricing. Thousands of Venezuelans either streamed across the borders to Colombia, to buy everyday necessities or paid high black-market prices.

Chavez also grabbed more power for himself by seizing authority from the Congress and the courts. Finally, he silenced critics in the media and political opponents and looked away from obvious corruption.

Chavez dies: oil prices crash and the economy follows

By the time Chavez died in 2013, the Venezuelan Economy was moving into decline and recession. Inflation was 50% and rising fast. Chavez had lavished nearly a trillion dollars on social welfare programs, thereby creating a huge culture of dependency and a 5X increase in the national debt.

Oil prices were over $100 per barrel, which allowed Chavez to fund his socialist expansion with oil export revenue.

Unfortunately, in 2014, oil plunged from a record $127 per barrel to less than $50 per barrel where it remains today. With the decrease in oil revenue, the social welfare programs were no longer sustainable and the economy stumbled.

Things get worse: Maduro dances, people starve, and children are murdered

Under the heavy-handed rule of Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicholas Maduro, things have gotten much worse. The country is now in a humanitarian crisis, as a result of dependence on oil exports, social welfare programs, and government corruption.

Inflation was 800% in 2016 and is forecast to be 1700 percent in 2017 and GDP is in double-digit decline.  Maduro blames it all on “the United States and right-wing business owners.”

And the people suffer horribly. As Martel’s photos show, Venezuelans are digging through the trash for food; the average citizen has lost 20 pounds, and malnourished children are suffering the most.

And Maduro’s response to the shameful misery, and massive protests? He dances, to mock the protesters! And the government’s response to the protests? Massive violence!

Martel shows us an angry crowd gathered around the body of a 14-year-old boy, killed for shouting, “Stop the oppression!”

So now we know: twenty years of socialist dictatorship have led to misery and poverty. According to the Economist, 82% of households now live in poverty, and in spite of all the promises of income redistribution to provide a better life for the poor, there is neither prosperity nor liberty; the people have been duped.

Benjamin Franklin’s words, “Man who gives up liberty for safety, shall have neither,” ring loud for Venezuela.

Socialism fails: the U.S.S.R., Cuba, and the Eurozone

Sadly, Venezuela’s situation is not unique; its 21st-century socialism follows the same repressive redistribution model that has failed repeatedly in the 20th century. Hopeful citizens give up their rights to socialist politicians who promise to solve their problems by redistributing income from the wealthy. It has yet to work in a single case.

Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France are struggling under the weight of socialist programs. EU bailouts saved Greece from default, but the country still teeters and now asks for still more assistance from other EU nations.

Cubans live in poverty, while the Castro family lives in lavish wealth. Ten years before his death, Forbes estimated Fidel Castro’s wealth at over $900 million.

The U.S.S.R. collapsed in 1991, due to its massive size and complexity; the central planners were simply unable to run the economy. And currently, like Venezuela, the Russian economy struggles due to its dependence on oil exports and the slump in oil prices.

After years of economic stagnation, China opened up its economy and re-established the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 1990. China’s economic growth for the last 30 years stems from embracing capitalism and a certain degree of freedom and individual rights in its formerly closed society.

The future of socialism – in Venezuela and elsewhere

Maduro will not give up power in Venezuela — he suspended the constitution that Chavez put in place in 1998 and refuses to support a recall referendum. He crushes demonstrations with brutal violence and lives lavishly while children starve and newborns sleep in cardboard boxes in his hospitals.

Maduro stacked the Supreme Court and used it to nullify the parliament seats won by the opposition in the 2015 election. He also imprisoned opposition leaders.

The people fear the government and lack the resources or the will to launch an effective opposition. The presidential election is scheduled for 2018, but since Venezuela is now the 9th most corrupt country in the world, a fair election is doubtful.

Clearly, there is little chance of Maduro changing Venezuela’s course in the foreseeable future

Socialism is a flawed system

As for socialism itself, it is fundamentally flawed and by its nature cannot succeed. Socialism goes contrary to human nature; it provides no incentive to work hard, take risks, innovate or even make a profit.

While capitalism is based on incentive, free markets and the opportunity to succeed; socialism offers none of these. Rather, it saps the human spirit by offering, “Give up a little of your freedom and I will give you a little more security.”

As economist Mark Perry wrote in his 1995 essay “Why Socialism Failed,” published in The Freeman (emphasis added):

Socialism is the Big Lie of the twentieth century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.

Now that we know more about socialism, its human tragedy in Venezuela, and its consistent failures throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, only one question remains — who can in good conscience support socialism?

Who indeed.

Raymond O'Lenic

Raymond O'Lenic is a Conservative Institute Staff Writer. He is a former business executive with a background in Finance. He writes on politics, economics, business and technology.