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Chaos in Venezuela: Maduro's madness

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Chaos that Venezuela's socialist ruler unleashed by outrageously seizing stores selling electronics and extending blanket price controls elsewhere is a cautionary tale for all who think every problem's answer is more government intrusion and control.

That “state knows best” attitude, personified by the late President Hugo Chavez's penchant for nationalizing industries, has made Venezuela an economic basket case: 54-percent inflation, with such basics as milk, toilet paper and flour in short supply. Yet with municipal elections a month away, President Nicolas Maduro on Friday doubled down on his predecessor's ill-advised approach.

Accusing the five-store Daka chain of price gouging, Mr. Maduro ordered soldiers to “occupy” the stores and liquidate their stock at “significantly lower prices,” according to The New York Times. Huge crowds then went bargain-hunting — or, as in Valencia, Venezuela's third-largest city — looting at the stores.

Maduro maintains he's fighting an “economic war” against domestic right-wing opponents and their Colombian and American supporters. But what he's really fighting are immutable laws of basic economics — a losing battle for sure.

However many store managers he arrests for supposed price-gouging, however many other retailers he targets and however much anti-capitalist rhetoric he spouts, Maduro's not going to turn Venezuela's economy around by increasing state control. After all, it's nationalization and socialism — not free markets and capitalism — that have brought Venezuela its economic woes.

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