by Chloe Westley, Campaign Manager
Last week, footage emerged showing the army in Venezuela ramming down political dissidents with military vehicles, and shooting at them in the street. Juan Guaidó, who has been recognised as the legitimate leader of Venezuela by more than 50 countries including the UK, France and Germany, led the uprising. In response, Maduro's regime violently attacked protesters and on Wednesday night arrested the vice president of Venezuela's (opposition controlled) National Assembly
This isn’t the first time Maduro’s socialist regime has used force to consolidate power. Human Rights Watch estimate that there are thousands who have been arrested for protesting against the government, and hundreds subjected to torture:
“Since 2014, Human Rights Watch has documented more than 380 cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against government opponents or perceived opponents, including at least 31 cases of torture in Venezuela.”
The UN were denied access to investigate these human rights abuses.
The reason socialist governments resort to the use of violence is because the economic model fails so spectacularly to provide for citizens. The poverty rate in Venezuela has risen to over 87%, compared to 48% in 2014, and 61% of Venezuelans now suffer from chronic poverty.
10 million people skip at least one meal a day and children are dying of malnutrition. Women are opting to sterilize themselves, as they fear they will not be able to provide for their kids. The economy has collapsed - the IMF say inflation will reach 1 million per cent this year - so Venezuelans are queueing for basic necessities and millions are fleeing the country.
When I put these devastating statistics to Ken Livingstone last year, he argued that U.S. sanctions were to blame. ‘Were the U.S Sanctions directly responsible for Maduro’s regime locking up political dissidents?’ I asked. He paused and said he had been out of office a while, and didn't always believe what he read in the papers.
Many on the far left simply refuse to accept that socialism hasn’t worked in Venezuela. They often claim that U.S. sanctions are to blame for Venezuela's troubles. But price controls, production quotas, nationalising nearly all industries, and introducing currency controls have all contributed to economic collapse. And even if you believe that Venezuela's economic crisis was caused directly by sanctions imposed by America, what possible explanation can be offered for imprisoning political opponents and using military force against protestors?
Socialism is an authoritarian ideology. It doesn’t trust people to make their own decisions and creates, by its nature, an elitist hierarchy where a few technocrats set plans to suit an entire population. It also kills. In order to seize ownership of the means of production, and ensure that everyone falls into line with a socialist system, the state has to use force. Millions of people have died at the hands of socialist governments. They’ve died at the hands of right wing governments too. But there is something distinctive about the necessity of the use of violence to implement socialist policies which the left are always so quick to deny.