Sunday, October 29, 2023

"Justicia Social" Failed Venezuela's Indigenous and Mestizo Populations

Capitalism is the road to hell, to the destruction of the world.  …it’s the freedom to oppress, to invade, to kill, to annihilate, and to exploit.”  Hugo Chavez, 2009.

Help me become President and I’ll help you get the land back.”  Hugo Chavez, 1998.


The quotes summarize lessons increasingly being taught in U.S. grade schools, high schools, and colleges.  Particularly referenced in “social justice” lessons are indigenous peoples, whose representatives also backed Chavez.  The lessons should be considered with robust reasoning, and compared to data.

My purpose here is to consider the case of Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez was President beginning in 1999, as an alternative to “capitalism” for indigenous peoples and their descendants.  At the time of the above quotes, if not now, two-thirds of the population of Venezuela was mestizo, meaning that each had a mix of indigenous and European ancestry.  A related comparison can be found elsewhere: Cuba and Puerto Rico from 1950 to present.

While many teachers of U.S. students dream about trying something other than capitalism, it became a reality for Venezuelans.  Land was redistributed in the name of equity.  So were petroleum assets, also as promised.


Chavez shirts sold well on college campuses.  U.S. intellectuals on the left were “mesmerized” by Chavez.


One direct result of land reform was violenceFood became scarce.  No longer satisfied with the assets of “rich people,” the government came for the small businesses too.  Over 7 million Venezuelans have left the country in the past ten years, when the population was about 30 million.


This alternative to capitalism, steeped in “justicia social,” did not go well for people with indigenous ancestry.  My comparison here is not with nirvana, but with the capitalism they had before and the capitalism they will get wherever the migrants end up.


“Anti-capitalist” and “de-colonial” teachers today rarely mention Venezuela, Cuba, or other real-world alternatives to capitalism.  With only a few exceptions, there is no attempt examine the mistakes of the past so that next time can be different.  Does the omission reveal laziness, or some interest in repeating such experiences?


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