Posts tagged with: venezuela

Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon last Thursday to discuss the ongoing crisis of populism in Latin America, and the Vatican’s perspective on the region’s economic and social unrest under Pope Francis. Gregg notes that while institutionally, the Catholic church in Latin America has largely maintained its institutional integrity, regional leaders – and indeed Pope Francis himself – have an affinity for what is known as “teología del pueblo” – a “theology of the people” – that makes it difficult for the church to criticize the populist movements that cause so many social problems.

The whole interview is well worth your time, and is available via the audio player below.

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People line up to buy basic products at a Dia Dia supermarket in Caracas. Reuters/Jorge Silva

Venezuela, though filled with exotic beaches and many natural resources, has the most miserable economy in the world thanks to high inflation and unemployment. For a detailed background on the current situation in Venezuela, see Joe Carter’s recent explainer. Since Venezuela’s crisis took over the news, there has been plenty of commentary about the chaos and what could have caused it. Acton’s Director of Programs, Paul Bonicelli argues that politics is to blame. “Venezuela is a dictatorship,” he writes in Foreign Policy. “[T]he policies that strangle the economy are only symptoms of the regime’s authoritarianism.”

He continues:

Venezuela used to be one of the success stories of Latin America even though it was never fully democratic and always a country of rich elites dominating the poorer masses without a fully developed middle class. But all that changed for the worse when Hugo Chavez, a former coup-leader, embarked on the path of a statist-socialist populism in the late 1990s. He called his project Bolivarian Socialism, thereby sullying the Great Liberator’s name; the better name is Chavismo, for it is Chavez and his cronies that deserve all the opprobrium for the failures of their project.

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venezuela-food-shortagesThe Venezuelan economy is buckling under the weight of its severe socialist policies, and even as its president admits to a nationwide economic emergency, the government continues to affirm the drivers behind the collapse, blaming low oil prices and global capitalism instead.

This was supposed to be the dawn of “21st-century socialism,” as the late President Hugo Chavez proclaimed over 10 years ago, complete with the right tweaks and upgrades to its materialistic, mechanistic approach to the human person. “We have assumed the commitment to direct the Bolivarian Revolution towards socialism,” he said, “and to contribute to the socialist path, with a new socialism…which is based in solidarity, in fraternity, in love, in justice, in liberty, and in equality.”

Alas, with a shrinking economy, booming inflation, violent outbreaks, and empty food shelves, “21st-century socialism” is feeling mighty nostalgic in all the wrong ways.

In the years before Chavez, the country was in better shape than much of the continent. Now, thanks to the temptations of centralized power, the arrogance of centralized planners, and a series of faux upgrades to age-old bad ideas, the nation is crumbling. The oil prices simply served as the messenger. (more…)

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Pope Francis in Bolivia | VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty

Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently wrote a piece for The Stream about Pope Francis and his visit throughout Latin America. This part of the world is dominated by “leftist-populist governments.” Latin governments often combines left-wing politics with populist themes. Leaders’ rhetoric generally consists of anti-elitist sentiments, opposition to the system, and speaking for the common people. Gregg argues that this sort of talk generally puts one group against another: the rich against the poor, foreigners against nationals…etc. This is especially true in Chávez’ Venezuela where it has caused countless problems:

Contrary to the protestations of Hollywood celebrities, Venezuela is simply the most advanced down the path of out-of-control inflation, price-controls, shortages of basic necessities (such as toilet paper), the systematic use of violence against regime critics, and complete contempt for rule of law.

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venezuela queueAccording to Daniel Pardo, citizens of Venezuela have figured out the fine art of queuing (that’s “waiting in line” for Americans.) It’s a good thing, too, since things like milk, sugar, soap, toilet paper and other essentials are always in short supply in this socialist country.

The government regulates the price of these goods. It doesn’t subsidise them – it tells the producer what they can charge. That might just about make sense in a buoyant economy but with inflation running at over sixty percent and the value of the currency plummeting, it appears producers are not only failing to make a profit but are operating at a loss. Similarly companies who export food to Venezuela have given up waiting to be paid by a government that’s down on its luck and are now selling their goods elsewhere.

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While in Argentina for Acton Institute’s March 18 “Christianity and the Foundations of a Free Society” seminar, President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico conducted a wide ranging interview with La Nación, the country’s leading conservative newspaper. For more on the event, jointly sponsored with Instituto Acton Argentina, go here. What follows is an English translation of the interview. The original version, titled “Una sociedad con bajos impuestos es más próspera” in Spanish, may be found here.

La Nación: Why did you decide to devote yourself to economics in relation to ethics and religion?

Sirico: In the 1970s, while living in California, I was away from the faith and was involved in a number of leftist social change movements. Someone gave me some books to read on economics, which I did. This set off a chain reaction which resulted not only in rethinking my more socialist activism, but also in my return to the Catholic Church and eventually continuing on to seminary and the priesthood. Once ordained, I continued to write and speak about these matters and eventually formed an Institute which engages many scholars and writers of all religious persuasions to discuss these kinds of ideas. (more…)

Rioting in Caracas, 2014

Rioting in Caracas, 2014

In a country rife with economic and social ills, Venezuela’s Catholic bishops issued a strongly-worded critique of the government during their annual conference this week. According to The Wall Street Journal:

The church has long preached reconciliation in the bitterly polarized nation. But as the oil price plummets and economic disaster threatens, the bishops clearly are losing patience. Monday’s statement recalled the 43 deaths during antigovernment protests in early 2014, the “excessive use of force” by the state against protestors, and “the detention of thousands . . . many of them still in prison today” or awaiting trial.

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