Contributing Editor Glenn Garvin (Reason archive here) reports on the latest dispiriting developments coming out of Venezuela, a supposed socialist paradise that long drew postive notices from American lefties such as actor Sean Penn, columnist David Sirota, and others.
Boosters dismissed claims that the Chavez regime was despotic but most have gone silent now the country is plagued by a complete economic collapse. In 2013, Nicolas Maduro succeeded Chavez as president. Sadly, things can always get worse and, as Garvin writes, they are:
In an executive order that bypassed the muss and fuss of congressional approval, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro decreed that both public- and private-sector employees (that is, anybody at all) can be forced to work in farm fields for up to 60 days at a time — or longer, "if circumstances merit."
If Maduro's decree tells you something about how socialists define "democracy," the problem it's intended to address — the complete implosion of Venezuelan agriculture, to the point where millions of citizens have literally nothing to eat — tells you a lot about socialist economics….
When the government opened up a single border crossing with Colombia for 24 hours last month, more than 100,000 citizens streamed across in search of basic staples — which Colombia, mysteriously, manages to produce without resorting to slavery. Food is so scarce that 50 animals in the Caracas zoo have starved to death this year.
Venezuela's isn't the first socialist government to use slave labor to cover up its economic failings.
Fidel Castro ordered a million urban workers into the Cuban cane fields in 1969 to bolster a floundering sugar industry. And Cuba still practices something very close to slavery today with laborers that it sends to friendly countries to help pay down its foreign debt. (They're paid only pennies.)