The Deepening Disaster in Venezuela

Via CNBC:  Venezuela calls for mandatory labor in farm sector

The government of Venezuela has issued a decree that “effectively amounts to forced labor” in an attempt to fix a spiraling food crisis, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

A Venezuelan ministry last week announced Resolution No. 9855, which calls for the establishment of a “transitory labor regime” in order to relaunch the agricultural and food sector. The decree says that the government must do what is “necessary to achieve strategic levels of self-sufficiency,” and states that workers can be forcefully moved from their jobs to work in farm fields or elsewhere in the agricultural sector for periods of 60 days.

“Trying to tackle Venezuela’s severe food shortages by forcing people to work the fields is like trying to fix a broken leg with a band aid,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, in a statement.

The depth and breadth of this man-made economic disaster is staggering.

Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy capsized with the fall in crude prices in 2014, leaving whole swaths of the country’s 31 million people without enough food or other necessities. Inflation is expected to hit almost 720 percent this year, and gross domestic product is seen falling by 8 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Of course, as Greg Weeks notes in regards to the force labor policy noted above:  ”not only is it hard to see this measure doing any good with regard to production, it is guaranteed to make people mad, which will the make the situation worse.”

One continues to wonder how long the Maduro government, and the regime structure currently in place that supports it, can endure.

FILED UNDER: Latin America, World Politics, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    This has a disturbingly “Killing Fields” vibe to it.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Interesting, isn’t it, that we don’t really have a mechanism or a mindset for dealing with crises this severe in South America. If this were Africa or south Asia we would be sending all the NGOs.

  3. @michael reynolds: In truth, they would not be welcome at the moment, certainly not if it was perceived that the US was interfering (or even if the OAS was the main actor).

  4. JKB says:

    Socialism, in the sense in which Stalin has lately used the term, is moving towards communism, but is in itself not yet communism. Socialism will turn into communism as soon as the increase in wealth to be expected from the operation of the socialist methods of production has raised the lower standard of living of the Russian masses to the higher standard which the distinguished holders of important offices enjoy in present-day Russia.

    von Mises, Ludwig (1947). Planned Chaos

    Those “socialist methods of production” are going to kick in any day now. Just ask the Russians? Or the Chinese? Or the Cambodians?

    Timely is a recent opening of some of the records of the Chinese Communist Party regarding how these socialist things turn out. Perhaps is the starvation, murder and torture is leaked out of Venezuela on Twitter and video the professors will finally come to terms with the all to common outcome of socialism.

    The truth of this observation has been revealed dozens of times in the last century:

    First, what is the best the socialists, in their writings, can offer us? What do the most optimistic of them say? That our subsistence will be guaranteed, while we work; that some of us, the best of us, may earn a surplus above what is actually necessary for our subsistence; and that surplus, like a good child, we may “keep to spend.” We may not use it to better our condition, we may not, if a fisherman, buy another boat with it, if a farmer, another field ; we may not invest it, or use it productively ; but we can spend it like the good child, on candy — on something we consume, or waste it, or throw it away.

    Could not the African slave do as much? In fact, is not this whole position exactly that of the negro slave? He, too, was guaranteed his sustenance; he, too, was allowed to keep and spend the extra money he made by working overtime; but he was not allowed to better his condition, to engage in trade, to invest it, to change his lot in life. Precisely what makes a slave is that he is allowed no use of productive capital to make wealth on his own account. The only difference is that under socialism, I may not be compelled to labor (I don’t even know as to that — socialists differ on the point), actually compelled, by the lash, or any other force than hunger. And the only other difference is that the negro slave was under the orders of one man, while the subject of socialism will be under the orders of a committee of ward heelers. You will say, the slave could not choose his master, but we shall elect the ward politician. So we do now. Will that help much? Suppose the man with a grievance didn’t vote for him?
    –Socialism; a speech delivered in Faneuil hall, February 7th, 1903, by Frederic J. Stimson

  5. bill says:

    gee, you’d think sean penn & co. would be there in his yacht……you know, helping what he supports?! but hey, who saw this coming, aside from anyone with a basic concept of economics?
    will the great people of massachusetts (via the kennedy klan) help out the country that sent them cheap heating oil? we all know the answer to this, that it’ doesn’t make the “news” anymore is telling.
    in the 80’/90’s we got all sorts of info about our neighbors to the south- now that nobody’s fighting anymore it seems like we lost interest. if the olympics weren’t happening there, we’d never hear anything about them.

  6. michael reynolds says:


    You’re fighting the last war. It’s not as simple as “socialism.” It’s also about small ‘d’ democratic corruption, and it’s about a completely non-diversified economy.

    Chavez used oil money to funnel benefits to supporters. With oil money flowing in, there was no need to develop industry, promote useful education, etc… (You want milk? Buy it with petrodollars, who needs dairies?) When oil tanked Venezuela had no back-up plan. And at the same time the regime lost its capacity to buy political support. Now they are well and truly fwcked.

    It’s not just about ‘Cuba,’ it’s about ‘Saudi Arabia,’ and every other corrupt, single industry state.

  7. @michael reynolds: I figured that someone would quickly show up in the comments section and claim that Venezuela is all we need to know about “socialism” but you are correct: it is only partially about that, and then only about a specific manifestation of it.

    Not only did Chavez overly rely on oil, he attempted a haphazard series of reckless economic decisions (expropriations, price controls, etc) that led the economy to its current state.

    Also: it is a cautionary tale that electing someone who acts like a strong man and claims to have all the answers, but who really doesn’t know what he is doing, is a bad idea (but I am guessing this point is being missed by some readers…).

    Beware populists who claim to be saviors. They usually are the opposite.

  8. Andrew says:

    Beware populists who claim to be saviors. They usually are the opposite.

    Especially when there is a vast track record you can search on the internet in less than two seconds, to show just how opposite they really are to what they are preaching about themselves.

  9. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s not as simple as “socialism.”

    Don’t bother, Michael. You’re talking to someone who quotes von Mises — at length — at every opportunity. This is not someone who can be convinced by either facts or reason.

  10. bill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: so the fact that all the “big money” types are in hillary’s pocket now is somewhat telling? is it just me or were the wall st./1% crowd “evil” last election? but now that they’ve thrown money at the democrats there seems to be no mention of that-so is she the “populist” you speak of- an “evita-esque” type? .
    at best she’s 4 more years of anemic growth and fed reserve life support of our once burgeoning economy.

    side note- thx for reporting on SA, although it’s not a popular topic in here or with the msm.

  11. @bill:

    It is odd that Republicans are upset with Clinton because she is linked to finance. It is made even more odd when the antidote to that is supposed to be a billionaire real estate developer from Manhattan

    FWIW, I think that there is too much coziness between politics and high finance. However, the solution to that problem is not a know-nothing populist who has not provided any demonstrated knowledge of how to govern, or as to even a basic understanding of global affairs.

    To being it back to the topic at hand: Hugo Chavez was a larger than life populist who promised to solve all of Venezuela’s problems pretty much by force of personality. This was dangerous for Venezuela and it will be bad for the US should Trump prevail. It won’t be the same result, as the US has a stronger institutional structure and a more robust economy. Nonetheless, one should take the Venezuelan experience as cautionary.

    But I do think that Trump supporters need to understand that as much as they may dislike Chavez, that they are falling for a very similar approach to politics.

  12. @bill:

    to be no mention of that-so is she the “populist” you speak of- an “evita-esque” type? .

    BTW–this really doesn’t make sense. Apart from being female, there isn’t much in common between Eva Peron and Hillary Clinton at the moment (both were First Ladies, if you want to go there).

    And Hillary isn’t a populist. That convention speech was heavy on the technocratic side (for that type of presentation) and her campaign is predicated fundamentally on competence, resume, and ability to understand and care about the details. That isn’t populism.

  13. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But I do think that Trump supporters need to understand that as much as they may dislike Chavez, that they are falling for a very similar approach to politics.

    Well, Trump may be a sonofabitch, but he’s THEIR sonofabitch.

  14. michael reynolds says:


    Or so they believe. Trump is no one’s sonofabitch but his own.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @JKB: This is 99% corruption to 1% socialism, so obviously it’s the fault of socialism, right?

    Talk about arguing in bad faith…..

  16. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: We live in a postmodern world; “populism,” or anything else for that matter, is defined as whatever the community says it is. Ironically, another of the great battles of the right is against postmodern social construction of language.