In Venezuela, History Told You So

I’ve been criticized by my detractors who say that sometimes when I write about Venezuela, there’s a bit of an “I told you so” implicit in my narrative. As if I somehow enjoy what I have to write about that wretched place. As if somehow the deep mess that country is in gives me some sort of twisted satisfaction.

So let me set the record straight; I didn’t pen my novels about the plight of people suffering for some sort of personal vindication. I don’t write my columns (if that is what they can be called) out of vanity. I, of all people, have proven that it is the suffering of those under the terrible mantle of oppression that motivates me to action; to the written word. After 20 years of work, at least you owe me that much.

But I digress.

Because the fact of the matter is – I did tell you so. For a decade, in every way I could invent I tried to deliver the message that, after the planning, and the nationalizations, and the voting, and the regulations and the interventions and the price controls and the ‘worker immobility laws’ and the censorship laws and the education reforms – after all of it – waited an enormous bread line; vacant eyes above the shackled feet of the unfree staring ahead in the hopes of miraculously spotting a bottle of oil or a pound of flour to ease their suffering for a fleeting moment.

Not that I’m clairvoyant – that is not one of my perhaps limited talents. Not that you have to be clairvoyant – not even that you have to be that smart really. Basically, you only have to be able to read. Starvation during Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’; gulags where Stalin’s enemies went and vanished; Cuba’s ‘Periodo Especial’ when the Castros starved their own people, diseases like rickets and nutritional blindness becoming common; Enver Hoxha’s creepy ‘pure socialism’ in Albania; Pol Pot’s killing fields in Cambodia. I can go on, if you want. You can email me, and I would gladly send you a book list. You can even read for free (you who like free things so much – capitalism did that!); all you have to do is visit a library or go online. My three year old can read, I’m confident you can too – all that would have been required was is that limited level of concentration, to be able to divine what was going to happen to Venezuela’s ‘Bolivarian Socialist’ experiment.

This weekend hungry mobs broke into Venezuela’s zoo, butchering a prize Black Stallion – leaving only its ribs and head for the zookeepers who arrived in the morning. At least he died quickly; you can eat horse, the lion has been starving for months. Where are my detractors who taunted me, saying that Bolivarian Socialism was environmental? Who blamed capitalism for their petty angry jealousies? Who sought revenge? Who ranted about how finally the tides would recede? My guess is they’re enjoying a Black Stallion sandwich, without ketchup – there is none – and on day-old bread, if they can find any.

Yes, I suppose it’s coming across – I’m a little angry. I have been to that zoo many times. I recall once, in my teenage years with a youth group spending the day marveling at the lions and watching a sloth crawl across our path – amazed at monkeys and elephants. It was a glorious day, full of friendship and kindness and community. “But you have to pay to get in,” the commies complained endlessly at the height of the madness, “that is elitist and wrong – it should be free for everybody.” And the zoo was nationalized – like everything else in the country.


Credit: Carlos Jasso

So all I can say at this point is congratulations – those who refused to pick up a book, those who refused to read, those who refused to believe that there were lessons in history that might have some relevance for the ridiculous project you were selling. Congratulations – I won’t say I told you so.

But I will say history told you so.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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6 Responses to In Venezuela, History Told You So

  1. Lyle S Henretty says:

    This is an aching heartbreak of a post. I posted the link to my Facebook page. Thanks for telling the truth in all its ugliness.


  2. Eve Stevens says:

    I posted it on my Facebook page also. The problem is people do not understand it or do not seem to. I posted another article on Venezuela along with an article on Zimbabwe. The same damage seems do have been done to both countries, one for socialism and one for greed but the end result is the same. I got back this comment: Zimbabwe was a disaster when I was there in 1987. Cambodia 3 years ago, not so much. Greed and corruption are far greater problems than socialism. What do you think happens to most aid money?


    • A lot of aid money is ineffective. Read Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid”. But even if it weren’t its not very much. What is five hundred million up against a national economy like Venezuelas which was 300 billion? Also, its not a money problem. Venezuela had money. Its about bad ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. H. Augusto Pietri says:

    Thanks for your words about the surrealistic ex-country once called Venezuela. It seems too much to the others social experiments that put the people in the most inverosimile condition during the past century. I remenber a cómic Magazine, Adventures of Superman, when he visit other planet called “Bizarro world”, then, i was very Young and smile only for the imposibility of this, to be true.
    But now, our reality is worst than Bizarro world…..and don’t have a smile in my face.


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