Yet Another Socialist Regime Turns Military Despot

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally at Ventura CollegeIf Bernie actually succeeded in becoming president and implementing his policies, you could expect to see the guy in the foreground, right, to soon be exchanged for a full flack-jacketed army cordon.

After all, that’s what’s happened in every other country that’s followed the socialist path.

As the latest case-in-point, the socialist government of Venezuela earlier this week turned the last remaining sector—food—over to its military. In a televised address Monday evening, Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro announced that the armed forces are now in charge of a new food supply system, the “Great Sovereign Supply Mission:”

“All the ministries, all the ministers, all the state institutions are at the service and in absolute subordination [to the head of the armed forces, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino].”

Generals are already in charge of state companies importing the bulk of Venezuela’s food. They also run the country’s largest bank, a television station, and a state mining company. In addition to the food supply chain, Maduro on Monday also ordered the takeover of the local Kimberly-Clark plant, after the maker of toilet paper and diapers said it had to halt production because of raw-material shortages.

“If all the factories now have to run everything by the military, this isn’t going to make raw materials appear all of the sudden,” said Juan Pablo Olalquiaga, president of Venezuela’s industrial chamber, Conindustria. “The president is showing he does not understand how to manage the economy.”*

(*This statement could be equally applied to any country’s president, I might add.)

One company that has thus far managed to remain private—and popular—is Empresas Polar, maker of products from pasta to beer. Lorenzo Mendoza, Polar’s third-generation CEO, is a favored target of President Maduro, who in another recent televised speech attacked him as a “parasite, oligarch, long-haired one.”

Mr. Mendoza’s crime? In 2013, he privately and then publicly offered to help the government run its failing state food operators.

“For the government that was a slap in the face,” said a former food official.

Meanwhile, Venezuelans suffering under this most recent failed experiment in socialism must somehow try to live without food, medicine, or consumer goods up to and including toilet paper.

They may however soon be able to at least soften the blow with beer—which has also been unavailable: Polar’s four breweries may reopen since the company says it has secured a $35 million loan from a Spanish bank to pay for imported malted barley, a transaction permitted by regulators because barley doesn’t fall under products only the state can import.

A former high-ranking general sees a silver lining in the military’s now being in complete charge of the country: he believes the new measures will end up discrediting the armed forces, “because now they’ll be responsible for sustaining a model that has no viability.”

Let’s just hope for the sake of the Venezuelans that the military’s failure is a last straw that allows them a return to liberty before they join the estimated 85 to 100 million individuals killed under socialist states in the 20th century.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Chairman and Chief Executive of the Independent Institute.
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