I was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States as a child. But through the eyes of my family, still there, I experience the collapse of a once-prosperous country under socialism. You got a small taste of socialism during the coronavirus lockdown, when you couldn’t find toilet paper or hand sanitizer, and there were limits on what you could buy. This nightmare is endured on a daily basis in Venezuela.
Democrat socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez insist that their brand of socialism is modeled after Scandinavia, not Venezuela. This, they claim, is the “socialism that works.” But when we examine the Scandinavian or Nordic model, we see that it’s not what American socialists are proposing. Their real model is not Scandinavia but Venezuela.
Scandinavian countries are capitalist in wealth creation and socialist in wealth distribution. They have low corporate taxes, around 20 percent, no higher than in America. Most of them have no minimum wage. With one exception, Norway, there’s no wealth tax. They also have no inheritance tax. Nor do Scandinavian countries demonize the rich the way American leftists do.
Yes, the Nordic countries have an expansive welfare state which covers education, health care and retirement. But everyone pays into the system: rich, middle class and poor. In fact, Scandinavian countries impose a 25 percent VAT tax, a consumption tax that proportionately falls more on the poor and middle class than it does on the rich. So Scandinavians don’t rob Peter to pay Paul, in the hope of getting Paul’s vote. This makes the Scandinavian model completely different from the one advocated by the Democrats in America.
So if the Scandinavian model is not the one followed by the American Left, what is? Over the years, I’ve seen the close parallels between the Left in Venezuela and America. I noticed that many leading figures on the American Left, from Sean Penn to Michael Moore to Danny Glover and Bill Ayers, all went to Venezuela and touted Hugo Chavez’s socialist policies. You don’t see any of these guys in Scandinavia.
As with the socialist Left here, Venezuelan socialism is based on the demonization of the rich and the entrepreneurial class. Hugo Chavez and now his successor Nicolas Maduro routinely expropriated businesses owned by hard-working Venezuelans. They made it impossible for stores and businesses to make a profit. No surprise, many business people left that country which created shortages of basic goods. What Chavez and Maduro achieved through expropriation, the Democratic Left here would achieve through extremely high taxation.
Venezuelan socialism, like American socialism, is based on creating social division. The Left in Venezuela divided the country not merely between the rich and the poor, but also between the black and the white, and also between the so-called European imperialist class and the Afro-Indian indigenous class. Chavez himself stressed his black and Indian roots.
This is “identity socialism,” a fusion of classic socialism and identity politics. There is nothing like it in Scandinavia. Just like here, the Venezuelan socialists brought down Columbus statues. They did so for the same reason that leftist and vandals and rioters targeted those statues in America. Venezuelan socialists, like our own, seek to create a narrative of minority victimization in which the villains are white Europeans.
In 2010, Venezuelan socialists started a campaign to disarm law-abiding citizens under the guise of stopping gun violence. This was called Desarma la violencia. Today in America I hear exactly the same rhetoric coming from the Left. In Venezuela this did not end well. Once the citizens had no guns, the socialist regime was able to turn its guns on them.
Once the citizens, now unarmed, began to protest the corruption and tyranny of the socialist government, Chavez and then Maduro also unleashed a group of criminal thugs sanctioned by them to terrorize these dissidents. The targets included priests, entrepreneurs, small farmers. The thugs, the so-called colectivos, are Venezuela’s answer to Antifa and Black Lives Matter. All these groups function as a paramilitary wing of the socialist Left. There are no colectivos or Antifa in Scandinavia.
In Venezuela, while the people starve, the socialists live high on the hog. All the people you see on television rummaging through garbage cans or standing in line to get food and gas—those are the ordinary citizens. The so-called Chavistas eat in fine restaurants and go on European vacations.
The top leaders in Venezuela are all socialists, and they are all millionaires or even billionaires. Just like Bernie Sanders, they have two and three homes. Hugo Chavez’s family is the richest in the country, with a net worth of more than $2 billion, according to Forbes. This mirrors leading Democrats like the Clintons and the Bidens who have gone from zero to over $100 million on a government salary. No Scandinavian politician in the history of those countries has ever accomplished that.
The American Left keeps telling us they want to take us to Stockholm, but its policies point in the direction of Caracas. My beautiful birth country was once prosperous and free, but socialism destroyed it. The American Left would take us down the same path, but we cannot let them. We won’t let it happen here. We must sound the alarm.