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The Collateral Victims of Planned Economies

planned economies

[Leer en español]

In 2020, coronavirus was the “black beast” for many families. The arrival of this virus, which originated in China, changed the lives of Americans, Europeans, Asians, Africans, and ultimately all the inhabitants of planet Earth.

However, it wasn’t the virus itself what affected me in a personal level. In the second quarter of this year my mom was diagnosed with a horrible disease that kept my family in a rather intense suspense, wrath and sadness for weeks. Fortunately, after a surgical intervention and a series of treatments, my mom has evolved quite well and the prognosis is rather positive, and that’s the reason why I’ve encouraged myself to write on the matter just now.

I imagine that by reading the introduction to this text you will be asking yourself, “what does your mother’s illness have to do with planned economies?” Well, I will explain it to you right now.

As you all know, the Venezuelan social democracy implemented in Venezuela in the mid-1970s was quickly developing, giving the government more power over individuals, and at the same time, degenerating society and destroying the economy. This went on until Venezuelans, instead of voting for an option that would begin to eliminate Statism from our country, voted for a more radical left option than the one that had been ruling the country: Chavism.

Its arrival in power appropriated the remaining private industry in no time, thereby destroying the remaining freedoms in Venezuela, to such an extent that in a few years the Chavist system degenerated into tyranny.

Chavism, with its socialist policies promised that it would take control of electricity, water, communications, food chains, the pharmaceutical industry, among others, to “ensure” the full supply of basic services, food and medicine for “the people”; and surprise, for the fiftieth time the socialist model not only did not improve what it promised to fix, but ended up destroying it completely.

The day after my mother’s operation in my hometown the electricity went out, there were problems with water supply and also fuel, but this is by now a daily prospect that Venezuelans have to deal with on a continual basis, however, now my family also had to manage to get some medicines that, of course, didn’t exist in the local market.

In Venezuela, the shortage of medicines has been increasing for years, to such an extent that by 2019 there was an 85% shortage thanks to the intervention of the State in the economy, to the control of changes, to the regulation of prices, to inflation, to the closing of pharmaceutical companies due to the lack of conditions to operate, among others. In just one year, more than 4,000 people died in hospitals due to lack of medicine as simple to find in other countries as an antibiotic, and this count does not include all those who also died in their homes or other circumstances without the possibility of accessing the health system or medicines. In addition, it is estimated that more than one million AIDS patients may die due to lack of treatment, as well as 300,000 malnourished children and people who need dialysis.

The collateral victims in planned economies are counted in the millions around the world, in our country in thousands, and in the case of my mother she was saved by a series of circumstances and possibilities that millions of Venezuelans don’t have.

Firstly, we are lucky to live in a border state a few kilometers from Colombia. In this sense, for years now, those of us who come from Tachira have had the possibility of crossing the border to go to the neighboring country to buy everything that is not available in Venezuela: food, medicines, car parts, tools, telephones, household appliances, among others. In this sense, Cúcuta -border city- has been notably favored in the commercial area since the businessmen of the area have a surplus of demand thanks to the lack of supply on the other side of the border, only in 2019 Cúcuta collected $73,887 million in industry and commerce tax, a growth of 64% compared to 2018, when the collection was $44,846 million, according to figures of the Ministry of Finance.

Although not exactly being an outstanding country in terms of economic freedoms, Colombia is still immensely more prosperous than Venezuela and has the capacity to cover the demand of a large part of the neighboring country in different areas, and in that regard, the funds available on the other side of the border -a great majority arriving through remittances from Venezuelans abroad- end up in Cúcuta.

Now, let’s go back to the case of my family. While I was in Lima this year, I received a call from a friend of my father’s who wanted to ask me a favor, so we started talking and he commented: “Emmanuel, you don’t know what we had to do to get your mother’s medicines”, I didn’t know what he meant, evidently my father hadn’t told me anything about what they had had to do to find my mother’s medicines -I assume it was not his intention to worry me. The thing is that this friend of my father’s told me that they had to “activate” six different people in order to find my mother’s medicines in Colombia. The chain was more or less like this: My father (1) called him (2) to contact someone in Cúcuta to look for the medicines, he called a relative of his (3) on the other side to whom the money was transferred in order to make the purchase, that person gave the medicines to another (4) who crossed the border and could take the medicines to the other side. Once in Venezuela, another person (5) received them and was in charge of looking for a driver to travel from San Antonio -border city- to San Cristóbal -since without fuel in the country almost nobody makes road trips anymore-, the driver (6) took the medicine to San Cristóbal and there my father looked for it so he could finally take it to the clinic where my mother was being treated.

Fortunately, with a series of contacts, the medicines were able to reach my mother’s organism and saved her life. However, millions of Venezuelans don’t have this possibility and end up dying. What in practically any country in the world is a routine transaction -going to the pharmacy to buy a drug-, in Venezuela is an impossible mission. We have no one but socialism (“free medicines for everyone”) to thank for all this chaos, since by destroying the chain of incentives to produce the medicines and breaking down the economy, absolutely no one can access them.

The medicines reached my mother a couple of days later, making the product more than 400% more expensive, and paying a series of favors. A few years ago, my father would only have had to go down in the elevator and go to the clinic’s pharmacy to do the shopping -something that would have taken him five minutes and would have been much cheaper-, not to mention that besides not having established socialism, my mother would have had her three children accompanying her and not just one, in addition to the company of her only granddaughter, which would have given her greater emotional strength.

There are currently, and practically everywhere, many people wanting to bring socialism to their countries. The United States especially enjoys today a generation completely seduced by charlatans like Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, among others, who promise them free things and that everything will be beautiful without having to make an effort. On the other side, there are people like me, who daily write and speak out against the aberrations produced by planned and socialist economies, and we do it not because of unemployment, not because of irrational hatred, not because there is someone paying us to do it: we do it because many of us have had our lives destroyed by socialism and because we know that this is not a political battle, it is a battle for survival.

The young people of the world must know these stories, as they have no idea how quickly their countries can be destroyed by ideas of “social justice,” and how quickly they would have to emigrate in order to survive, leaving behind everything they have loved in their lives. When it is said that socialism is misery and death it is not a hyperbole exaggeration, it is the literal translation of that nefarious ideology of evil.

Emmanuel Rincón is a lawyer, writer, novelist and essayist. He has won several international literary awards. He is Editor-at-large at El American // Emmanuel Rincón es abogado, escritor, novelista y ensayista. Ganador de diversos premios literarios internacionales. Es editor-at-large en El American

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