Above, Chavez in the early days of his revolution. / Source: BBC
Many countries have toyed with socialism. Some, to a smaller extent than others. An example that stands out, especially in the present day, is Venezuela. In 1998, Hugo Chavez, leader of the socialist Fifth Republic Movement, was elected President of Venezuela. Thus started what he called the Bolivarian Revolution, named after 19th century revolutionary Simon Bolivar, to transform Venezuela into a socialist state.
Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, much larger in fact that the traditional oil exporters like Saudi Arabia and Russia. Chavez exploited these oil resources to fund his expensive “revolution.” The abundance of oil, coupled with high oil prices, led to prosperity in Venezuela as the exorbitant social programs worked. There is an important caveat though: if, and only if, oil prices are high will the government have money to fund the expensive initiatives. Venezuela’s economy was dependant on oil prices and the Chavez Government did nothing to diversify the economy and to ease the nation off its dependence on oil.
While the beginning of Chavez’s reign brought real, tangible benefit to the impoverished people of Venezuela, by the end of his presidency, any benefits brought by the Bolivarian Revolution was nullified by the effects of the unsustainability of the Venezuelan economy. In the early 2010s, oil prices had fallen, which meant that Venezuela’s economy was to fall too. By then, poverty had increased, there was massive inflation and food shortages had emerged across the country. These economic woes continued, and worsened, upon the ascension of Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, to the Presidency after the former’s death in 2013.