The latest news from the forefront of the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution in Venezuela is the government’s seizure of a toilet paper factory.
In carrying out a “temporary occupation” of the Paper Manufacturing Company’s plant, the government was staging an effort to show it is combating shortages of food and basic commodities. It would have been better off canceling its price control policies.
Despite the country’s oil wealth — the state oil company had revenues of $124 billion last year — Venezuelans have suffered from a shortage of toilet paper since last spring and have been limited to buying only four rolls at a time. They also encounter periodic shortages of rice, milk, sugar, cooking oil and flour.
Economists say the blame falls on the government’s attempt to control prices in a failing effort to combat inflation running at 20 percent a year.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the shortages, instead, on a conspiracy of his political opponents and the rich. He gave the same explanation for a major power outage in early September, tweeting, “All signs indicate that the extreme right has implemented its plan to carry out an Electrical Coup against the nation.”
Interviews by the BBC and CNN with Venezuelan consumers indicate that they are not buying this excuse for the government’s failure to ensure orderly markets. Public support for Maduro is falling, suggesting he would not win re-election at this point, having eked out a bare 1.5 percent victory in last spring’s presidential election. If he keeps up the conspiracy talk he could become a laughingstock.
The Bolivarian Socialist Revolution was invented by Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez , in imitation of Marxist-inspired Cuban socialism under Fidel Castro. Maduro is faithfully trying to execute Mr. Chavez’s misguided master plan.
But he evidently is not aware of the perils he faces.
As Karl Marx wrote, history repeats itself “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”