Socialism has never worked anywhere, even when there is plenty of other people’s money to spend. Eventually, the money runs out and then socialism comes crashing down.
Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves and yet it couldn’t make socialism work.
The country is collapsing under the weight of it all and the people have had enough.
Armed with an old tablecloth on which is written the words “revocatorio ya”, or “recall now”, 36-year-old unemployed architect Gabriela Valero will take to the streets of Caracas on Wednesday. She is part of a movement trying to force a referendum on Nicolás Maduro’s government.
“This cloth has more need now on the streets of Caracas than in my home,” says Valero, who is growing increasingly desperate due to the country’s crumbling economy. “I am a middle-class person in a middle-class neighbourhood and we struggle to buy food. We queue for hours in a lottery for staples like corn, oil and flour, or I am forced to buy from the black market.
“When [the late president Hugo] Chávez was in power things weren’t great, but when Maduro stepped in everything got worse and worse. The government is becoming more and more authoritative and militarised. We, the people ofVenezuela, need to push for a change in government, and the only way is to do it peacefully through the recall referendum,” she says.
With polls showing that 80% of Venezuelans would vote against Maduro in a referendum, opponents of the country’s 17-year leftwing administration have made the recall their focus.
Medical student Astrid Escalona, 21, will be protesting against a government that she believes is doing everything it can to make the referendum impossible.
“Even though we are exhausted from attending all of the protests that have been organised we don’t give up. People are losing their patience as every day passes, becoming a time bomb. There are so many things that make our lives more difficult and if you mix them together it is almost impossible to keep going. The best outcome is to have the referendum this year. If not, there could be a social breakdown: people can no longer keep living with this.
“Just two years ago I was able to buy breakfast on my way to college almost every day. Right now I can’t do that, I have no money. My cat died because we could not find food for cats, so we gave her dog food instead and she got sick because cats can’t digest dog food,” she says.
Last month, Maduro’s opponents were dealt a blow. The National Electoral Council (CNE) set the date for the referendum too late to trigger a presidential election even in the event of Maduro losing. Under the current rules, the vice president would be sworn in and the Socialist party would continue its presidential term for another two years.