The Venezuela Syndrome

My name is Daniel. I was an English teacher in Seoul, South Korea, and now I am a writer who has
published three books including South Korea: Our Story by Daniel Nardini.
                         What might have been. back in 1995, I went to Venezuela to report on the conditions in
that country. Yes, there were serious problems like inflation and growing poverty. However, then Venezuelan
President Rafael Caldera worked hard to bring inflation under control and combat the growing gang problem
by hiring more police and instituting better funded social programs for the poor. Caldera had huge problems to contend with. First, the bank crisis from his predecessor in 1994, and second the de-valuation of the country’s currency the Bolivar. As much as he did not want to do this, Caldera accepted the help from the International
Monetary Fund to save the economy from collapse. He managed to do this, but it came at a cost of losing 
popularity among the people of the country. Although Venezuela was in a crisis, Caldera managed to keep the
country from collapse and help preserve its democratic institutions—no small feat. Had he remained president
Venezuela might have turned the corner and become a stronger, more prosperous country. This did not happen
as we all know. Caldera did not run for another term (he was already in his mid-eighties), and a popular
leftist named Hugo Chavez became president. Chavez would hurtle his country into catastrophe that it has neverrecovered from. he put in socialist controls that have restricted capital, he has confiscated millions of acres of
private property, he has rewritten the country’s constitution so that his United Socialist Party controls all 
branches of government, and there is no freedom of speech, the press, or much else. The problem is that
too many Venezuelans let Chavez make the country descend into this black hole, and this is a danger that
can happen to other countries if they give too much power to someone who will apply socialism to the
economy and society (on a personal note, I cannot go back to Venezuela because of the growing violence
in the country and the fact that what I have said of the Venezuelan government, even in the United States, will
land me in a Venezuelan prison).