Last weekend, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro dragged his Socialist government into a third decade in power by winning elections that were boycotted by the opposition, ignored by most of his countrymen and rejected by the international community, notes Anatoly Kurmanaev. As sluggish voting drew to a close, a smiling and confident Mr. Maduro posted a video of himself waving not to throngs of adoring supporters but to a largely empty public square. It was a fitting metaphor for the five years I have spent reporting from the country, he writes in a must-read essay for the Wall Street Journal:
Venezuela’s collapse has been far worse than the chaos that I experienced in the post-Soviet meltdown. As a young person, I was still able to get a good education in a public school with subsidized meals and decent free hospital treatment. By contrast, as the recession took hold in Venezuela, the so-called Socialist government made no attempt to shield health care and education, the two supposed pillars of its program. This wasn’t Socialism. It was kleptocracy—the rule of thieves.