I’ve long had this hazy sense that poor old Heinz Dieterich jinxed the revolution. Labeling this whole thing “Socialismo del Siglo XXI” was tempting fate, virtually inviting all the old ills of 20th Century Socialism to come roaring back, just to make a point. I realize that’s all more superstition than hard-nosed political analysis, but the scenes from Cúcuta over the last week have brought this feeling home with a vengeance.
“Dieterich, vale, empavaste la vaina.”
It’s now been eleven months since Alfredo Serrano convinced Nicolás Maduro that the reason Socialism had survived in Cuba was that it’s an island. It has no borders, so price-controlled goods can’t leak out of the borders.
Maduro’s decision to shut down the border with Colombia was seldom interpreted under this Cubanization lens, but it was arguably the government’s most literal effort to date to make Venezuela Cuba-like.
The border closure created a kind of low-rent iron curtain — el Alambre de Púas de Hierro. On the ground, it was all a bit of a farce, with smuggling continuing virtually unabated, only with fatter commissions and kickbacks all around.
But the move had one more consequence: it set the stage for the Nth demonstration that of 21st Century Socialism’s completist obsession with repeating all of the mistakes of its 20th Century counterpart.
This month, a border closure designed to keep people from carrying off goods from Venezuela to Colombia collapsed as as many as a hundred thousand Venezuelans went to hunt for groceries on the other side.
It’s as though somebody in the government has some sick sense of humor, and realized a year ago that unless they closed the border at some point, they’d never get the 1989-style barajita of hordes of people cramming to get out of the dystopian nightmare the workers’ paradise has turned into.
The exodus was such that, in a cruel twist of fate, supermarkets in Cúcuta started to run out of merchandise: no store is prepared for 100,000 people to turn up one day desperate to buy whatever is in stock. These days, Venezuela is exporting shortages.
[Update: Though I’m told an ongoing truckers’ strike in Colombia probably has more to do with the Cúcuta shortages than the Venezuelans.]
Somewhere in Caracas, an old, die-hard MVR-then-PSUV mom just had a health crisis, her doctors advised her children she is in no state for shocks, and now she’s watching the scenes on the news with her kids voicing over the footage: “thousands of Colombians surged into the Bolivarian State of Táchira this weekend desperate to enjoy the glorious fruits of socialist liberation!”
Goodbye Lenin indeed. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, ñuetumadre.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.