Photo: WSJ retrieved.

When Smurfit Kappa’s paper plant in Ospino, in the middle of the Venezuelan plains, was taken over by the government, its workers knew to brace for the worst. The resulting story is catnip to WSJ-readers, but also absolutely must-read journalism: a kind of libertarian fevered-nightmare made flesh.

Hundreds of employees, who counted on the Irish company for transport, education, housing and food, continue to show up at work. They take turns protecting idled heavy machinery from looting that has become rampant as Venezuela plunges into hyperinflation and economic chaos.

Their hope: that someone—anyone other than the Maduro administration—will come and restart operations.

“Help, we need a boss here. We’re desperate,” said Ramón Mendoza, a Smurfit forestry division worker for 17 years. “We’re so scared because we now know that all the government does is destroy everything, every business.”

Readers know I’m far from a libertarian — but man, this story…

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24 COMMENTS

    • All acolytes of the marxist state religion, atheism/evolution, blithely ignore that free markets are natural and thus a product of evolution.

      • They honestly think that the only thing Chavez did wrong was with the implementation. Had THEIR people been in charge of the nationalizations and the expropriations, then Venezuela would be a Utopia!

        Allowing entrepreneurs and achievers to do what they do best is very… unfair to those who haven’t taken the risk, or attained! A person cannot be allowed to exploit another person by giving them “an arbitrary wage”. No no no… these job creators and workers must be made “partners”… which my family witness back in 2003 when Chavez confiscated my families concrete/cement business and allowed some Chavist flunky to bankrupt it within months. They then had the decency to give the business that they had stolen, then destroyed to the workers who were now “owners”… (see a trend developing?)

        • And then the new “owners” stripped and burned the remains (re: countless farms and factories in Vz), like the Chinese railroad factory.

          Apart from a tiny few, everybody left in Vz disagrees only with the results of chavismo, not the public policies of marxism.

          • Early on in Chavismo, about half the employees at this cement/concrete factory were all excited about Chavez and the new direction management was taking the country in! They had a party to celebrate the victory of El Pueblo over the vile oppressor class.

            That party lasted about a month, when they were informed that dramatic changes were coming to their work conditions. It appears that after they confiscated the concrete business, they had to confiscate the suppliers as well. A cascade effect. Salaries plummeted, and anything of value was looted. THEN Chavez’ minions demanded my uncles to return to work (they had not been paid a bolivar for the business) and return it to profitability… or else! They fled. At 5 months, Chavez gifted the husk to the workers, who elected a worker/leader. Within 6 months it was stripped of almost everything. Despite all this, I would wager that the former workers still believe that given the right impetus, this company could be reborn, and thrive under Maduro.

            Today, I have a picture of the place and it is overgrown with a few shanties on the property. All the metal worth anything has been picked and sold.

            Venezuelas future. A huge win for Socialism. And the true believers are getting epic returns on what they voted for.

  1. Shhhhhh-it I knew it… Mr Toro sir with all due respect, you live in my country, and I live in yours. Canada is one of the most socialist countries in the world. I know you are situated in the east, and I was born on the west coast. The trains come empty and leave full. Most immigrants settle in the east and the population is way denser there. We in the west consistently vote conservatively yet we always end up with a liberal government. I was taught that you need to work for a living and that there is no such thing as a free lunch while in the east people believe that the world owes them a living because they breath air. We hate them for that (as they hate us) because we pay 50 percent of our hard earned money to support their standard of living. Classic example is a new found lander (Newfie) who fishes for 2 months then collects pogie (unemployment insurance) for the other 10 months. Yet we have many newfies who come to the west and work along side us (like dogs) for 100+ hours a weeks and learn what it’s like to earn your shit and be able to say: I earned this, I made this and it’s mine and nobody can take it away from me. And guess what? Most of them stay. And make families in the west and realize that life is better when you earn your living and nobody gave it to you and if you want to talk shit then you talk it. Because you earned it. I lost 98.5% respect for you the day you started censoring what I had to say. Even though I follow your rules and have never been disrespectful to anyone. So enjoy Canada my friend. I will soon be returning there to a better life. This country has become unbearable. Doesn’t matter how hard I work, I can’t get ahead. My children will be doomed to a life of misery and poverty if I stay here. It breaks my heart but I must do what’s best for the kids. Socialism doesn’t work. We all know it deep down. Please wake up and smell the coffee. It’s time to get to work.

  2. The moral of the story is quite poignant and convincing , private enterprise is in Venezuela generally more productive and well run than private businesses taken over by govt sponsored political militants or appointees . still thats not the end of the story because there are areas of activities which because they serve a public function which carries no profit has to be entrusted to govt bodies which operate dysfunctionally . Even of the private sector areas are left to do their job without interfernce you still need public not for profit activities to be run with greater effectiveness and rationality and if the latter is not achieved the country will not be able to offer its inhabitants a better life ……….but no where is it mentioned the challenge that having public bodies work with competence represent and how that can be accomplished ….and the question is . is there any public organization in the world that works as it should, and how do they do it !! How do the most reknonwed universitities of the UK and the US work so well even if not run for the pursuit of profit……….!!

    • Bill B – who told you that “the most reknowned universities of the UK and the US work so well …”?

      In my experience working with them, they are no different than the DMV.

    • private enterprise is in Venezuela generally more productive and well run than private businesses taken over by govt sponsored political militants or appointees .

      “Generally more productive?” Can you give us ONE EXAMPLE of a government takeover that resulted in the enterprise being MORE productive and BETTER well run than when it was a private enterprise? Can you give us ONE EXAMPLE of a government takeover that resulted in the enterprise remaining AS productive and AS well run than when it was a private enterprise? All examples post 1998, please.

  3. Yet another report of a state criminally taking over private property. It’s bad enough they take what’s not theirs, yet to top it off none of these companies produce anything close to what they used to.

    Our company is part of the working at 20% capacity due to raw material shortages. We depend on the state for the supply; importing it ourselves carries fiscal risks as well as exposure to state intervention. We have to let them dictate to us what a fair profit is. We have to keep unproductive workers on the payroll or offer them severance packages that go multiples beyond what they are legally entitled to. Fire the wrong guy, you get a visit from a “revolutionary arm” of the local enforcers union.

    All designed to encourage those who oppose to leave. What’s left is content to survive, not live, off the “generosity” of the state or to become a part of the criminal enterprise.

    It really does resemble more and more like living in Atlas Shrugged.

    • It is exactly as in Atlas Shrugged. Venezuela is the embodiment of Directive 10-289.

      But you will not find the Saviors of Venezuela disavowing such a directive… the Directive only needs “tweaking”. This is why things have to get much worse before it gets better in Venezuela. They Saviors cannot believe that their Marxist Lite philosophy could be so wrong.

      Check out Aporrea these days. Half of the writers are doubling down on stupid. More force. More nationalizations. More Marxism. The other (more stupid) half is suggesting that new Chavista leadership is required to pilot the Titanic. PATHETIC.

      And the Saviors? New non-Chavista (but socialist nevertheless) leadership with SELECTIVE nationalizations and “good vibes” to turn things around. Even more pathetic.

    • RobertoN – Interesting thought I’d never had until a line in your post shook the impossible loose, and I thought it! If a private business, like the cement company (RIP), were taken over by socialists and the business grew faster than it had before, then what happens to the increased profit of operating more efficiently? Surely it would be divided up between higher wages, retirement plans, and capital investment in improving and expanding production facilities! Yes! The private owners might even apply to come back and learn more about the magic of socialism, and how to really run a business! Like Exxon execs submitting job applications to PDVSA because the pay is better!

      (No I have not been smoking anything.)

      • Socialists couldn’t bash their way out of a wet paper bag with a knife regarding running a business.

        And while I am for some “socialistic” things like Universal Health Care, I definitely think capitalism is the best way for any country.

        Venezuela’s brand of social democracy pre chavez had its warts, but it was livable. This current version is based on vengeance and class conflict.

  4. Workers guarding the expropriated property of their deposed employer is not a fevereed nightmare of the right. It is rather a total refutation of socialist political snd economic theory that informs us that the capitalist nightware ends with a workers’ paradise. It’s not catnip; it’s a rotting flesh.

  5. Readers know I’m far from a libertarian — but man, this story…

    It’s old news in Chavezuela. For the last two decades, whenever El Finado or his heir shouted Expeopriese!, disaster followed in its wake. When I write “whenever,” can you inform your readers of ANY Chavista expropriation that did NOT result in disaster?

    It’s old news.

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