Venezuela, a country that not too long ago was the most prosperous nation in Latin America, is facing daily chaos as the authoritarian government regime of Nicolas Maduro attempts to quell an uprising from its people, who are becoming ever more impoverished and famished.
What’s to blame for the sudden downturn in a country that just 15 years ago showed so much promise?
Most claim the country’s warm embrace of socialism is the cause. But there are others, like Dakotah Lilly — a member of Students and Youth for a New America, an openly socialist student group — who place the blame on American capitalism.
On his show Monday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson discussed the political unrest in Venezuela, which he called a “predictable outcome” of socialism, with Lilly, who unabashedly defended the Venezuelan regime.
Carlson began the debate by asking Lilly if he “sees a pattern” in the history of socialist countries, which Carlson said always “end up in poverty.” Lilly, however, was quick to deny Carlson’s conclusion.
In fact, Lilly flatly denied that Venezuela is facing a crisis at all. Instead, he cited “terrorism” has the cause of the country’s current violence.
“Well, Tucker, what I think is extremely important is we need to acknowledge that what Venezuela is currently facing right now is terrorism at the hands of the opposition,” Lilly said, explaining that “the opposition” is those opposed to the oppressive and authoritarian Maduro regime.
“These aren’t choir boys. These are violent extremists hellbent on taking away the progress Venezuela has made over the past few years,” Lilly said.
Noting that firearm ownership is illegal in Venezuela, Carlson wondered, to Lilly’s point, how government opposition could be responsible for the violence besieging the country. Lilly claimed that most of the deaths resulting from the violence have been of “leftists” — people who support the socialist regime — but Carlson wasn’t buying it.
“Dakotah, I don’t want to rock your world, but I think reliable statistics are probably pretty hard to come by under the Maduro government,” Carlson said.
Instead, Carlson wanted to address a larger point. Explaining that Venezuela’s government has been socialist for more than 10 years and the country has "become poorer every year despite having the world’s largest oil reserves,” the Fox host wanted to know if those facts caused Lilly to “pause” and consider whether or not socialism actually works.
“It’s just that it’s a total disaster, like they don’t have toilet paper in parts of the country,” Carlson said. "The people are starving in what was pretty recently … a rich country, a country making progress toward first-world status and now it’s a disaster with one of the highest crime rates in the world.
“The [Hugo] Chavez and Maduro people did that, why not just say that out loud. Why make excuses for them?” he asked.
Lilly, however, was unabashed in his devout belief that Venezuelans love socialism. The young American, who according to his Facebook page just graduated college in 2016, claimed that “very few, if any” Venezuelans want to go back to an economic system of “unbridled capitalism” — codeword for an American-style economy.
Indeed, for nearly the last 10 years, ever since the international economic downturn in 2008, Venezuela's economy has tanked. That's party because the socialist economy heavily relied on the state-controlled petroleum companies, which took a hard hit when the price of oil barrels went through the floor.
Once the economy began slowing, the government was unable to provide its people with the food, water and basic medical access that socialism promised. In recent years, the problems have magnified as the country's currency, the Venezuelan Bolivar, rises to massive inflation rates and farms in the rural parts of the country dry up and cease producing produce and livestock, all because the government took control of corporations that farmers relied on, like fertilizer companies, in order to boost the government's cash flow.
In the end, Venezuelans, whether rural or urban, have simply had enough. The tension between the government and its people, who are dying of starvation at alarming rates, has only recently boiled over and the images of clashes between them have been plastered on television screams worldwide.
Still, Lilly was undeterred and went on to defend Venezuelan’s Supreme Court, which recently took control of the country's democratically elected Congress for opposing Maduro. At that point, Carlson just had enough of Lilly’s arguments.
“Look, I don’t want to be mean to you, you’re so young and I just feel bad for … people, I guess, in college who just believe anything,” Carlson finally said. “But it just seems like of all the things we debate, whether or not Venezuela is a success does seem to have moved into the ‘beyond debate’ category. It’s like a total disaster."