Disaster Déjà vu in Venezuela

It seems obvious that Venezuela’s catastrophic experiment with socialism is at an end. With people standing in line for hours just to buy soap, annual inflation in the high triple figures (with percentages heading into four digits), and soldiers rustling goats because they’re not getting fed in their barracks, Venezuela reads like a textbook example of the socialist endgame: social implosion driven by economic collapse, caused by shockingly self-destructive policy making.

Considering its galloping economic dysfunction, Venezuela’s government remains relatively popular. A recent poll found 31 percent of Venezuelans think President Nicolás Maduro is doing a good job. Other polls have him a smidgen lower. How can Maduro possibly have retained the support of a third of the country? The best answer is that chavismo, the political movement Hugo Chávez created and handed off to Maduro after his death in 2013, isn’t really a political movement. It’s closer to a kind of religious cult, with Chávez himself—whom his supporters now refer to as El Comandante Eterno—at the center of the pantheon.

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