(FrontPage) Venezuela’s spectacular collapse evokes memories of other such socialist nightmares. Blessed with fantastic oil wealth, Venezuela was once the region’s richest nation. But after years of leftist policies culminating in Cuban-style socialism, the oil-rich yet impoverished South American nation is now in the throes of a humanitarian crisis – near famine conditions and a hemorrhage of poor refugees pouring into neighboring countries. Venezuela’s collapse is like other socialist nightmares in another respect: corruption.
Many top officials and friends of the regime have gotten filthy rich through corruption. This is nothing new, to be sure. Like other Third World petrostates, Venezuela has long been a kleptocracy, ranked over the years by corruption watchdog Transparency International as one of the world’s most corrupt nations. Venezuela’s corruption gravy train, however, soared to epic levels under what the late President Hugo Chávez and successor Nicolás Maduro called “twenty-first-century socialism.”