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Venezuela's Collapse

By Michael Rowan | El Universal

17.03.05 | Six hundred years ago, the people of Easter Island destroyed themselves. They cut down all the trees and vines of the island to use them as sleds and rope to haul huge stones that each competing clan made bigger than the last. As farm soils eroded, a previously healthy society went into steep decline. In the last years of this madness all the wood for fishing vessels, farm implements, housing and heat had disappeared, and a starving people turned to murder, cannibalism and utter depravation. All that remains today are the statues, monolithic tributes to human folly and suicide.

In 2005, Venezuela is destroying itself. Its dependence on oil has emaciated its few remaining competitive industries. Under the veil of stupendous government wealth, six of every ten Venezuelans are now poor, and many go hungry. The nation gets poorer every day, while its leader flies in a sleek, new jet to every corner of the earth, touting Venezuela's solution to poverty.

Freedom for the poor, like money for food, medicine or the bus, is scarce. The little handouts from government are like the dimes the gloved hand of the billionaire John D. Rockefeller deposited in the wretched palms of the starving children of poisoned coal miners in West Virginia last century -as John D. basked in their pitiful smiles.

The death of Venezuela is masked by a mirage of state wealth. It is not just that the oil price will go down and take everything to the ocean bottom in its mudslide. The big point is that the oil itself will one day disappear and there will be nothing left for Venezuela to do. Instead of preparing for that day, the dependence on oil ripens, leaving everyone who has partaken of that deadly fruit less prepared to deal with the inevitable moment when Venezuela must get back to work and earn its way in the world.

Societies fail by not anticipating or perceiving real problems -they never look for a solution until they're dead. Venezuela did not anticipate that oil could ruin its chances for development and democracy. Even today, many Venezuelans do not perceive that as a problem, and so, no effort is underway to solve it. The ridiculous statues of Easter Island exist also in Venezuela, but they are in the mind.

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