I am a leftist. Anyone who speaks politics or talks policies with me will attest to the fact that I am between a tree-hugging hippie at times, to a dyed in the wool hardcore Marxist. I believe in equality and I can understand and can even accept the need for some radicalism to get the point across.

I lay my cards on the table here because I am about to speak about what for years was deemed to be the darling of the left – Venezuela.

Venezuela has been under socialist rule (democratically elected) since 1998, and in that time we have seen the left of that nation avoid some bullets. First there was the failed US-backed coup, which removed Hugo Chavez from office for a brief period until civil protests put him back in. Then there was (is) the open destabilization that is being wrought on them by foreign powers ­ (one only needs to look at Chile in the 70s for proof).

That however didn’t stop Chavez from attempting to realize the Bolivarian dream. Venezuela has many friends amongst the young who dream of a land of justice and equity but that dream is fast becoming a nightmare in which no one attached to the Bolivarian dream of eliminating poverty and uniting Southern America will be able to escape, and that includes Jamaica.

Venezuela’s Government, yes my Chavistas, lost the plot when oil was at record highs, and failed to diversify the economy. Now they are feeling the pinch. But even so, with the highest proven reserves of oil they should have had enough in the tank to see them through, and yet here we are with protests being broken up on the streets of Caracas all of which augur poorly for any leftist candidate – (though President Nicolas Maduro retains a solid forty percent of the vote).

The youth in Jamaica, who coincidentally make up the majority of this nation’s disempowered citizens, must learn from these mistakes. We must never allow the good times to stop us from saving (think of a sovereign wealth fund) while combating poverty and eradicating crime. The left must never, if/when we get back to power, allow ourselves to use brute force on protesters as it is counter-productive and looks bad from the outside.

What is needed instead is for us to learn from the mistakes and gains made in Venezuela. We have seen poverty more than halved and we see a mass education campaign which ironically has led to these protests. As a region we have also seen patronage, and we bonded more than ever before. These gains must be maintained if Venezuela or the region is to prosper.

Violence against protesters is never the answer. They must be listened to or be ignored, but above all left to protest. After all, it was an act of protest that launched Chavez to levels of popularity unseen before in that nation. Hopefully they can fix it, but that doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon, and so, like a person driving I slow down to watch the wreck that once shone so brightly throughout the region and say WOW!!!!! Travis Konecny Jersey

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