Monday’s edition of CNN Right Now with Brianna Keilar featured an undercover report from CNN Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh detailing the horrors of socialism in Venezuela, even as many Democratic candidates for President romanticize socialist ideas here at home. Host Brianna Keilar prefaced the report by describing the people of Venezuela as “desperate for food and other essentials.” This report aired as the South American nation falls further into turmoil, with Opposition Leader Juan Guaido declaring himself Interim President while socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro refuses to step aside.
Paton Walsh began his report by noting how “oil once made them the richest country in South America but this is now the line for three days and nights to get a full tank,” as the video showed a long line of cars waiting for gas. His report highlighted the consequences of socialism, including hyper-inflation and gang violence as a result of the scarcity of food. Paton Walsh described Venezuela as a “socialist utopia that now leaves nearly every stomach empty.”
Interviewing members of “Maduro’s base,” Paton Walsh explained how “state handouts bought their loyalty for years but now this is all she has to feed four this day,” showing a half empty pot of eggs. Paton Walsh added “they too want Maduro gone.” One of the people Paton Walsh interviewed talked about how “people are killing each other for a kilo of rice, for water.”
Paton Walsh’s report highlighted the difficulty the opposition to Maduro faces as a result of the state military remaining loyal to him. Paton Walsh talked to a junior officer who claimed that “80 percent of soldiers are against the government, some even go to demonstrations. But the big fishes, the senior officers are the ones eating, getting rich, while on the bottom, we have it hard. I get a dollar and half every month promptly, enough for one chicken and a food box from the barracks. Then we have to work magic to make it last, like everyone else.”
Paton Walsh concluded the report by explaining how the United States and Russia have different opinions when it comes to the Maduro government: “as Washington says Maduro isn’t President, but Moscow insists he is, everyone else walks zombielike, further and closer towards starvation.”
CNN deserves a lot of credit for actually blaming socialism for the turmoil in Venezuela; even if it only mentioned the word once. A New York Times report on the start of Maduro’s second term did not make the connection between the implementation of socialism and the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. When the article actually did mention socialism, it tried to paint the philosophy in a positive light, talking about how “the government built homes, clinics, and schools as part of its socialist policy.” For once, CNN may have actually lived up to its motto, “facts first.”
A transcript of the relevant portion of Monday’s edition of CNN Right Now is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN Right Now With Brianna Keilar
BRIANNA KEILAR: Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido is calling for nationwide protest this week, turning up the heat on President Nicolas Maduro. At least 20 people died during earlier protests. The U.S. wants Maduro gone. They’re saying his election was rigged. The U.S. is backing Guaido as Interim President until Venezuela can hold new elections. And as these two sides battle it out for control of the country, Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis deepens. People desperate for food and other essentials as you can see here. CNN’s Senior International Correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh went undercover in Caracas for this exclusive report and he found that people are struggling just to stay alive, even in areas loyal to the embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
NICK PATON WALSH (voice over): Cross into Venezuela’s unending disaster, the world’s worst growing refugee crisis and it’s like the world as you know it, is slowly ending. Oil once made them the richest in South America, but this is now the line for three days and nights to get a full tank. In the capital, there’s a queue for everything, everywhere. Hunger breeds a special kind of anger.
PATON WALSH (on camera): This is how hyperinflation works. These groceries cost $50 now but because of what’s happening with the local currency, they will be worth double at least by next month. People paying tomorrow’s prices today.
PATON WALSH (voice over): There is no queuing for the youngest living off what even here nobody wants. This isn’t play, it’s practice for self-defense. “My brother got killed in July by another gang,” says 14-year-old Ismaria, “They found the body in the river. We gather stuff, we beg, a piece of chicken skin to take home.” In the socialist utopia that now leaves nearly every stomach empty. This was the day when change was meant to come, hundreds of thousands flooding central Caracas watching opposition leader Juan Guaido swear himself in as Interim President. But it fast turned sour. They’ve had this standoff outside the military airfield here for months. But this is the first time with an opposition leader claiming the Presidency. All eyes were on the army and whether it, too, would rise up.
PATON WALSH (on camera): This is the important question really in the standoff. It’s about the military’s vote. They may be throwing stones at them here, but what they really need is the army to switch sides.
PATON WALSH (voice over): That didn’t happen and the police teargas and motorcycle charges sent us fleeing down side streets. Some likely wounded, although dozens reported dead during the day. It was up here in the normally loyal slums where the fight was nastiest. Special Forces entered these streets. They had been coming back to make arrests all during the afternoon when we were invited to meet Carolina’s extended family where Maduro’s base has long lived.
PATON WALSH (voice over): State handouts bought their loyalty for years. But now this was all she has to feed four this day. And they say now they, too, want Maduro gone. “We can’t hold it in anymore,” one of her cousins says, “We’re being crushed. We’re beggars now, always begging. This isn’t political, it’s survival; people are killing each other for a kilo of rice, for water.” Army defectors outside Venezuela called on soldiers to rise up, but we hear from one junior officer that even when you can’t feed your family, it’s more complicated. “I would say 80 percent of soldiers are against the government, some even go to demonstrations. But the big fishes, the senior officers are the ones eating, getting rich, while on the bottom, we have it hard. I get a dollar and half every month promptly, enough for one chicken and a food box from the barracks. Then we have to work magic to make it last, like everyone else.”
PATON WALSH (on camera): Would you or the soldiers you know at your level…would you open fire on resistance people in the streets? “I’d rather quit. That person could be my brother or my mother. We need a general to flip…to make a change.” And, as Washington says Maduro isn’t President, but Moscow insists he is, everyone else walks zombielike, further and closer towards starvation.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KEILAR: Powerful reporting there from Nick Paton Walsh from Venezuela. Thank you.