Two Venezuelan asylum-seekers are warning that the recent shutdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic are giving Americans a taste of the socialist ideology that drove their homeland down the road to economic and social ruin -- and are urging Americans to avoid going down that path in the future, even if public health imperatives dictate strict measures now.
“When this whole situation with the pandemic started, it was like some sort of flashback of how my life was in Venezuela seeing all of these shortages in stores, the lines you have to do to get some groceries, the surveillance ordered by the government to enforce social distancing,” Jorge Galicia told Fox News in an interview Wednesday. “I can see a lot of similarities between the pandemic and how socialism was working for us in Venezuela.”
Galicia, a freedom activist who came to the U.S. in 2018 after he says he suffered political persecution from despot Nicolas Maduro's regime, along with fellow exile Andrés Guilarte, have been warning of the dangers of socialism for months as part of a college campus tour promoted by The Fund for American Studies.
They have a tough climb ahead of them. Progressive ideas such as "Medicare-for-all," basic income plans and exorbitant welfare spending have increasingly caught on, particularly amid the economic downturn, and left-wing members of Congress such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have become increasingly popular in recent years -- with Sanders at one point a top contender for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) says its membership has surged by 10,000 since March.
"People are really starting to just look around and say, 'Man, capitalism isn't working,'" an unnamed co-chair of the Detroit DSA chapter told The Atlantic. "If the markets can’t even produce hand sanitizer or toilet paper or masks during a plague -- what good is this system?"
But Galicia and Guilarte have pointed to the ruin of Venezuela under Maduro as an example of how socialism leads to less freedom and less prosperity. Under the Maduro regime, the country has been dogged by malnutrition, disease and violence, as well as accusations that the government is engaged in money laundering and supporting terrorism.
Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on everyday life in the U.S. aren't anywhere near the tragedy of modern Venezuela. But with jobless claims surging to historic levels amid lockdown measures and some on the left advocating for a massive welfare system as the answer, Galicia and Guilarte have a warning.
“My mission right now is to speak loud and to share my story about what happened and why Venezuela went from being one of the richest nations around the world to being one of the poorest right now -- and pretty much the answer is socialism,” Galicia said.
The pair have helped create a video to warn Americans about the dangers of socialism, and point to the temporary hardships as a foreshadowing of what would happen if the U.S. embraces socialism. They also point to societal changes, too, such as officials encouraging people to rat out their neighbors who are not following social distancing guidelines.
“In this crisis, Americans are getting a taste of what it is like to living in a socialist country -- scarcity, mistrust, massive unemployment and uncertainty,” the video says.
Galicia said he believes socialism is so popular, particularly among young people, because politicians promoting socialist policies are presenting solutions to real problems on issues such as health care and college tuition -- but the policies, he says, do not solve those problems.
He says that while America does have its share of problems, pursuing a socialist path is not the way forward.
"When you compare the problems that we’re facing in Venezuela because of following socialism, you will realize America is a paradise,” he told Fox News. "We have problems but socialism is never the answer -- that's my message."