Not that long ago.
But today, Venezuela's currency is worthless, no one can consistently find food to buy with their worthless money, production of the nation's one valuable natural resource has tanked, and medicine is unobtainable.
The country is a case study of why socialism cannot work.
And yet on multiple occasions, both Chavez and his bus driving successor, Maduro, have been re elected to continue everyone's slide into what can only be described as African style poverty and chaos.
In Venezuela, the hostility between classes is strong enough, their democracy is pure enough, and the population consists of enough LIV's who can be bought off using public money, and can't see beyond that government check, that even with the nation wide disaster that has unfolded over multiple years, people still come to the polls and vote for socialism.
And socialism, as it always is, consists of nothing more than buying votes using other people's money.
Now that their money is worthless, perhaps even the LIV's in Venezuela will snap out of their stupor, ingest the proverbial red pill, and return to the social/economic condition that before Chavez gave their land a measure of prosperity that was the subject of envy among their Latin American neighbors.
For we Americans, the lesson should be clear. Whether our breed of LIV's can learn it without a similar trip to hell remains to be seen.
At least part of our political class seems that it would have no problem leading us to a similar fate. Why should they worry? As in Venezuela, they can count on re election even with the country on fire, as long as the percentage of the population which is poor and stupid enough to be bought off can out vote the productive part.
Chavez family is said to be worth billions. Maduro, I'm sure, has his escape plan in place and his loot in Switzerland. In comparison, the Clinton family is only worth hundreds of millions for their "public service," even though they did not have a chance to tyrannize a nation. Thank you, founders, most deeply, for the wise separation of power built into our government.
What worries me is that the political will to take us to the same place Venezuela is strong and right here with us in the good old USA, although those who want that would naturally never state it so clearly. Free healthcare for all, free college for all, free, free, free! That's the road to poverty and tyranny, as odd as it might seem.
The proper alternative is what the founders set up for us at the beginning: small government, free choice for the people, self reliance and simple hard work. Sitting at home getting a government check while able bodied is and should be a personal disgrace. Strong families and strong values, supported by the common culture.
Those who fight against all of that are our enemies, plain and simple, and have nothing in mind other than our destruction and their own power and wealth.
It's going to be interesting to see if the Venezuelan people can pull themselves out of their hole, and also whether the American people are going to throw themselves in. Dodging a President Clinton was dodging an American Chavez, if I may be so bold to say it. Now we need to make sure the chance to fall into that trap never happens again.