Things are Never So Bad That They Can't Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela

September 14, 2022 - 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
William Neuman, Former New York Times Andes Region Bureau Chief

This event will be held in person in the Ahmadieh Family Conference Hall, Room 240 at the John Hope Franklin Center. A light lunch will be available before and after the event in FC 130/132. The talk will be streamed in that room, as well. Please arrive early if you would like lunch as no food will be allowed in the conference hall. MASKS RECOMMENDED.

Today, Venezuela is a country of perpetual crisis—a country of rolling blackouts, nearly worthless currency, an uncertain supply of water and food, and extreme poverty. In the same land where oil—the largest reserve in the world—sits so close to the surface that it bubbles from the ground, where gold and other mineral resources are abundant, and where the government spends billions of dollars on public works projects that go abandoned, the supermarket shelves are bare and the hospitals have no medicine. Twenty percent of the population has fled, creating the largest refugee exodus in the hemisphere, rivalling only war-torn Syria’s crisis. Venezuela’s collapse affects all of Latin America, as well as the United States and the international community.

Republicans like to point to Venezuela as the perfect example of the emptiness of socialism, but it is a better model for something else: the destructive potential of charismatic populist leadership. Hugo Chavez’s ascent was a precursor to the emergence of strongmen that can now be seen all over the world, and the success of the corrupt economy he established only lasted while oil sold for more than $100 a barrel.

 Former New York Times Bureau Chief William Neuman arrived in Venezuela in 2012. He chronicled the first stage of that harrowing implosion through 2016, then returned in 2019 to watch it reach bottom. His richly reported account — “Things Are Never So Bad That They Can’t Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela” — is a thorough and important history not just of the vast metastasis of the Bolivarian Revolution’s cancers, but also of how the oil republic’s sicknesses had spread well before Chávez, from the moment it drilled its first Lake Maracaibo well in 1914.

Books signed by the author will be available for purchase.

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  • Duke University Center for International and Global Studies
  • Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS)
  • John Hope Franklin Center
  • Wednesdays at the Center Series