American free-market policies must rescue Venezuela from COVID-19

Food shortages, hyperinflation, and government corruption are all too common in socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro's Venezuela.  The people of Venezuela are struggling to meet basic needs such as toilet paper and proper sanitation.  The emergence of COVID-19 has only exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country.  Many educated professionals have already fled Venezuela to seek opportunities and a better quality of life elsewhere, and the doctors left are working on a limited capacity within a flawed health care system built by harmful socialist policies.

Venezuela is a failed socialist state.  According to the United Nations, close to three quarters of Venezuelans are resorting to "food-related coping strategies," which include skipping meals, leading to malnourishment.  The situation in Venezuela is dire.  More than 5 million people have fled the country, an exodus similar to the emigration caused by the Syrian Civil War.  So, with a country in a state of chaos, one wonders why American politicians on the left are praising the same socialist policies that crippled Venezuela.

The 2020 Democratic primary has normalized socialism.  In a race to the left, Democratic primary candidates such as Senator Bernie Sanders have embraced the term and advocate for policies like Medicare for All and free college tuition.  But, as is the case in Venezuela, socialist policies lead to a brain drain of educated professionals, including health care workers.  In real time, we are witnessing the results in a country completely unequipped to fight the coronavirus pandemic.  As a result, Venezuela is in a total economic — and health — collapse.

Fortunately, President Donald J. Trump embraces American values such as capitalism and democracy.  His America First policy furthers these values at home and abroad.  Our economic prosperity is a success of his pro-capitalist policies.  Manufacturing rose 3.6% in addition to 487,000 manufacturing jobs created.  Unemployment is at the lowest rate in 50 years, and wages are continuing to grow for American workers.  Our economy thrives because it's not subject to failing socialist policies; rather, it is fueled by free-market growth. 

In response to Maduro's corruption, cruelty, and failed policies, the Trump administration has wisely taken a hard-line stance.  This should continue.  The administration has also wisely balanced its foreign policy with humanitarian and economic concerns, and this philosophy is more crucial than ever as the whole world reels from COVID-19.  In order for Venezuela to once again prosper and for U.S. energy companies to sustain the jobs they provide for hardworking Americans, I am urging the Treasury Department to renew the waivers that allow U.S. energy companies to operate in Venezuela. 

Venezuela has a plethora of natural resources such as oil; however, due to government corruption, the profits end up in the hands of Maduro's cronies.  Our American companies are a foil to his disastrous reign, showcasing how stable institutions, fair governance, and democratic values can benefit a country.

Democracy and capitalism are a proven model, and, continuing with the policy of past administrations, it is necessary that American businesses serve as global advocates for American values.  It is especially important that we champion these values in Venezuela to show its country's people that there's a better alternative to socialism.  In order to promote capitalism, the administration needs to support American businesses operating abroad.

Perhaps with COVID-19 putting insurmountable pressure on the country, Maduro's socialist regime will finally fall.  Its corrupt practices are unsustainable, and when that day comes, Venezuelans will look to American energy companies as a model for success that a democratic nation can achieve.

While the president is right to sanction the Maduro regime, waivers allowing energy companies to operate in Venezuela are necessary for prosperity there and here in America.  Free-market policies allowing companies to freely compete serve as a stark contrast to the failed socialist policies of the current regime.  They embody American values like democracy, capitalism, and prosperity that serve as a symbol for what life can be like after the Maduro regime comes to an end. 

Tony Sayegh served as President Donald Trump's assistant secretary for public affairs for the U.S. Department of the Treasury (2017–2019).