Note: This post was inspired by a reader of my blog in Oregon who made a reference to Venezuela as a socialist nation which is common among left oriented activists. But this is contrary to what I know about that country. So I proceeded to find factual information about the ownership of the economy. What I found was a plethora of articles from corporate media sources spewing pure propaganda pieces attacking Venezuela, and a few naive pieces of left sources that exhibited considerable ignorance about conditions there, and without any background knowledge of the history and culture of that country. This post by Draitser was a single exception. My commentary that follows is an elaboration of my response to her.
The politically volatile conditions in Venezuela never seem to let up, and now that the right-wing opposition is in the majority in their parliament, things are only going to get worse. Although I visited the country for two weeks in 2005 and toured many of the organizations that the Bolivarians created, and followed events there subsequently via the web, I am by no means an expert but feel that I have much more accurate information than most people. For a North American to understand what is going on there requires one to thoroughly understand the history and culture of Latin America.
There is also a strong overlay of racism that has reinforced a split between classes based on the private ownership of the economy. Like most all of the Latin American countries, you will find most government agencies and businesses run by light-skinned Spanish (or in Brazil, Portuguese) descendants. Most of these people also identify with the capitalist interests of the Empire and thus cooperate with the latter's destabilization efforts. Of course, opportunities for education have favored this group and consequently many of them are in the Bolivarian government.
While Chavez often referred to his program in terms of "socialism of the 21st century" and accordingly promised a political role for his grassroots organizations ("bottom-up democratic structures"), he never implemented any type of independent role for them. He mostly used them for his political support during elections.
There is a considerable amount of crime in Venezuela. Their society is wracked by open class war due both to its racist and classist history and, I think, together with US interventions has fostered this kind of sociopathy.