The Maduro administration has taken one of the world’s big oil exporters to the brink of collapse. Donald Trump wants to tip it over the edge

A century ago, John Maynard Keynes recognised the deadly threat inflation posed to a body politic. He wrote: “There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency.” It is a lesson that Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro has yet to learn. Yearly price rises are running at 1,000,000%. Venezuela’s situation, says the IMF, is not as bad as that faced by Germany in 1923 or Zimbabwe in the 2000s. But it’s not far off. The economy is set to shrink by a fifth. Jobless Venezuelans are leaving in droves for neighbouring countries – only to be greeted by mob violence over the borders.

Keynes warned that the ruling class could be overthrown. The irony is that it is Venezuela’s revolutionaries who risk being toppled in nightmarish scenes. Mr Maduro, heir to Hugo Chávez’s populist politics, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt this month. Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution had its roots in social justice, and tapped the world’s biggest oil reserves to aid the poor. Mr Maduro took over just as inflation took off and before oil prices crashed. He failed to tackle an incipient crisis. Instead, he oversaw Venezuela’s descent into economic and social catastrophe. Security forces, who are suspected of killing hundreds of demonstrators, enjoy immunity from prosecution. In June the United Nations warned that the rule of law is “virtually absent” in the country.

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