A mural in Caracas depicting Venezuela's former President Hugo Chávez and current President Nicolás Maduro, April 2013.
Tomas Bravo / Reuters

Forget everything about Venezuela’s economic crisis. Yes, radical leftist politicians have governed Venezuela for almost two decades and have run the economy into the ground. Yes, Venezuelans must now stand in line for hours to buy food and consumer goods such as toilet paper, and most have no access to basic medication. Yes, the currency is worthless and inflation is the highest in the world. And yes, violence and looting have become facts of daily life.

But Venezuela has been here before—again and again. Nations, like individuals, can be addicted to overspending, especially when spending is made easy. And with the richest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela’s ability to spend is limited only by how fast it can pump and by the price at which each barrel is sold. As their country faces a new economic disaster, Venezuelans should admit to themselves the sad truth: their

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  • RAÚL GALLEGOS is Senior Analyst in the Andean region for the consulting firm Control Risks and the author of Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela, out in October from Potomac Books.
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