In This Review

Things Are Never So Bad That They Can’t Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela
Things Are Never So Bad That They Can’t Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela
By William Neuman
St. Martin’s Press, 2022, 352 pp.

Neuman, a former New York Times correspondent in Venezuela, draws on his wealth of personal contacts to script this unrelentingly depressing requiem. Formerly an oil-rich, functioning democracy with a prosperous middle class, Venezuela today struggles with steep currency devaluations, severe shortages of food and medicines, debilitating power outages, and crippling urban crime. This is a cautionary tale of how unscrupulous authoritarian populists, drunk on ideology but driven primarily by the lust for power and its pecuniary rewards, can catastrophically ruin an economy and shred the social fabric of a country. Trapped in a polarized polity rife with vitriol, paranoia, and conspiracy theories, some of Neuman’s interviewees remain blindly loyal to their tormentors, many have fled into exile, and most simply struggle to survive from day to day. U.S. politicians come off poorly in this well-sourced account. Neuman reveals a Trump administration shockingly ill informed and reckless, its disastrous improvisations writing a distressingly dark chapter in inter-American relations.