Vote for Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Get Venezuela Chaos, Kevin McCarthy Says

venezuela chaos bernie sanders alexandria ocasio-cortez kevin mccarthy
Forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro confront with supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 30, 2019. FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has suggested that the chaos engulfing Venezuela is a direct result of progressive policies similar to those advocated by U.S. politicians such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Speaking with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday, the senior Republican lawmaker argued that Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and their supporters were pursuing the same ideology that has brought Venezuela to its knees.

The oil-rich South American nation has been beset by economic crisis for several years. Plummeting oil prices, institutionalized corruption, a collapsing currency and economic mismanagement all combined to send Venezuela spiraling into financial collapse.

In January, a power struggle emerged as the 35-year-old leader of the opposition controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaido, declared President Nicolas Maduro's regime illegitimate. Arguing that Maduro's last election victory was invalid, Guaido declared himself interim president and called for new elections to be held.

After months of maneuvering, Guaido released a video statement Tuesday declaring the "final phase" of his movement to end Maduro's "usurpation." Surrounded by armed men in military uniforms and flanked by prominent opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, Guaido called on the military and Venezuelan citizens to join him and take to the streets.

As troops loyal to Maduro attempted to put down the uprising, tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition flew near the La Carlota air base, where Guaido announced the coup. A video also emerged of an armored car ploughing through protesters, though it is not clear how many people were injured and if anyone was killed.

"All of America should watch what is happening in Venezuela," McCarthy told Hannity. "There is about 50,000 people a day who pass over that border to Colombia to buy the essentials from milk to toilet paper… They do not have electricity. The hospitals do not have electricity. They do not have running water. Babies are being born and put in cardboard boxes.

"This is what is scary, because 20 years ago Venezuela was the jewel of Latin America. It was a socialist policy that promised you free health care, promised you free education. Well, this is what you have done. This is the Bernie Sanders, the AOC of the policies that are moving forward."

The roots of Venezuela's crisis lie with leftist revolutionary Hugo Chavez. Under his leadership, high oil prices swelled the nation's coffers, funding social programs and allowing the government to introduce price controls on many vital goods. For a time, Venezuela was the envy of the continent, at the forefront of the "pink tide" of left-wing governments in South American nations. But Chavez also nationalized a wide range of companies and their assets, undermining Venezuela's ability to produce anything other than oil.

As oil prices began to fall—beginning around a year after Chavez died in 2013—his successor Maduro was left facing huge gaps in the national budget which have resulted in hyperinflation, power shortages and a lack of essential goods.

Millions have already fled the country, and those who stayed behind face rapidly declining living standards. Meanwhile, the authoritarian government has suppressed its opponents, abused human rights to remain in power and engaged in rampant corruption.

Both McCarthy and Hannity equated proposals of "Medicare for All," free college tuition and free child care with the policies behind Venezuela's economic collapse. However, neither explained that Chavez and his allies introduced far more radical, short-term and ultimately damaging policies, combined with authoritarian rule. For example, both men suggested Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez would pursue mass nationalization of private companies, something neither politician is currently proposing.

"They want to promise you free health care," McCarthy said. "They want to promise you what's happening in Venezuela today, and that's why people are leaving."

Referring to the Green New Deal proposal, Hannity also claimed progressive Democrats may "get rid of the lifeline of our economy, oil and gas, and the combustion engine and planes and cows." Green New Deal supporters and fact checkers have dismissed these criticisms as intentional misrepresentations.