cover image Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela

Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela

Raúl Gallegos. Potomac, $34.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-61234-770-7

Venezuela’s economy is imploding, and Gallegos, a Latin America analyst and former Wall Street Journal oil correspondent, writes a timely, important book on what went wrong, which is a lot. Sharply written and vividly detailed, the book documents how Venezuela’s oil reserves—the world’s largest—subsidize an unsustainable life for its citizens. Hugo Chávez, elected president in 1998 on a socialist platform, triggered the most recent disasters, but the country’s ills are structural and attitudinal, Gallegos shows, going back to the boom years of the 1960s. The one-commodity nation has an infrastructure in shambles; electricity is iffy, and drought looms over a country that generates more than half its power hydroelectrically. The national debt and inflation rate are staggering. Many fed-up foreign banks and bondholders fear default. The nation’s elites exhibit astonishing self-interest, rapaciousness, and superficiality. The rich, whom Gallegos describes as “obsessed with physical beauty,” spend their money in salons and on plastic surgery, while others go hungry. Facing destitution, Venezuelans remain convinced that oil will come to their rescue. According to Gallegos, “Venezuela became a different country when it discovered crude.” The arrival of the petro state has led to an “insane economy” that Gallegos hopes will provide a “moral lesson” for other nations. (Oct.)