Venezuelan government controls more than 500 businesses — and most are losing money

miami heraldBicycles, coffee, medicine, cellphones, aerospace components, petroleum, milk, hotels. Venezuela’s state-run companies are producing a dizzying array of products and services, as the socialist administration has morphed into a sprawling conglomerate that would be the envy of any capitalist.

The nonprofit Transparency International says it has identified at least 511 companies that are either wholly or majority owned by the government of Venezuela — and 70 percent of them are losing money, potentially adding to Venezuela’s economic meltdown.

The sheer number of companies under state control seems to put Venezuela in a class of its own, the group said. Brazil, which has about six times the population of Venezuela, has 130 state-run companies, and Argentina, a third larger than Venezuela, has 52.

“We started this study because nobody really knows how many companies the state is running,” said Mercedes De Freitas, the director of the Venezuelan branch of Transparency International. “The state has invaded every sector imaginable.” …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.