WITH five-hour queues for the most basic of goods, rampant violent crime and inflation sky high, it makes for an unlikely utopia.
Yet for many in the UK, Venezuela is the poster child of what socialism can achieve once it has thrown off the shackles of the West.
According to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, it is a country from which we can learn a great deal.
Hugo Chavez, a soldier-turned-revolutionary, became president in 1999 and oil-rich Venezuela lurched to the Left in the “Bolivarian revolution”.
Hard-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is known to be a fan of Venezuela’s socialist principles
Socialists lined up to pay homage to Chavez, with both Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell giving him a hero’s welcome on a visit to the UK.
The praise for his system, dubbed Chavismo, has continued even after his death in 2013.
For Venezuelans, however, the support for their former leader’s unique brand of politics is baffling.
Tamara Flores, 56, a former school worker living in Cumana, said: “He may be an admirer of Chavismo but he sees things from afar. I would ask him, ‘Have you lived in Venezuela?’ It’s rich to make judgments from afar. I would tell him to live for a month in Venezuela without his privileges, then we can talk about how the system works. I wouldn’t recommend this system to anybody.”
Despite having the largest oil reserves in the world.
Venezuelans are forced to queue for hours for basic essentials such as a toilet roll and often find there is none left when they finally reach the tills.
The country is in the midst of triple-digit inflation, incessant scarcity of basic household supplies and the world’s second-highest murder rate.
In the past 15 years, 1.6 million of the country’s citizens have emigrated.
Of these, more than 51 per cent are professionals with post-graduate, doctorate, or master’s degrees.
Venezuela also boasts the second-highest murder rate per capita in the world
Tamara said: “It changed so much after Chavez took charge. Our quality of life was lost. The quality of our education was lost. Every day is a challenge. Finding food staples, leaving home and returning with my life and without being robbed. It’s very difficult and sad.
“I don’t think you will find a single Venezuelan who has not been affected by Chavez’s regime. After 30 years of working I have a right to a tranquil, peaceful retirement, not to spend hours every day in a line. This is not quality of life.”
After the death of Chavez his righthand man Nicolas Maduro took the helm.
Yet support for the regime stayed undimmed in certain sections of the Labour Party.
Ken Livingstone is the president of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, which seeks to uphold the Chavismo ideals the president brought in.
Diane Abbott is a patron.
Six months ago Corbyn told a rally in London: “When we celebrate, and it is a cause for celebration, the achievements of Venezuela, in jobs, in housing, in health, in education, but above all its role in the whole world as a completely different place, then we do that because we recognise what they have achieved.”
In Cumana, Nory Munoz, 26, a primary school teacher, warned that Corbyn should be careful if following in the footsteps of Chavez.
“Socialism has not made things develop well in public organisations like hospitals, the police, the fire brigade. There is corruption and total disorganisation. I do blame the system. The people who made this mess are corrupt.”