Venezuela today is a dark microcosm of the promise of social change gone tragically awry. As a Venezuelan-American, witnessing the devastation of my country over the past two decades has shaped my views on movements that promise sweeping social transformation. It is primarily through the lens of this experience that I offer some reflections.

Venezuela in the 1990s had a broken political system that excluded the vast majority of Venezuelan citizens from meaningful participation in political life and the benefits of national wealth creation. When Hugo Chávez re-entered the political scene in the late 1990s, after being released from prison for attempting a coup d’état in 1992, he tapped into a reservoir of resentment that had simmered over decades of exclusion and inequality.