Yes, oil revenues surged, but only half as much as the price of crude oil on the global market. Unemployment declined, but mostly in the evolution of a crony system that doubled public workers to 2.4 million people, and established an investment arm, 'Fonden,' that's squandered billions trying to pick winners and losers in business. All the while, the main engine of money - the national oil company - pumped out 2.9 million barrels a day, down from 3.2 million in 2005, as productivity spiraled to its lowest point since 1940.
Hugo Chavez stayed in power until his death by taking a page or two out of the playbook of many famous leaders throughout history. In fact, many would say his story of power seems eerily similar to American audiences. He was flamboyant and charismatic, but that's not enough to feed people, so he had to be and do more. His hatred for the west meant his economy would have to be engineered and controlled.
Squandered natural resources and wealth:
Picking Winners and Losers; the Chavez government has wasted $100.0 billion financing various projects including:
Demonization of political Opponents and George Bush:
"The devil came here yesterday and it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of." - Hugo Chavez at UN 2006
Power grab and abuse of power:
Farm takeovers and media takeovers made a mockery of the two-party political system. When Chavez lost a referendum on a constitutional change that would have made the Bolivian Revolution irreversible, the de-facto dictator instead used presidential decrees. Later he would publish names of the millions that went against his will, which caused them to be ostracized, lost their jobs, and suffered enormous personal challenges.
So, now Venezuela lives on the edge, and as the money runs out the ability to bride, buy, or intimidate the forces of real democratic reform is waning. What happens when you run out of other people's money, borrow to your limit, and can no longer afford to keep lavish promises in return for political gain?
You run out of milk, cooking oil, and toilet paper.
We can only hope the people of Venezuela seize the opportunity to remake their nation into a democracy that sees individuals strive for success, rather than handouts and subsidized gasoline. Where news is fair and balanced; where dreams are unlimited and independent thought is encouraged and applauded. In many ways, I could say the same for the United States while we're on this topic.