As the collapse of Venezuela continues, the anguished cries of its people are not half as unbearable as the silence of international apologists for a failed ideology, Michael D. Higgins among them. We can expect much more ill-conduct should our political establishment crown him again in 2018.

Every day brings forth new stories of the horrors which have been visited upon the noble Venezuelan people. What was once the wealthiest nation in Latin America is now in complete freefall.

Inflation is sky-high and food has for years been strictly rationed due to extreme shortages. Long queues abound, where the destitute masses wait impatiently for what little can be obtained. Others resort to more desperate measures. Women selling their hair for use as extensions or in wigs in order to feed themselves and their families is a startling example.

Just this month, Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government unveiled its ambitious scheme to stave off mass starvation. ‘Plan Rabbit’ will see citizens being encouraged to keep rabbits in their homes in order to provide for their basic needs.

“There is a cultural problem,” the agriculture minister Freddy Bernal acknowledged, “because we have been taught that rabbits are cute pets.

“A rabbit is not a pet; it’s two and a half kilos of meat that is high in protein, with no cholesterol.” One must admire the meticulous nature of the central planners, who even at a time of near-famine can remember their public health objectives with respect to cholesterol reduction.

The rabbits aren’t the only creatures at risk: shocking footage has emerged of Ruperta, Venezuela’s only African elephant and star attraction at Caricas’s zoo who is now badly emaciated.

Ruperta has become an international symbol of the Venezuelan crisis, but President Maduro has dismissed the concerns of elephant-lovers worldwide, claiming that Ruperta is simply old, and that rumours of her being underfed are part of international conspiracy to demoralize Venezuelans.

Perhaps the rabbits were in on it too, and now the Menshevik scum are receiving their just deserts (some Venezuelans should) for such treachery. The view of the people on the street is clear enough, though.

Tenemos hambre’ the graffiti reads. We are hungry.

If the natural course of socialism continues to unfold, Plan Rabbit will now surely be followed by Plan Cat, Plan Dog, Plan Donkey and Plan Rodent, while the average Venezuelan desperately seeks to implement Plan Leave.

A nation which used to attract inward migration is now witnessing an exodus of its people, and those with the means to depart are often skilled workers with much to offer to a country whose leaders were not intent on watching it burn. 

It is an article of faith for those on the Left that capitalism fails to provide for the material needs of the vulnerable, and that only left-wing policies can guarantee a just society, but modern Venezuela gives the lie to this.

Its social services no longer function. Shortages are ubiquitous, power cuts frequent, and hospitals are finding themselves unable to provide even basic care for want of supplies.

In May, CNN reported details about the 14-year-old Daniela Chacon, who recently became an amputee due to the inability of the hospital in Valencia to offer chemotherapy. Had she been living outside of Venzuela when she developed her bone tumour, it would not have meant that she has to spend the rest of her life on one leg. There are many others besides her, and will be more.

Socialists also love to place the blame for lawlessness at the door of ‘neo-liberalism’ which they insist pulls people apart and creates the sort of deprivation and inequality which produces crime.

In Venezuela though, capitalism is dead and crime is rampant, and the country’s streets are now some of the most dangerous in the world. For those who dare to stray from the government line, state security forces and colectivos – armed bands under the government’s control – often pose the greatest threat of all.

Witnessing his own country’s destruction from the window of the presidential palace, the successor of Hugo Chavez locates the real culprits: the opposition traitors who prevailed in the 2015 parliamentary election and have been obstructing the revolution’s progress ever since.

Having neutered the democratically elected parliament after his party lost control of it, Maduro last month saw fit to replace it with a carefully selected constituent assembly, quickly established after July’s sham election.

Street protests against this blatant power grab have been met with force, while two of the most important opposition leaders – Leonardo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma – were jailed in July on the grounds that they had allegedly spoken to the media, made “political statements” and perhaps worst of all, planned to flee the country.

Socialists often boast that they are pro-immigration. This ignores the fact that their economic policies usually ensure that little immigration will be forthcoming. It also neatly deflects attention from their harsh anti-emigration stance, that which saw a fearsome wall being raised in Berlin, and Castro’s thugs firing upon rafts filled with Cubans desperately seeking to reach the United States.

As in Poland after 1945, the Catholic Church is one of the last significant organisations which stands against totalitarian rule, with the result that it is now facing growing threats.

Shortly before the opposition leaders were taken into custody, Cardinal Jorge Savino was interrupted in a church while saying Mass by colectivos who angrily denounced him for standing against their ongoing revolution. After a tense period in which the church was on lockdown, the congregation was allowed to leave, but the incident bodes ill for the future.

The scale of the collapse is so shocking that it easy to forget that the international Left was strongly supportive of the Venezuelan government up until recently, and that our own President Michael D. Higgins was one of the most strident cheerleaders.

A week is a long time in politics, four years an eternity, but no amount of time could render null and void the President’s words upon the death of the man who started this destructive cycle, Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez.

For it was Chavez who centralized power in his office to create the authoritarian regime which now exists, and it was Chavez who established the precedent of removing officials who were not sufficiently suppliant.

It was Chavez who expropriated thousands of companies, thus doing away with the free-market economy and the entrepreneurial middle-class which all nations need in order to prosper.

It was Chavez who established the close relationship with the freedom-denying, food-rationing dictatorship of Cuba, which Venezuela has now mimicked in so many ways.

And in spite of all this, it was Chavez who Higgins commended in May 2014 for achieving “a great deal during his time in office, particularly in the area of social development and poverty reduction.”

If you were to be kind, you might say that with the benefit of hindsight, the President might now think differently about the situation, having seen Venezuela degenerate into what it is now.

Yet, when it comes to the destruction caused by socialism – and the repression which is a vital part of such systems – Higgins has always adopted a ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ approach.

What else could explain his even more gushing eulogy for Fidel Castro last November, in which he lauded Castro for being “one of the longest serving Heads of State in the world” (quite easy when there aren’t any elections), “guiding the country through a remarkable process of social and political change” (from aspiring democracy to Stalinist police state) and becoming “a giant among global leaders whose view was not only one of freedom for his people (!!!) but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet.”

Where to begin? To hear such offensive dribble from a clueless first-year undergraduate would be jarring, but from a man who first entered our parliament in 1973 and who has been repeatedly lionised as some sort of intellectual by the sycophants in Irish media and academia – this is truly odious.

However, it is far worse to consider the Cuban people, who undoubtedly had to suffer the indignity of having his words relayed to them – along with those of Trudeau and the other fellow travellers – repeatedly by a government which they cannot change, via a media completely under its thumb, and within a political system where any expression of dissent can lead to a lengthy spell in a prison camp.

Higgins is not stupid, nor can he be misinformed about the true nature of socialism. He has lived through Hungary 56 and Prague 68, the raising of the Berlin Wall and its fall, famine in Ethiopia and in North Korea, the Mariel boatlift and the Vietnamese boat people, the Virgin Lands scheme and the Cultural Revolution, Year Zero and Tiananmen Square. The fact that he is still so fulsome in his praise of those who kill in order to advance such a cause can only point to one conclusion.

Higgins knows very well what Cuba is, and admires its leaders for what they have done, just as he likely admires Maduro. Those who pass off this pound shop Karl Marx as a loveable old sentimentalist, misguided but virtuous, do the greatest of disservices to the people of Cuba and Venezuela.

The man has spent his life denouncing capitalism while living off of it, lauding tyrannical leaders and excoriating those like President Reagan who fought and defeated them. The indignity of enduring occasional criticism for exceeding his authority is a small price to pay for someone who has witnessed his ideology bring misery and death to millions, and yet who still believes in it before anything else.

Seven more years in the Áras will not change him, regardless of what destruction is wrought by those who initiate policies elsewhere which he would have replicated here, given the opportunity. Michael D. Higgins is not misguided. He is poison.

Now, shielded by a complicit media and a cowardly political class, Higgins sees the opportunity for seven more years in his useless office. Remembering Comrade Fidel, he smiles at the thought that he won’t even need to stand for election this time. 

Another term for him, a life sentence for Venezuelans. Each a grave miscarriage of justice, separated only by degree.

Socialism has failed, long live Socialism.