Are clueless celebs embarrassed by their praise for Venezuela’s brutal socialist regime?

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Venezuela used to be the richest country in Latin America. Today, its economy and civil society are disintegrating. The country is experiencing widespread hunger and out-of-control violence—a result of former President Hugo Chávez’ move, starting in 2002, to nationalize industries, establish price controls, and block foreign capital from entering the country.

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Back when Chávez was still in power (and still alive), U.S. celebrities, including Danny Glover, Naomi Campbell, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, and Sean Penn, praised the former president and his brand of “Bolivarian” socialism. As did left-wing intellectuals, including the famed M.I.T. linguist Noam Chomsky.

What do they have to say now?

In an exchange with John Stossel, Chomsky said that he never described Chavez’s “state-capitalist government “as ‘socialist,'” and that capitalists “undermine the economy” in all sorts of ways.

Which brings to mind the phrase “useful idiots” (attributed to Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin), which means a person who champions a cause they don’t fully understand.

Produced by Naomi Brockwell. Edited by Joshua Swain.