OPINION

Opinion: The excesses of Chavismo have entered the U.S. elections

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the UN headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the UN headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015.  (2015 Getty Images)

Venezuela and the excesses of the Chavista regime have become an issue in the presidential elections in the U.S.

Bad memories come back to haunt all of us Latin Americans, particularly Venezuelans, when we hear Trump speak, and we Venezuelans already constitute a visible group of electors in Southeast Florida.

- Leopoldo Martinez Nucete

Right at the moment when the regime blocked the recall referendum aimed at removing President Nicolás Maduro and as the economic and social crisis suffocating the Venezuelan people grows ever worse, Hilary Clinton published an article in Spanish in El Nuevo Herald titled “For Greater Unity in Latin America” in which she wrote the following about Venezuela:

“We need to keep the pressure on Venezuela and work to find a peaceful solution to the current political and humanitarian crisis which is a result of the legacy of the authoritarian regime of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro. We won’t hesitate to punish individuals who have violated human rights or robbed their fellow citizens and nor will we hesitate to speak out on behalf of political prisoners. While Venezuelans exercise their constitutional right to initiate a change of course for their country, they should know they are not alone. The United States stand with them. And we will use our leadership in Latin America to ensure that the rest of the region joins in solidarity with them too”.

In these few lines she reiterated the policy maintained by the Obama administration with both consistency and prudence while attempting to create a regional coalition to deal with the delicate question of Venezuela. This policy has included seeking the good offices of The Vatican to support the position of the Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro, whom has advocated for the enforcement of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. At the same time the U.S. has sought to develop economic and energy cooperation with Central America and the Caribbean, now that the financial crisis and the fall in the price of crude oil have left Maduro without the diplomatic shield that the Chavista regime constructed over a decade with Petrocaribe.

Clinton is very clear about the issue and how to address it. She also has the credibility and respect necessary in the eyes of the Latin American leadership to face the challenge of the absurd radicalization of the Venezuelan government, a radicalization in violation to its commitment to democracy within the framework of the Inter-American Charter.

Chavista neo-authoritarianism and its taste for dividing society have also been the subject of campaign spots from the Democratic Party and other independent organizations like the Latino Victory Project, focused on   reminding the first generation of immigrants who live in Florida and come originally from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Perú and Chile or Argentina, how leaders who present themselves as anti-political saviours end up becoming a huge headache.

Trump has not only engaged in a divisive xenophobic and prejudiced rhetoric against Latinos, Mulisms. He also belittles women and people with disabilities; and as if this was not enough, he has claimed to be better than our Generals in dealing with national security, praised Vladimir Putin as a great leader, threatened Clinton with jail by appointing a special prosecutor. He expelled Jorge Ramos from a press conference for having the temerity to ask a question challenging the assumptions of his massive deportation plan, and sent teams of lawyers to threaten the media that have published investigative journalism about the cases of sexual harassment he has been accused of, as well as fraudulent bankruptcies, possible tax evasion and the Trump University scandal. He also declared that if elected he will seek to pass new laws on defamation (which in the U.S. is a state and not a federal matter) with the aim of shutting up the independent media and he has also promised to take Saturday Night Live off the air because of its stinging parodies of his excesses. 

In a phrase that has become iconic of his lack of temperament, he claimed the system is rigged and not working, and he “alone can fix it”.

And the latest of these excesses (faced with what looks like certain electoral defeat given Clinton’s solid two digit polling lead) has been to promote the organization of vigilante groups to intimidate immigrant voters (Latinos and Muslims), yet another example of his open racism and xenophobia. In any case he has said that he’ll only recognize the results of the election if he wins. And let’s not forget that he has insinuated that if Clinton wins his anti-gun control followers will take matters into their own hands. His activists have also threatened violence and rebellion if he loses. Doesn’t all that remind you of someone? Of who, exactly?

Bad memories come back to haunt all of us Latin Americans, particularly Venezuelans, when we hear Trump speak, and we Venezuelans already constitute a visible group of electors in Southeast Florida. And it’s not for nothing therefore that the Democratic Party has reminded them that supposed messiahs like Castro, Somoza, Pinochet, Noriega, Fujimori and, of course, Chávez lead to social division and authoritarianism and that whether they come from the far left or far right their methods and characters are remarkably similar.

There was no delay in the reaction from the Foreign Minister of Venezuela. In a hard to understand message on Twitter she said that it was an abuse to compare Chávez with Trump and that the Democratic Party was being racist and arrogant. This talk of arrogance from the Foreign Minister can only be understood as an example of what psychologists call projection. And her mention of racism defies comprehension as it’s one of Trump’s most visible characteristics and an accusation impossible to make against today’s Democratic Party and Clinton herself, who for decades now has promoted social inclusion and fought for the rights of African Americans, women, minorities in general and in particular for a path to citizenship for Latino immigrants.

As the question of Venezuela becomes an electoral issue in the United States, the spiral of deterioration into which Venezuela has fallen looks uncontrollable, only with the cautious hope that a combination of protests and dialogue will bring some path to resume democratic change. 

Nonetheless, it seems that once the U.S. elections have concluded things will continue to worsen in there, to the point of making the country a priority issue for the regional policy of Hillary Clinton, for the reasons stated in her well-written article published in El Nuevo Herald.

We’ll have to wait and hope that is the case.

Leopoldo Martínez Nucete is a former Venezuelan congressman currently living in Washington, DC, where he is the CEO of the Center for Democracy and Development in the Americas (@cddamericas) and the Chair of the Latino Victory Project National Committee (@LatinoVictoryUS). He tweets at @lecumberry.

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