Reports from Venezuela: Painting the Grey Lady Red
Painting the Grey Lady Rojo Rojito
So did you hear the one about the tinpot dictator who wrote an OpEd in the New York Times?
Maduro’s inaugural romp in what is arguably the world’s newspaper is filled with the usual half-baked, SIBCI-tested propaganda that’s been shoved down our throats in hundreds of cadenas over recent months: the protests are violent, they are tiny, and they are funded by the U.S. government. Rinse, lather, repeat.
We could do a point-by-point debunking of Maduro’s bulllshit claims (he created universal health care???), but that would not the best use of our time here. The real question isn’t “what” Maduro is saying, but “why?”
Maduro’s piece is more than just a well-written-yet-ultimately-doomed attempt at damage control. It signals a dramatic departure from Chávez’s self-assured, outward-looking line. Whereas Chávez used a supposed external threat as an instrument for internal domination, Maduro is turning the formula on its head: taking internal conflict abroad for international validation.
Maduro wants to convince the world that he’s the good guy. The only plausible motivator for this is that he feels he’s being portrayed as the villain. What’s weird about this is that he actually seems to care.
Consider this quote:
“Those with legitimate criticisms of economic conditions or the crime rate are being exploited by protest leaders with a violent, antidemocratic agenda.”
LEGITIMATE? Legitimate is not a word Maduro has ever used when speaking to the Venezuelan public about the protests. Yet he (or, rather, his ghost writer) chooses to portray discontent as legitimate to a foreign audience. While he admits to the world that “the government has also confronted serious economic challenges,” he hammers the point to Venezuelans that our shortages and inflation are the result of an opposition-led “war on the economy.” (BTW, Maduro, kudos on the super classy advertisement for SICAD II).
Democracy also receives an inconsistent treatment by Maduro on both fronts. He makes a point to address “claims that Venezuela has a deficient democracy […] represent mainstream sentiment,” invoking that very word no less than seven times throughout the text. Maduro admits to the world that democracy in Venezuela has been called into question by Venezuelans. Has anyone ever heard such a thing from the man speaking in Spanish?
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