From Hollywood to Caracas With Love: Celebrities and Socialism
EspañolIn a futile attempt to counter the bad publicity generated by the wave of protests in the country, the Embassy of Venezuela in Washington has issued a statement trying to sell the idea that there are many prominent personalities supporting Maduro’s regime. Apparently, they had to enable an area on their website to publish the myriad of solidarity statements they receive daily.
Why, one wonders, does a self-proclaimed “anti-Yankee” regime all of sudden care so much what the rest of the world thinks of them, US Americans in particular? Why do they need foreigners to legitimize what they can achieve via their own citizens?
If there is one lesson that Maduro learned from Chávez, it is the importance of advertising 21st Century Socialism. The deceased president knew well how to market the “Bolivarian Revolution” and sell the idea of demagoguery and populism as “a reflection of the people’s vindication,” perpetuation in power as “the continuation of the project,” and authoritarianism as “defending the homeland against fascist groups.” All these slogans were not propagated overnight; that took time, hard work, and above all, lots of money.
However, sometimes not so much effort is needed to sell socialism. There are always those who live in a bubble of economic development and see socialism as the equivalence of helping the poor, Che as a symbol of rebellion, and Marx as that man with a beard who spoke of class struggle. They never realize that socialism literally means what Churchill described as “the equal sharing of misery.”
Celebrities like supermodel Naomi Campbell, whose fortune is close to US$46 million, have come to Caracas to see the socialist experiment up close and show explicit support for its developer.
Campbell, who had the opportunity to interview Chávez, left delighted with what she saw. In their conversation, the late president insisted: “We have not a single political prisoner. We have not killed anyone. We have banned the political imprisonment of people … We respect human rights here. I don’t think there is any country in the world with more freedom of speech than Venezuela.”
Campbell obviously didn’t pass by the Helicoide building to visit Iván Simonovis, who has been a political prisoner for 10 years, or all those who have been imprisoned without due process as “guaranteed” by the Constitution, only because they represent an opposition that could involve a threat to the regime’s stability.
Danny Glover, another actor almost retired from the world of cinema, has repeatedly visited the socialist “paradise,” only to return to his comfortable life in the United States.
On his last visit, Glover called people to respect the Maduro administration amid all the protests, because he had been chosen through a “democratic, transparent, and fair process that Venezuela has been perfecting for over a decade.” Does it not look a little suspicious to Glover that the same “democratic” and “transparent” process that has been refined by the Chavista regime has kept them in power for 15 years? Doesn’t Glover wonder why people protest so much if everything is good under socialism?
Celebrities like these did not meet the other half of the country; if anything, they might have taken two steps outside the hotel where they stayed and the government-run tours they enjoyed. These personalities come out to support socialism from the comforts of the cradle of capitalism, the one so much criticized by the Venezuelan government. They see from afar the wonders of living in a “socialist” country to which they wouldn’t even think of moving into.
However, the publicity that Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Glover, and Campbell can offer this regime no longer matters; the mask has fallen. The recent protests in Venezuela have meant a high dose of bad publicity for Maduro, and no celebrity visit can hide this. The Venezuelan community and foreign media have managed to report on the repression and economic collapse the country is going through, showing a reality that is strikingly different from the picture painted by these socialism-loving artists.
How can you give any credence to the opinion of someone whose fortune has been achieved through the wonders of capitalism but then comes to Venezuela — a country with no economic or political freedom — to give lessons on socialism?
These are people who have no idea what it is to queue for hours to get milk or flour; they don’t know what it means to be victims of crime and to discover that the same police that supposedly are the “guarantors of security” are the ones behind it all — let alone do they live under the uncertainty of not knowing if their private property will be stripped from them the next day. What would Naomi do, for example, if her beach house were invaded and permanently occupied by squatters, with the encouragement of her very own government?
The luxurious visits themselves are contradictory, and they have lost any effect on the legitimacy the regime seeks to achieve. Maduro will need, besides a few lessons in economics, much more than a good picture to convince the rest of the world that people live under democracy in Venezuela.