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Diosdado’s Crocodile Tears

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Dec 24, 2014, 10:28 am
El número dos del chavismo, Diosdado Cabello. (PSUV)
Chavista number-two Diosdado Cabello blames the United States for problems in Venezuela and Latin America. (PSUV)

Español Diosdado Cabello’s op-ed in the New York Times is harmless yet paradoxical. The head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, and without doubt the number-two Chavista official in terms of economic and political power, aired his views in the renowned US newspaper on December 18. This happened to be the same day US President Barack Obama announced the normalization of Washington-Havana diplomatic relations, and began moves to lift the 53-year economic embargo imposed on the Caribbean island.

Although misguided, Cabello’s words gain undue weight because of their timing. The US and Cuba are exploring a new period — albeit uncertain — of diplomatic relations, but Cabello persists in warning of the evil intentions of the US “empire” towards a defenseless Venezuela.

Cabello, who also backed the failed 1992 coup d’etat of the late President Hugo Chávez, complained about the sanctions that the United States is due to bring to bear upon those officials responsible for the brutal repression of anti-government protesters. A government crackdown following demonstrations in February resulted in the death of over 40 Venezuelans, hundreds injured, and thousands arrested, mostly young students.

Yet there’s a grim irony that while Cuba’s has long justified its terrible economic situation by invoking the US embargo, Chavista officials are already beginning to blame US sanctions as the root cause of their nose-diving economy and widespread shortages of basic goods.

Although President Nicolás Maduro has tuned down the anti-Washington rhetoric, several members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) continue to churn out “anti-imperialist” speeches, the essential product of any leftist revolution.  In this vein came the statement of Carabobo State Governor Francisco Ameliach, who portrayed the US decision to sanction Venezuelan officials as a “brazen declaration of interventionism.”

“What the [US] government has actually done,” Ameliach said in a press release,  “is to heinously point the finger at those who defended [the Venezuelan territory] and its citizens from the violation of human rights, such as the right to life, freedom of movement, and a society free of any form of violence, assaulting a democratic, legitimate and legal government.”

Cabello also feebly protested that Washington had failed to reciprocate when Maduro allegedly “extended an olive branch” to the Obama administration by naming an ambassador to the United States. Obama could perhaps be forgiven for not embracing the chance, given that Chavista officials have spent the past 15 years haranguing the United States at every opportunity, and blaming it for every evil afflicting all of Latin America.

Cabello also forgot to mention ongoing hyperinflation in Venezuela, which, as some 47 economists have predicted in an open letter, will only worsen in 2015, depressing the value of Venezuelan salaries still further.

Cabello similarly ignored the oppressive exchange controls, now in place for over a decade, which prevent Venezuelan businesses from producing the goods and services needed for national requirements, as well as swelling the private bank accounts of corrupt senior officials.

Cabello failed to address the endemic insecurity and lack of opportunity that have prompted the largest brain drain from the country in its history.

Cabello remained silent about the sinking prices fetched by Venezuela’s main export: oil. The crisis finds Venezuela with reserves at a record low, and without an oil profits fund that can support the basic necessities of the people in times of emergency, as happens in most oil-producing countries.

Cabello can’t accept that Venezuela isn’t hailed for its economic achievements or technological innovation, but enjoys notoriety as the country with the second highest murder rate in the world.

But these things aren’t what’s irritating Chavismo‘s right-hand man. Instead, he’s chosen to pontificate about sanctions against corrupt Venezuelan officials, and complain that Obama hasn’t listened to Maduro’s risible offer of a reset in relations without changing his “anti-imperialist” posture in the slightest.

Translated by Adam Dubove.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.