EspañolA short clip of an interview with José Luis Rodríguez (“El Puma”) has gone viral over social media over the last few days. Unlike other artists, El Puma did not show any apprehension in making his opinions known on the state of Venezuela. Not only did he call out Henrique Capriles as a “coward,” he made it clear who he believed were the principal authors of Venezuela’s downfall: the military and Hugo Chávez.
“I have faith that a part of the military will be moved by their patriotic sentiment, which they have always had. I have faith that they will change the situation. There will come a time when this can no longer continue, and all of this will collapse. It’s [like] a pressure cooker. They are dismantling the country,” he said.
El Puma’s hope is the same one many Venezuelans have held on to ever since the government’s violations of the constitution became evident, and the only viable alternative to defend it has appeared to be the Armed Forces. Article 328 in the Constitution of Venezuela says:
The National Armed Forces constitutes a necessarily professional institution, without allegiance to politics, organized by the state to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the nation … To fulfill its duties, it is at the exclusive service to the country, and not to any one person or political affiliation of any kind.
However, this independent institution underwent a “Bolivarian” transformation and was made to swear allegiance to “Country, Socialism, or Death.” Whether or not a military coup is the appropriate solution is another debate, but no one can deny that El Puma spoke the truth.
Those who are supposed to defend the constitution have trampled over Article 238. The military has allowed itself to be manipulated by the Cuban regime and its agents. According to El Puma, there are more than 4,000 Cuban agents in Venezuela, though there is no way confirm such a claim.
During his talk with Jaime Bayly, Rodríguez also said he believes “Chávez was the worst traitor to Venezuela.” Bayly tried to divert the conversation and shift blame back to current President Nicolás Maduro by saying “at least Chávez was funny” — a rhetorical trick many Venezuelans use to suggest “things used to be better.” El Puma, however, was not phased.
Rodríguez went on to call Capriles a coward for not leading a massive mobilization effort after he lost one of the the most questionable elections ever in Venezuela to Nicolás Maduro in April 2013. Maduro defeated Capriles by 224,268 votes, or roughly 1.5 percentage points. The results sparked massive outrage from the opposition, as evidence of election fraud was quickly destroyed and Maduro was almost immediately sworn into office.
“The country was lost over the cowardice of Capriles. They [the Chavistas] could not have killed seven million people, and the public and students were all awaiting orders,” recalled Rodríguez.
I am not a particularly big fan of José Luis, nor do I believe, as he does, that Leopoldo López should be the next Venezuelan president — although he has been unjustly imprisoned.
Nevertheless, after this interview, I have started to appreciate this man. Venezuela can no longer afford “impartiality.”
A few years ago, Betty de Díaz — wife of Simón Diaz, one of the most internationally recognized Venezuelan musicians — told me during an interview that the nation’s best ambassadors were her artists.
Rodríguez could not have made better use of his authority as an ambassador. In his recently published book, El Puma y Yo (El Puma and Me), he orders Nicolás Maduro to free Leopoldo López and Iván Simonovis, and end his abuse of María Corina Machado and the many jailed Venezuelan students: “I have the moral authority to do so,” he says.
El Puma’s interview also reminded me of the time Bayly spoke with the Venezuelan pop/reggaeton singer Oscarcito, and the exact opposite scenario played out. In order to save face and not risk paying fans within a polarized public in his country, Oscarcito avoided taking a position on the presidential race between Chávez and Capriles in 2012.
How Venezuela would benefit from more ambassadors of liberty! Like many other hurting Venezuelans, El Puma could not keep silent. Venezuela is in a state of emergency, where silence now means willful murder. I hope many more follow El Puma’s lead.
“We do not affirm ourselves through resignation, but through rebellion in the face of injustice.”