The advisers of Venezuelan Chavismo

Every story has a beginning. Every dictatorship has an inspirer. The Venezuelan Chavismo found its origins in Alberto Fujimori, president of Peru during the 90’s, being each other so apparently opposite and very distant ideologically. In April 1992, the Peruvians awoke with the news that there was no longer a Parliament: Fujimori had given a coup, and according to him ‘supported’ by more than 80% of the Peruvian population. Under his regime, Fujimori intervened in all the powers of the State: he placed judges and prosecutors at his whim. All these events were a source of inspiration for Hugo Chávez: to build a model based on the same system.

The relationship between Alberto Fujimori and Hugo Chávez started in 1992 when the Peruvian government offered asylum to the 93 Venezuelan military who participated in the failed coup against then-Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez. At that time, Fujimori politically aligned himself with the Chavez’s cause against Carlos Andrés Pérez, and facilitated that coup makers were living comfortably in Lima for almost two years. Fujimori considered himself as a good friend to Chávez, and perhaps that mutual admiration led them to develop great similarities in their way of governing. Both regimes organized the power under an apparent and unreal democracy. Both arranged their political constitutions. Both organized periodic elections which were a farce, just with the purpose of hiding the true authoritarian nature of their governments. Chavez, being President, defended Fujimori after the election results of 2000, even when those were strongly questioned by the OAS and the United States. Caracas, being Chavez and president, gave protection to a fugitive Vladimiro Montesinos until the situation became unfeasible and he had to be handed over to the Peruvian authorities to judge him and condemn him.

The Chavismo had from the beginning a totalitarian DNA. It was guaranteed by the ballot box, but soon eliminated the separation of powers and institutional counterweights (check & balances). It was never an integration project, but it fostered the social confrontation. Chávez could win elections while he was popular, when the oil prices were high; Then he made I through electoral fraud. Now the fraud was not enough, that’s why the elections are simply eliminated.

The advice of the Cuban regime is behind all the strategic decisions made during the Chavismo. The envoys of Fidel Castro provided Hugo Chávez with the engineering necessary to camouflage fraud. Electoral fraud is what Cubans have developed for systems of political participation, but when fraud is insufficient, as happened in the parliamentarians of 2015 because of the avalanche of opposition vote, they have no more prescription than that of Castrism in Cuba: the pure repression. The defencelessness of the citizen; the sadism as their government’ style; the international cynicism, are the facts which appear for years in the news, dialogue or interview which is addressing this tragic everyday’ life.

In a different country, these massive daily citizen’s demonstrations would lead to the fall of the government: the president would leave conscious of having lost the popular support, while is eager to avoid any responsibility for the dead who are falling on the streets because of the confrontations during the demonstrations. There are images which show Maduro dancing salsa, while in behind him you it is possible to see by his window a big demonstration in the Caracas’ streets. His cynicism is unbearable.

But in Venezuela, the game is not just politics. Many of those currently in power are not politicians but criminals: a drug cartel which has stolen huge amounts of public money. It explains why the current regime is willing to violate any human rights to remain in power and not providing any accountability in from of any national and international court of justice.

Death, hunger, absolute shortage of food or vital medicaments… 2015 closed with 28,000 dead because of the violence sowed by Hugo Chávez and whose harvest is that of hate and blood. The Castro-Chavismo sums hundreds of dead to their sinister inventory. Assassinations of so many dissidents whose only fault was to confront the regime.

Those were the origins of the regime which smashes Venezuela and Venezuelan people today. The current situation is stubborn and what was foreseen, is already happening: Maduro has announced that there will be no more elections in Venezuela. The country officially enters the dictatorship which was already de facto being for a long time ago. Nicolas Maduro boldly confirms that his country is basically a dictatorship where there is no separation of powers, and freedoms are seriously restricted. There will be no longer any voting with which to achieve the political change which most of the Venezuelans are claiming in the streets, even with their lives. Only the force can be now the solution. The next few days will be essential to see if Venezuela’s pressure cooker finally explodes.

Are the Populist parties (whether far-right or far-left) alike?

Against all odds, a year ago the British voted for a small minority, to leave the European Union. The fundamental reason, the fear of what comes from outside. A few months later, and against all the forecasts and polls, the Americans elected as President to Donald Trump, who won with a populist message shaking the spectre of fear. He was supported by the European far-right. Finally, next May 7th in the second round of the French presidential election, Le Pen will be the candidate against Macron, having shown that the National Front (FN) has a large electoral base and a structure that could lead her to win in the coming legislative election.

At present, the far-right populist parties are ruling in Hungary and Poland. In other European countries, like The Netherlands and Denmark the populist have been able to achieve a great influence in the political arena. Although this is not a new phenomena, the economic crisis, the Islamist terrorism and the waves of refugees, have been in recent years some key elements which have decisively energized these movements in central and northern Europe .

But the radical-left is ruling as well: The social-democratic traditional parties have been heavily punished in all the past European elections, attacked from those radical-left populist postulates that have achieved positions of government in Greece and Portugal. It is also not a new phenomenon: Juan Domingo Peron invented it in the 1940s in Argentina, and it is now dramatically present in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador. Cuba is a different situation, it is a communist tyranny. Every few years, when certain economic conditions are met, the populism returns in one shape or another, since both are very similar.

The extreme-right populism is rooted in the richest and most developed societies, and precisely among those outcast popular classes who feel discriminated by the system. This populism is basically based on three concepts: nation, race and religion. According to a recent survey by the Chatham House, the prestigious UK based Institute of International Affairs, 55% of Europeans do not wish any immigration from Muslim countries, being more pronounced in Poland (71%), followed by Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom. In any European country, the percentage has dropped from 32%. The study also shows that the opposition to Muslim migration is particularly intense among older people. It is also divided by educational level: Among those with only secondary education (59% opposition) while those who support policies to curb Muslim immigration, is among University graduates (40%). Far-right populism seeks to protect us from everything foreign to our nation, our race or our religion, and the enemies to beat are the country elites who are responsible of the social and economic changes produced in the last decades and who are represented by the traditional political forces.

Far-left populism arises within the most traditional Marxism: Protecting to those dispossessed by the economic elites, who had manipulated the economy and politics to satisfy their own interests. This is the populism’ phenomenon in Latin America and the movements like ‘SYRIZA’ in Greece and ‘Podemos’ in Spain. But also in France, where the presidential candidate Marine Le Pen accused his adversary Macron: “You are the France of submission,” Le Pen said with scorn; Mr. Macron was merely a heartless banker, in her view, “We’ve seen the choice you’ve made, the cynical choices, that reveal the coldness of the investment banker you have never ceased being.” Such a message could perfectly come from a Chavista party, without going any further.

Facing currently the second round of the French presidential elections, the similarities between Le Pen and the defeated Mélenchon (a tracing of the Spanish party ‘Podemos’, party founded with money coming from the Chavez regime), are also overwhelming: a very significant part of their programs are coincident, both in the background and in the forms. These are not merely casual and anecdotal similarities, but rather coherent programs in their break with a moderately individualistic and internationalist social order: Both aim to submit those individual freedoms to the collective will of the ‘People’; To delegate to the State the future of citizens’ administration and finally, to protect their country from economic threats or external cultural influences.

Certainly, there are a few key elements which make then different. But there are also other equally key elements that objectively bring them closer to Le Pen than to Macron. That is why their relationship is so conflicting: they hate each other, but at the same time their coincidences are too obvious to obviate them.

Today, populism is related with both the radical-left and the far-right. The latter has never masked its intentions: flaunting his anti-immigration convictions, anti-liberal economic system and in defence of traditional values. In that part they differ, absolutely. But both are enemies of the open societies that liberalism has always defended: enemies of private property, universal equality, social self-regulation, globalization, individual freedom and responsibility. None of them defends a broad conception of individual freedom, which constitutes an impassable frontier to the State, in both civil and economic spheres. On the contrary, both promote the primacy of the collective, versus the individual person autonomy, if necessary, using violence. This populism also is strongly popular in the Islamic world where a radical discourse is being made today and is ruling the great majority of those Muslim states.

Both extremism bring the same type of leadership and transgressive language as an essential tool to differentiate themselves from the elites: The populist leaders are political style and language transgressors and they show it, since it is an asset reporting much popularity among their audience. These characteristics lead to consider populism not an ideology but a way of identifying and addressing the political discourse, against those supposed elites unable to represent the so-called ‘people’. Therefore, Populism must be combated intellectually and politically.