By Paul Kengor
Kim Jong Un stole the thunder (or absorbed the thunder) in President Trump’s UN speech on Tuesday, and deservedly so. What Trump said about Kim and North Korea was no doubt the most significant part of his address. I wrote about it here the next day, and we’re now hearing the blowback from the little man thumping his chest in Pyongyang.
But Kim aside, what Trump said about the socialist basket-case better known as modern Venezuela might have been the best part of his UN address, as he lit up Hugo Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro. Here’s the passage:
We have also imposed tough, calibrated sanctions on the socialist Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has brought a once thriving nation to the brink of total collapse.
The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country. This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried. To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives to preserve his disastrous rule.
The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed. This situation is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch.
As a responsible neighbor and friend, we and all others have a goal. That goal is to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy….
The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable. We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people….
The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.
This was spot-on, powerfully stated from start to finish, and naturally didn’t please Nicolas Maduro. In response, the current collectivist-in-chief running and ruining Venezuela responded with Chavez-like hyperbole and idiocy. Maduro tagged Trump “the new Hitler,” a curious choice of ideological labeling for a Venezuelan strongman whose country embraces nationalist-socialism. Maduro’s political party dutifully piled on, amusingly blasting Trump’s speech as “racist and white supremacist.”
It’s typical of leftists: when attacked for their rotten and destructive socialism, they reflexively respond with juvenile tantrums and outbursts, leveling strange accusations of fascism, Nazism, racism.
It’s also typical of Hugo Chavez. It reminds of the late Chavez’s denunciations of President George W. Bush at the United Nations — and, conversely, of his soaring praise for President Barack Obama.
In fact, it was at the United Nations 11 years ago, almost to the exact day, in September 2006, that Chavez, self-described “Trotskyist,” proud admirer of Fidel and Mao, and architect of the international left’s laughable “21st century socialism” (little different from 20th century communism), denounced President George W. Bush as “the devil.”
“The devil came here yesterday,” Chavez sniffed at the lingering Bush, “and it smells of sulfur still today.”
There were plenty of people Hugo Chavez didn’t like. He ripped British Prime Minister Tony Blair as “an imperialist pawn” of the diabolical Bush. He accused Israelis of a “new Holocaust” against Palestinians. He roasted business owners as “degenerates,” “squealing pigs,” and “counter-revolutionaries.” He smeared the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as “devils in vestments.”
So many devils! Were there any angels in the midst?
Hugo Chavez had a select favored few. They included his beloved Fidel, and they also included Bush’s replacement at the White House: one Barack Hussein Obama.
When Chavez returned to the UN podium in September 2009, he reveled in the redolence of Obama. “It doesn’t smell of sulfur here anymore,” he mused. Chavez took in the new freshness in the air, wafting northward from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: “It smells of something else. It smells of hope.”
Ah, yes — “hope and change.” Chavez hailed this “intelligent” new man in the Oval Office and prayed that his God would “protect” him.
Notably Obama-like, Chavez just as quickly jettisoned the hopeful rhetoric when less-inspiring language better suited his redistributionist tendencies. He assailed the rich, the profit seekers, the greedy corporations, the nefarious jet-owners and millionaires and billionaires, the banks, the investors, the “hoarders,” the “stockpilers of goods,” and, of course, the nefarious George W. Bush.
Chavez was so attracted to Barack Obama that a few months earlier he had immediately sought out the new president to hand him some reading material. Meeting at the Summit of the Americas in April 2009, just weeks after Obama was inaugurated, Chavez strolled up to Obama, gave him a gentle tap on the shoulder and a firm handshake, and entrusted him a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s insipid 1973 tome, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, a fatuous work that blamed the West for every imaginable ill in Latin America for a half millennium, from sour tequila and bitter mangos to lousy beer and voodoo dolls. An appreciative Obama smiled and accepted the tract, telling reporters: “I thought it was one of Chávez’s books. I was going to give him one of mine.”
Chavez would have appreciated the return gesture. In Obama’s bestselling Dreams from My Father, the former community organizer lavishly sprinkled his memoir with words like “colonialism,” “neocolonialism,” “imperialism,” “colonial administration,” “colonial West,” and “white colonials,” all plotting and “serving the interests of neo-colonialism.” Hugo would have cooed in delight under his bedcovers reading the young Barack Hussein zinging the dirty Christian missionaries whose religion was a stinky cheap shirt for their wanton colonialism.
And so, Chavez and Obama rapidly initiated a cozy little mutual-admiration society. It was so unlike the bad days of the previous administration, when Chavez was confronted with the devilish Bush.
That brings us to today, September 2017.
Hugo Chavez died in March 2013. Nicolas Maduro became his scurrilous successor.
Hugo and Obama were kindred spirits, but Maduro and Trump are a throwback to Hugo and Bush. Trump now assumes the monstrous role vacated by Bush: he is “the new Hitler.”
Every Latin American caudillo needs a Western bogeyman. And Maduro, like Hugo, now has his.
All of which serves to remind us of how nice it is to once again have a president who is despised rather than adored by Latin American socialist-Marxist tinhorn dictators.
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