Moving Toward the Donald: Chavismo Welcomes Transition to Trump


David Smilde 

In the days leading up to the US presidential inauguration, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and others in the pro-government coalition are attempting to curry favor with the incoming Trump administration.

While there are few indications of the direction of Donald Trump’s Latin American policy, one potential logic would suggest that relations with Venezuela could improve. Trump’s desire for a reset with Russia’s Vladimir Putin could also mean a reset with Venezuela: “friend of my friend is my friend.” In addition, Trump’s long term admiration for strongman governments could reduce concern in the US government over Maduro’s increasing authoritarianism.

This logic is not lost on Chavismo. Maduro and others are portraying Barack Obama as a zealous imperialist who carried out nefarious actions across the region, and Donald Trump as an outsider who is victim of a media war.

On Monday Maduro suggested that under Trump, Venezuela’s relations with the US could only improve. “He won’t be worse than Obama.” Maduro suggested that while Obama had generated great expectations “eight years later he has become the enemy of Venezuela.”

“His government has been the most interventionist in Venezuela’s internal affairs and the most nefarious in the history of the US and Venezuela.” What is more, “Obama is obsessed with Venezuela and obsessed with me. He is obsessed with Maduro because I am a Latino and a worker.”

Regarding Trump, Maduro said “The media of the international oligarchy” has been attacking Trump “Why? Why? We ask because we know a lot about dirty campaigns.” Maduro continued: “We’ll wait and see. The mainstream international media has speculated a lot and we are surprised at the hate that exists against him. It’s brutal in the Western world and in the US.”

“Venezuela ratifies its historical desire, from Simon Bolivar, to have relations of respect, communication and cooperation with the United States,” said Maduro.

Others in the progovernment coalition are working with the same logic. Maripili Hernandez is a progovernment journalist who has also served in several ministerial positions. On Wednesday she interviewed progovernment commentator Miguel Ángel Pérez Pirela and touched on the transition.

“When you take a look at the incredible expectations that were generated by the arrival to the US presidency of the first Afro-descendent president and then look back at what it has meant in terms of destruction, death and violation of human rights–the violation of the most basic of international laws on the part of the US government during the presidency of Barrack Obama–you think to yourself, we would have preferred anything other than this.’ And in fact the people of the United States have changed course radically and have voted for a man who represents the exact opposite of Barrack Obama in every sense, not just physically but in his ideological and political position.”

Pérez Pirela suggested that US foreign policy is basically oriented by imperialism and would not change. It would still focus on exploitation of the natural resources and human resources of the countries of the South. More interesting, he suggested, would be to watch what is happening internally, as Trump the outsider struggled against transnational powers.

“We can see that for the first time a president arrives with the characteristics of Donald Trump, in other words who is from outside of the political establishment of the United States. That does not make him better or worse. But it provides some very interesting scenarios because there is already an open and frontal fight against US transnationals, for example, the communication powerhouse CNN, both in its Spanish and English versions, and that is already complicating the Trump Administration.”

As if to work both sides of a hoped for triangle of allies, on Wednesday Maduro announced that the first “Hugo Chávez Peace and Sovereignty Award” would be given to Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his work in promoting a “multicentered, pluripolar, world.”