Venezuelans React to Trump Election

Hugo Pérez Hernáiz  

Venezuelan political leaders and analysts reacted quickly to the United States’ election results. Both government and opposition cautiously congratulated the winner Donald Trump in official press releases. In unofficial declarations government leaders were critical of the electoral system in the United States, whereas opposition leaders stressed what they view as similarities between Trump’s style and the Bolivarian Revolution. 

In a short note by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry on November 9, the Bolivarian government congratulates the elected president Donald Trump. But it also expresses its “hope that, in this new phase that the North American nation is now beginning, new paradigms based on the cultural, social, and historical identities of our countries, and on the respect to the non-intervention in internal affairs, the right to development, and peace, may be established.”

According to local media, President Nicolás Maduro received a phone call from US secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday. Maduro asked Kerry to “leave a positive agenda (for US-Venezuela) to the next administration,” and he asked the Secretary of State to congratulate the newly elected president.

PSUV leader Diosdado Cabello criticized the “unfairness” of the US electoral system, “in which he who gets fewer votes wins.” He also asked the new US president to “avoid interventionism and the funding of political parties (in Venezuela).”

The opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), also issued a short press released congratulating Trump for his victory. The MUD said: “A political change has taken place in the United States which is the product of the will of the people. In Venezuela we are fighting so that the will of the people may also find an electoral expression.”

Opposition leaders reacted by directly comparing Trumps recent victory in the US with Chávez’s triumph in Venezuela in 1999. The Executive Secretary of the MUD, Jesús Torrealba, believes the US is going through a similar experience to that of Venezuela when Chávez was elected president: “This situation that the United States is now living…is very similar to the situation we lived almost two decades ago: a country that is severely questioning the political establishment decides to punish that political class and the punishment becomes a boomerang,” said Torrealba.

The President of the National Assembly and leader of opposition party Acción Democrática, Henry Ramos Allup, said he doesn’t believe there will be substantive changes in the US-Venezuelan relation. However he expressed concern for Venezuelan migrants to the US: “I hope he doesn’t reach the extremes measures of expatriating people,” in a clear reference to the alleged expatriation of Colombian citizens in 2014 by the Venezuelan government.

Carlos Ocariz, leader of the opposition party Primero Justicia and mayor of the Sucre Municipality of Caracas, tweeted in reference to the wall Trump promised to build along the US-Mexico border (@CarlosOcariz): “27 years ago the Berlin Wall fell. God forbid the world from witnessing a similar situation again.”

Venezuela’s private media also noted similarities in the conciliatory tones of Trump’s first speech as elected president, and Chávez’s words in December 1998 when he was elected Venezuelan president for the first time.

Luis Vicente León, director of pollster DATANALISIS, thinks that Trump’s aggressive tone will fit well into the Venezuelan government’s anti-imperialist rhetoric. He tweeted on November 9 (@luisvicenteleon): “Trump’s aggressive and threatening discourse will be the perfect excuse to strengthen the thesis of an external enemy in Venezuela.”

In a later article, Vicente León wrote he is fearful of what Trump could possibly mean by “offering help to Venezuela. If that help is furthering unilateral sanctions against Venezuela, the consequence could be the local strengthening of the “external enemy” thesis and the rising of the exit cost for government officials in the face of a regime change.

Interest in the US election diminished significantly as the opposition and the government made joint declarations detailing agreements reached at the dialogue table on Saturday, November 12.