I just read some comments on a, better written, but similar article making this same comparison. I have to admit I’m a bit taken aback by the attempt of some people (Venezuelans or not) to switch the equation comparing Clinton to Chávez and basing some of their argument on the alleged “leftists” ideals of Chávez. Let me be clear on this, Chávez was NOT a leftist, he was a megalomaniac who ran a militarized government that’s much closer to the fascist right than to any leftist real construct.
If you know a Venezuelan immigrant and have talked politics with them you probably have found out they have very strong feelings with regards to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The truth is that most of us have the sense of having seen this play before, we are still living with the consequences and it is not a pretty picture.
Who’s Hugo Chávez?
In case you’re not aware of Venezuelan politics, let me give you a short introduction to this former Venezuelan president.
Hugo Chávez was a Lieutenant Coronel who attempted a frustrated coup d’etat on then President Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992 in the midst of a national economic crisis and the implementation of unpopular, but necessary, economic measures to recover the economy that had resulted in nationwide riots, the destruction of property and thousands of deaths.
The coupe d’etat added many more deaths to the already shaking democractic status of Venezuela and in a faithful TV appearance Chávez called off the few attempts that remained around the country.
After a couple years in jail, Chávez was pardoned by then President Rafael Caldera and this opened up the door to a new political career for Chávez which ended up in his election as the next Venezuelan president in 1998.
Chávez & Trump, the rhetoric
Just like Trump now, Chávez embraced the discontent of most of the population and made it the center of his presidential campaign and, just like Trump, Chávez promised to put an end to the national economic crisis, bring the country together and call on a national reconciliation after a very divided campaign along with the proposal of a Constitutional Assembly to write a new Constitution.
Also like Trump, Chávez never backed his promises with actual plans, during a time when the Internet was for the first time being used to promote candidate political plans and projects, Chávez did not offer any solid information on what his plans to bring about the change he had promised were because, as 15 years of government would demonstrate, he didn’t have any and this costed Venezuela its best opportunity of economical recovery and progress in Venezuelan contemporary history.
Fidel & Putin
Another reason of concern for us Venezuelans is this admiration toward authoritarians strongmen in other countries. For Chávez that strongman was non-the-less Cuban dictator for more than 50 years, Fidel Castro which derived in an increasing influence of Cuba in Venezuelan politics, economy, government and even the military and this is a problem that remains to this day, even after the passing of Chávez.
Trump’s incoherent admission and denial of his alleged relation and somewhat attraction to the strong “leadership” of Putin not only says a lot of what kind of government Trump has in mind, but also of a strange and somewhat obscure possible influence of a foreign government on the potential US president.
Why are we freaking out?
In my humble opinion, there are many reasons why a Donald Trump presidency is a scary thought and if none of what you have read represents a red flag for you then maybe nothing I say will make a difference, but at least I would have said my piece.
It’s a bad movie and it could repeat!
If at any given point you hear yourself or like minded people say “What Mr. Tump meant to say…”, “This is not Venezuela”, “We will never be in that situation”, “He will be a great President, will put people first”, “He’s an outsider” or similar phrases I have to tell you that I did hear the same in 1998 when Hugo Chávez won the election by telling people what they wanted to hear, firing up the gutural most passionate disappointments against a political system that was not to the par of the times, but lacking any kind of real content behind his rhetoric & promises.
Yet, if you are tempted to say dismiss our experience because, again, “We are not Venezuela”, “that will never happen to us”, “We wouldn’t allow things to get to that point”, “we have enough safeguards”, let me remind you that we, Venezuelans, said the exact same thing and, for the record, we are historically much more involved in politics than the average US citizen.
There is a chance that we might have 4 years of an unpopular presidency under Hillary Clinton, even a chance that things might not advance as much as we would like them to, but I am convinced there is real possibility that we would go backwards under a president who has no preparation or the knowledge necessary to run the country and better the life of us all.
If the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, the recipient of an oil barril at $100 plus registering the highest capital earnings in Venezuelan contemporary history and that now has the highest inflation in the world, the 8 of the 50th most dangerous cities in the world and lacks basic products, medicines and food can be an example for anything, let it be for showing what it looks like to allow a melanomaniac take over the highest office in the land without a clear idea or preparation on how to be a president.