Venezuela’s Maduro Picks Fight with Chile’s Hard-Left President Boric

CARACAS — Venezuela’s socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro lashed out against leftist politicians who have criticized him for being a dictator — without naming one in particular — during an event in the infamous Sao Paulo Forum on Friday.

The Venezuelan capital is hosting the current iteration of the summit, an event dedicated to uniting and aligning the policies of far-left leaders in Latin America.

Maduro dared left-wing critics to sit down to “debate face-to-face” about the “democratic truth” of his authoritarian regime.

“There are those who accuse us of being dictators. I understand that Sebastián Piñera [former president of Chile] does it, I understand that Jair Bolsonaro accuses me, I understand that fascism accuses us,” Maduro said. “But, from the left, whoever tries to accuse us will have to sit face to face with us to debate the truth of Venezuela.”

Maduro also claimed that the criticism that some leftist leaders in the region allegedly have espoused seeks to “normalize attacks” against the authoritarian regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

The Sao Paulo Forum is a coalition that encompasses leftist governments and political parties in Latin America and the Caribbean, founded by Brazil’s Worker’s Party (PT) in 1990. The founder of the PT, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was elected president of Brazil again last month, narrowly defeating the incumbent Bolsonaro.

The socialist dictator has clung to power in Venezuela since holding sham elections in 2018; he served as president since late dictator Hugo Chávez’s death in 2013. His refusal to step down at the end of his six-year presidential term in 2019 prompted the country’s National Assembly to act upon what the constitution dictates and designated Juan Guaidó, the head of the legislative branch, as interim president — prompting a still unresolved presidential crisis in the nation. Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) still exert complete control of all of Venezuela’s branches of power.

While his initial tantrum did not name a leftist politician, the socialist dictator later took the opportunity to blast Chile’s far-left President Gabriel Boric, questioning his “lack of leadership” and lack of commitment to the leftist cause while accusing Boric of leading a “repudiated” government that has “more than 2,000 political prisoners.”

“In Venezuela, unlike Chile — unfortunately, I have to say it, with pain for Chile, with pain for the people of [Salvador] Allende, with pain for more than 2,000 young political prisoners who are still in jail,” Maduro rambled, offering no evidence. “I have to say it, that in Venezuela a people arose, in Venezuela a leader arose, in Venezuela, a project arose, and in Venezuela that project, that people, became a Constituent Assembly and later became a victorious founding Constitution of a new republic.”

During the Sao Paulo Forum event, Maduro condemned Boric’s “lack of leadership” for having overwhelmingly failed to replace Chile’s 42-year-old constitution with a new radical leftist one that the international media had described as the world’s “most progressive” piece of legislation.

“There was a people but there was no vanguard, there was no leadership, there was no project. And in the end, the people ended up voting against themselves,” Maduro said. “They ended up voting against a rejected and repudiated government in Chile. It’s unfortunate, and where can you discuss that? In the Sao Paulo Forum, the stage to discuss these issues.”

Boric, who during his presidential campaign ideologically described himself as “to the left of” Chile’s Communist Party, has criticized the Maduro regime in the past for its human rights violations. In 2019, Boric, at the time a member of Chile’s Chamber of Deputies, criticized the left for failing to condemn the authoritarian regimes of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Boric had also condemned the Maduro regime for its human rights violations in 2019.

In September, during the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Boric again condemned leftists who turn a blind eye towards human rights violations in authoritarian regimes in the region such as Nicaragua and Venezuela. 

Chilean President Gabriel Boric addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 20, 2022. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Chilean President Gabriel Boric addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 20, 2022. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

“So it really pisses me off when you are from the left, so you condemn the violation of human rights in, I don’t know, Yemen or El Salvador, but you cannot talk about Venezuela or Nicaragua,” Boric said at an event held in New York’s Columbia University. 

Since 2019, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission of the United Nations has released three different reports which extensively detail and document the human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the Maduro regime, including extreme acts of torture and sexual violence. It is estimated that as of October the Maduro regime currently holds 314 political prisoners.

The conditions and consequences created by the Maduro regime and its “Bolivarian Socialism” have spawned the worst migrant crisis in the region, rivaled only by Ukraine’s migrant crisis following Russia’s invasion.

In January, Boric described Venezuela as a “failed experience,” noting that Chile is among the countries that now have the highest numbers of Venezuelan migrants that have fled from the Maduro regime and its socialism.

Boric’s criticism of Venezuela had drawn Maduro’s ire in previous opportunities. In February, Maduro accused Boric and other leftist politicians, including then-Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, of being part of a “cowardly, failed, and anti-Bolivarian left” for daring to criticize his “successful” and “victorious” socialist regime.

Despite having criticized and distanced himself from Maduro, Gustavo Petro opted to approach and legitimize the socialist dictator, reestablishing diplomatic ties between Colombia and the Maduro regime shortly after Petro took office.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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