Tyrants in arms: Tehran and Caracas

Nicolas Maduro

The economic incompetence of the Nicolas Maduro administration in Venezuela – whose ability to hang on to power through to the end of 2019 and into 2020 has, as we noted the other day, surprised and impressed many observers – is matched only by its moral iniquity. The other day the Powerline blog drew the attention of readers to the following news report from Iran’s FARS news service:

The Venezuelan government offered condolences to the people of Iran for the assassination of Iran’s top general by a US airstrike in Baghdad and praised Iran’s resistance with this poster.

Qasem Soleimani,

The poster in question depicted Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan leader; Simon Bolivar, the early nineteenth century hero of Latin American liberty; General Soleimani, the bloodthirsty thug taken out by the US strike; and the two fathers of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Accompanying this bizarre gallery was the statement: “Faces, times and countries change, but the goal is the same.” If nothing else, this poster provided a degree of insight into the chavista mentality. Yes, the Communist Revolution in Cuba and the chavista revolution in Venezuela were of a piece: both of them took affluent, relatively free countries and subordinated their peoples to brutal dictatorship and an economic program that plunged them into poverty. It’s not surprising, of course, to see the Maduro regime equating these revolutions with Simon Bolivar’s democratic revolt against Spanish imperialism: it was part of Chavez’s conceit that he was following in the footsteps of Bolivar, and when he rose to power he even changed his country’s name to “the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

Ayatollah Khomeini

What’s striking here, though, is the equation of these Communist revolutions with the revolution to which Soleimani dedicated his life – namely, the radical Islamic revolution that toppled the Shah in 1979 and subjected the Iranian people to a radical Islamic theocracy under the absolute control of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Yes, the result of that revolution was much the same as in Cuba and Venezuela: an affluent and relatively free country was transformed into a brutal dictatorship whose people have increasingly suffered economically. Needless to say, Communism and Islamic theocracy could scarcely be further apart ideologically; but to the chavista mind, that’s not what matters. What matters is that pre-revolutionary Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran were nations that looked to the West, and especially to the United States, as a social, economic, and political model, and central to the revolutions in those countries was the rejection of American power, friendship, and influence. For chavistas, the U.S. will always be the evil empire to the north, much as Spain was the evil empire for Bolivar, and this view of America is, needless to say, fully shared by the Iranian regime, for whom the U.S. is the Great Satan. This deep-rooted hostility to America is a central, defining factor in all these contemporary regimes, and makes possible the otherwise utterly counterintuitive alliance between the radical left and radical Islam that has been called the red-green axis.

As Powerline put it: since the wardrobes of several generations of misguided post-sixties American youths – youths who have been either ignorant of or indifferent to Che Guevara’s real legacy – have included t-shirts bearing the image of that murderous monster, will American students someday walk around “with pictures of Soleimani on their t-shirts?”

Will Owen Jones ever get it?

As we noted back in April, Owen Jones, perhaps the best known leftist commentator in Britain, “still looks like a high-school kid” even though he’s 34. Maybe it’s because his brow hasn’t been furrowed by deep thoughts. Although he is considered highly influential, it’s impossible, we wrote, to grasp why “anyone, anywhere, could possibly be influenced by him.”

Owen Jones

But there he is, this Oxford grad who is the son and grandson of Communists, constantly pontificating in the pages of the Guardian and all over British TV, endlessly reiterating his one-dimensional, ideologically lockstep message that “capitalism is a sham” and “socialism is our only hope.” He is constantly condemning Islamophobia, which he has called “a European pandemic” and “the most widespread…form of bigotry of our times,” but won’t breathe a word in criticism of Islam or in acknowledgment of the ongoing worldwide oppression of Christians Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, women, gays, and others in the name of Allah.

A gay man, Jones is eternally on the lookout for the slightest hint of right-wing homophobia, but simply refuses to talk about the fact that sharia law orders the execution of gays. Appearing on Sky News after the June 12, 2016, jihadist massacre at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, he was mainly concerned with shutting down any mention by his host and fellow panelist of the atrocity’s Islamic roots, and when they refused to be silenced, he walked off in a now-famous huff.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jones was also a devout fan of Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. And – oh, yes – he’s an ardent follower of Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-Semite who led the Labour Party to a historic defeat in the UK’s December 12 parliamentary elections. In the hours after the loss, Jones tweeted that voters had abandoned Labour because of its wishy-washy position. A few days later, in his post-election column, Jones presented a longer list of reasons for the loss, citing a series of misguided strategies and tactics. This supposedly influential voice of the left had utterly failed to recognize that the problem was a pure matter of ideology: the sometime reformist party of the working class had, quite simply, been taken over by radical elites who live in a north London bubble, who look down on the proles, and who love the idea of socialism even though they’ve never, of course, lived in a socialist country or seriously studied the subject.

British PM Boris Johnson

And Jones is one of them. Which is the only reason any of these people read him and take him seriously: because he shares, and affirms, their own shallow, puerile worldview. “I don’t think anyone on the left should regret our enthusiasm for the transformative programme on offer,” Jones wrote in his column. “These are the right policies for the country and the planet, and a bad campaign hasn’t changed that.” While Labour, he asserted, needed to win back elderly voters, it must not give up “the progressive social values that are articles of faith to its young supporters.” Which is to say the hip, privileged, urban young, many of whom have never had a job, run a business, or paid income taxes, and who have embraced a certain set of political propositions not because they know anything about the actual lessons of modern history and economics but because adherence to those propositions is de rigueur in their social circle.

Britain’s high-culture Corbynistas

How could the Tories have won such a massive victory in the British parliamentary elections? After all, the Labour Party was headed by a man who speaks of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”; who has praised Hugo Chavez and his successor as president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro; who is a longtime admirer of the Communist regime in Cuba; who is an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause; and who is widely viewed as a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semite.

Jeremy Corbyn

Most sensible observers considered the mass defection of working-class voters from Labour – resulting in that party’s worst showing in an election since the 1930s – a thumbs-up for democracy and patriotism and a rejection of the far left. Not everybody cheered Jeremy Corbyn’s loss, however. In a post-election letter released by a group called the People’s Campaign for Corbyn, over 100 members of Britain’s artistic community, some of them quite high-profile, paid tribute to Corbyn, praising him for his “humanity, courage and insight” and for “raising political awareness in our country to a level not seen since the end of World War II.”

Ken Loach

Among the signers of the letter was film director Ken Loach, who, as we noted earlier this year, “has belonged to the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and the International Marxist Group, has been involved with Jeremy Corbyn and with the bilious Jew-hater George Galloway, has campaigned for a number of boycotts of Israel, and has condemned efforts to address anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.” In 2002, when 11 directors from around the world were asked to contribute a segment to a film, 11’09″01 September 11, about the reactions to the 9/11 atrocities in their own countries, Loach chose to diminish the jihadist attacks by focusing on another September 11 – namely, the US-backed Chilean coup of September 11, 1973, in which the Communist-allied Salvador Allende was ousted and replaced by Augusto Pinochet.

Brian Eno

Another signatory was musician Brian Eno, who has a long record of criticizing Israel and whose 1978 song “RAF,” as we noted in 2016, “incorporates ‘sound elements from a Baader Meinhof ransom message made by public telephone at the time of the Lufthansa Flight 181 hijacking.’”

Among the other signers: Nigel Kennedy, a violinist whose onstage image has been compared to that of Liberace and who condemned Israel during an appearance on a BBC Proms broadcast in 2013; Alexei Sayle, a standup comic who, after joining the pro-Soviet Young Communist League in his teens, decided that the USSR was “going soft” and thus switched to Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and, at 67, still says he holds to the politics of his youth; and John Rees, a leader of the Stop the War Coalition and of Respect, who at the time of the Iraq War called on his fellow socialists to “unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein.” In other words, Saddam, apparently by virtue of being a person of color and an enemy of the West, counted as an oppressed person, even if he was, in fact, one of the world’s most notorious oppressors.

Saddam Hussein, victim of oppression

Such is the kind of thinking that goes on in the heads of those who lined up to declare their solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn. As unsettling as it is to know that there are so many people with such ideologies in roles of cultural power in the UK, it is comforting to know that ordinary UK citizens, in overwhelming numbers, recognized these views as totalitarian and un-British and rejected them decisively on December 12.

Chavismo: one man’s tragic story

We’ve reported a lot here about the nightmare that Venezuela has become as a result of socialism, but nothing makes the point more vividly than a personal story. The January 2020 issue of Reason features an article entitled “Socialism Killed My Father” by one José Cordeiro. Cordeiro – who is from Venezuela, but lives in the Bay Area and works in Silicon Valley – tells of being summoned home to Caracas by his mother because his father had experienced kidney failure.

A scene from a Caracas hospital

First problem: getting there. Major US airlines used to fly frequently to Caracas from many US airports. Now he had to fly to Miami and “purchase a ticket for an exorbitant sum from Santa Barbara Airlines, a Venezuelan carrier that has since gone bankrupt.”

Second problem: health care. “Even in the best of the few remaining private clinics,” writes Cordeiro, “there was a chronic lack of basic supplies and equipment.” And of medicines. In some Venezuelan hospitals, electricity and water were both being rationed.

Third problem: air travel again. Cordeiro and his mother decided that old dad would be better off getting treatment in a hospital in Spain, his home country. But the earliest available flight to Spain was three weeks away. Alas, it proved to be too long a wait: “Just two days before he was scheduled to leave his adopted country, my father died because of its disastrous policies.”

Hugo Chavez

When did that happen? In August of 2013 – more than six years ago, not long after the death of Hugo Chávez and the ascent to the presidency of Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro. In other words, it was long before everyday life had gotten so terrible in Venezuela that the mainstream media around the world had actually begun to report on it, and long before outspoken international fans of chavismo had finally been shamed into silence.

“Things have gotten much worse since then,” Cordeiro writes. But even six years ago they were bad enough that Cordeiro’s father died when, in a country with a halfway decent economy, he would have been saved. And this was a man of relative privilege – a man who could afford to be treated a private clinic.

Cordeiro explains that he’s written his article because he’s concerned about “[t]he growing number of people in the West who say they prefer socialism” because it would mean “universal health care.” He notes that when he was a child in the 1960s and 70s, Venezuela “was a land of opportunity, with relatively free markets, low inflation, little foreign debt, and something close to full employment. The local currency, the bolivar, was considered one of the strongest and most stable in the world.” During that period, “Venezuela became the wealthiest country in all of Latin America” with a GDP close to that of Texas. “Some pundits even foresaw the Venezuelan economy eclipsing the Lone Star State’s by the 1980s.”

Nicolas Maduro

Then came socialism. The foreign oil companies were nationalized. When Hugo Chávez came to power in 1998, socialism in Venezuela deteriorated into something closer to Communism. The result: an “economic crisis” worse than any that has taken place “in a peacetime country since World War II,” with an inflation rate that could reach “anywhere between 1 million and 10 million percent by the end of 2019” and citizens who earn “the lowest average minimum salary in the world.” The number of refugees fleeing this country with 32 million inhabitants may reach 5 million by the end of this year, and the annual number of murders has climbed to around 25,000.

Cordeiro recalls that when he was a kid, he and his friends calls Caracas, with no irony whatsoever, the “capital of Heaven.” But now, he laments, thanks to chavismo, it “has no gas, no light, no food, no water, no jobs, no money, no medicine, and no hope.” In sum: “Socialism kills in Venezuela, like everywhere else it has been implemented. It kills regardless of local flavoring or whatever branding the individual dictator employs. It is beyond reason that this ideology, which has led to the deaths of more people than any other during modern history, which was thoroughly and tragically discredited in the 20th century, is still racking up body counts in 2019. May we finally learn this tragic lesson.” Amen.

Bye, Evo!

Jair Bolsonaro

After being ruled by a series of socialist crooks – such as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who ended up in prison for money laundering, and Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office for corruption – Brazil opted for Jair Bolsonaro, a conservative admirer of Donald Trump who believes in cultivating alliances with democracies and spurning dictators. Argentina, after years of rule by “progressives” and Peronists, most notably the left-wing, sticky-fingered Kirschner clan, elected Mauricio Macri who, after high-profile defaults on the nation’s sovereign debt, seeks to reintegrate his country into the international market economy. In Venezuela, where chavismo succeeded in turning a highly prosperous oil-exporting country into a nightmare of hyperinflation where people are eating their pets or fleeing to Colombia, Hugo Chavez’s personally chosen successor, the mendacious Marxist mediocrity Nicolas Maduro, continues to cling to power thanks only to the backing of a ruthless Cuban-trained military even as the admirable Juan Guaido – a fan of liberty, friend of America, admirer of the free market, and potential rescuer of the so-called Bolivarian Republic – waits in the wings, desperate to set things right.

Evo Morales

In these South American nations, then, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Now another one has joined the pack. In Bolivia, Evo Morales, who since his ascent to the presidency in 2006 has become more and more of an authoritarian, finally went too far this year, triggering, in the words of the Atlantic‘s Yascha Mounk, “weeks of mass protests in La Paz and other Bolivian cities, and the rapid crumbling of his support both within law enforcement and his own political party.” In the end, writes Mounk, “his loss of legitimacy among the majority of his own countrymen…forced Morales to resign” on November 10.

2017 protests against Evo’s switcheroo on term limits

Evo’s offenses were many: he violated the two-term presidential limit and got his rubber-stamp Supreme Court to give this move the OK. When he ran for a third term in October and it became clear that the public vote count was going against him, “the vote tally suddenly froze. For 24 hours, the website of Bolivia’s electoral commission offered no more updates. Then the official result was finally announced: Morales had supposedly won 47.1 percent to Carlos Mesa’s 35.5 percent, winning the election outright.” Evo had so obviously pulled a fast one that millions took to the streets in protest. Their reward: threats and beatings by Evo’s thugs. But Evo’s effort to rule by pure force collapsed. An impressive number of cops and soldiers stood up against his gangsterism, saying they wouldn’t do his dirty work for him. They didn’t want to use violence to uphold an autocracy. They wanted freedom. The last straw was an OAS audit of the election; when it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Evo had cheated, his last few scummy hangers-on scattered, leaving Evo with no alternative other than to give up. The whole story speaks well of the Ecuadoran people, and especially of the members of a military and a police force who, unlike their counterparts in some Latin American countries, didn’t want to be bullies in the service of despotism.

Proof: SF wants to be Venezuela

The San Francisco Chronicle‘s account was matter-of-fact. Chesa Boudin, wrote Michelle Robertson on November 10, had won the election to become San Francisco’s next district attorney. Robertson described Boudin as “the most progressive candidate on the ballot,” and in other references to him – the kind used in newspapers to avoid repeating a person’s name over and over – Boudin was identified as “[t]he 39-year-old” and as “[t]he former deputy public defender.” Boudin was described as having promised in his campaign to “address racial disparity in the criminal justice system, mass incarceration and police accountability” and quoted him as tweeting “We are all feeling the momentum for change in this city!”

Hugo Chavez

Well, that’s one way of looking at Boudin. Reporting on his election at American Thinker, Monica Showalter led with a few teeny little details that Robertson had managed to skirt. For one thing, Boudin “was quite literally Hugo Chavez’s trusted propagandist, translator and advisor, Cuba-groomed from the start.” He’s “been photographed in Venezuela wielding an assault rifle, and getting guerrilla training, according to Venezuelan sources. He literally hung out with the Chavista goon squads known as ‘colectivos,’ the same thugs who drive around in motorcycles and shoot into crowds who protest. Those are his homies.”

Mother’s yearbook picture

So much for Showalter’s summing-up of Boudin’s career. But for those of us at Useful Stooges, Boudin’s surname rang a bell and inspired us to dig further. It couldn’t be true, could it? Ah, but it was: Boudin is the son of Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, the notorious Weather Underground members who, after taking part in the 1981 robbery of a Brink’s truck in Rockland County, New York, were found guilty of the murder of two police officers and a security guard. While his parents were carted off to prison, Chesa, a toddler at the time, was handed into he custody of two even more famous members of the Weather Underground: Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who became his stepparents. Among the items on Ayers’ resume is his participation in bombings of the New York City Police Department headquarters in 1970, the U.S. Capitol in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972; Dohrn, aside from having played a role in these endeavors, was also, along with Boudin’s mother, partly responsible for the unintentional March 1970 explosion of a bomb while it was being assembled in the basement of a townhouse at 18 West 11th Street in Greenwich Village. The explosion totally destroyed the townhouse and killed three Weather Underground comrades.

Ayers and Dohrn

In short, Chesa Boudin is a member of domestic terrorist royalty. His parents and stepparents are to deadly, irrational totalitarian violence what the Barrymores were to the theater. In these perverse times, of course, prestigious establishment institutions routinely reward people with such backgrounds: Dohrn now teaches law at Northwestern; Ayers, celebrated for his friendship with Barack Obama and for the rumor that he is the real author of Obama’s Dreams from My Father, is a retired professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Boudin is an adjunct professor at Columbia; Gilbert is still behind bars, but we’re sure Harvard or Yale will have something waiting for him if he lives long enough to serve out his sentence.

Dad, who at present remains behind bars

And now, following in the grand post-Sixties American tradition of proceeding from the world of violent revolutionaries dedicated to the overthrow of the American system to the world of credentialed authorities within that very system, Chesa Boudin has been elected San Francisco DA. Not that he hsn’t earned it: like the progeny of other radical dynasties, he’d led a life of privilege, attending Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, earning a J.D. at Yale, and writing, translating, or co-editing several books celebrating the chavista regime. Well, given his own background with that regime, which turned Venezuela from a free and prosperous country into an oppressive nightmare of grinding poverty, Boudin should be completely at home in the corridors of power in the city by the Bay, that onetime civic gem that, thanks to the Chavez-style ideology of its overlords, is fast turning into the Marxist hellhole of America’s Pacific coast.

Chavismo: one man’s story

Over the last few years we’ve covered the steady descent of socialist Venezuela into the maelstrom. What more is there to say? Well, there used to be an old anthology TV series set in New York City. It was called Naked City, and every episode ended with a voice intoning: “there are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

Dining al fresco in Caracas

Well, there are 28 million stories in Venezuela. One of them is that of a fellow named Christian K. Caruzo, who recounted his own experiences recently at the Breitbart website under the headline “My Socialist Hell: 20 Years of Decay in Venezuela.” “Hell”? “Decay”? Is he exaggerating? In his opening sentences he also uses the word “tragedy.” And he sums up the country’s current conditions in the bleakest of terms: “toilet paper shortages, desperate people scavenging through garbage to find food for their families, bread lines, a systemic failure of our public utilities, dogs flayed in broad daylight for meat, corruption, lack of proper medicine and health access, weighing stacks of cash, and so much more.” Its all true, he says, and it’s all “a product of 20 years of socialism.”

Hugo in his heyday

Eleven years old when Hugo Chávez took power, Caruzo has spent his adult life under chavismo. Chávez, he writes, turned Venezuela into a country where “you’re no longer a citizen — you’re merely a survivor.” A country where he’s “a lesser version of what I could’ve been.” A country where you stand in line for bread and where you barter for the meds you need. “Socialism,” he writes, “has slowly eroded the functional existence of every aspect of our lives, from our freedom of speech to our economic liberties, our access to healthcare and personal documents to our water supply.” Yes, the same socialism that, thanks to disinformation by media and faculty ideologues, has millions of young American fans.

Caruzo recalls how, around the year 2007, Chávez’s title morphed from “President” to “Commander-President”; and how, after the caudillo’s death, he officially came to be known as “Supreme and Eternal Commander of the Bolivarian Revolution.” Today, Chávez is a semi-divine figure. Reruns of his old TV show are still broadcast and are treated as “gospel.”

Nicolas Maduro

Meanwhile, Chávez’s successor Nicolas Maduro has introduced something called the “Fatherland Card” program, which was created with the help of Communist Chinese experts and based on China’s own “Social Credit System.” The program employs a massive database containing detailed personal data about Venezuela’s citizens, and the idea is that unless your personal record is perfect by chavista standards you’ll be denied access to job bonuses, welfare benefits, medicines, and the like.

Venezuelan refugees pouring into Colombia

In Venezuela, even as you’re forced to endure shortages of almost everything, you’re being fed massive doses of propaganda telling you that the system that’s starving you is, in fact, saving you, and that what they’re saving you from is American-style capitalism – which, of course, is exactly what is needed to turn your grinding deprivation into prosperity and your oppression into liberty. It’s pure Orwell, of course – war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

Congratulations, Venezuela! Your inflation rate is down to 135,000%!

Havana

Over the years, we’ve written a good deal here about the western hemisphere’s cozy Commie tag team. We’re referring, of course, to the so-called Republic of Cuba and the so-called Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, each of which, through various actions, helps keep the other’s totalitarian system in place. Now, however, both of these tyrannies are undergoing dramatic changes. On September 13, Reuters reported that Cuba was experiencing a fuel shortage. “Cubans,” wrote Nelson Acosta, “queued for hours for public transport on Friday at peak times in Havana, sweating in the heavy heat, while queues at gas stations snaked several blocks long.”

PDVSA headquarters

The Cuban government blamed this crisis on the Trump Administration’s enhancement of U.S. efforts to block imports into Cuba – including oil shipments from Venezuela – and Trump’s new sanctions on Venezuela’s famously corrupt national oil company, PDVSA. Acosta noted, however, that it can’t all be blamed on Trump: Venezuelan oil imports into Cuba have been on the decline for years, obliging the Havana government to ration energy. Which means, among other things, shutting off streetlights and reducing “the use of electricity in state-run institutions,” whatever that entails.

Nicolas Maduro

Meanwhile, what’s up in Venezuela? According to a September 17 article in the Wall Street Journal, the Maduro government has responded to that country’s economic death spiral – a consequence of socialist policies introduced by the late Hugo Chavez – by “quietly and cautiously begun implementing free-market policies” in order to “correct an economic contraction worse than America’s Great Depression.” That’s putting it mildly: the situation in Venezuela makes The Grapes of Wrath look like Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

What exactly has the Maduro regime done? It’s “scaled back its once frenzied printing of money, nearly ended frequent salary hikes, and largely stopped enforcing the price controls that had led to dire food shortages and a thriving black market.” As the Journal ‘s Kejal Vyas observes, these are significant actions “for a government that has publicly championed its state-led, socialist economic model as the country’s only salvation from greedy capitalists.”

Venezuelans in a supermarket queue

In any event, the new policies are having an impact – kind of. The hyperinflation rate, wrote Vyas, has dropped “from seven to six figures.” To be specific, “Inflation has fallen from a peak 12-month rate of 2.6 million percent in January to 135,000% in August.” Now, that kind of inflation rate is still terrifying, but, okay, it’s better than seven figures. Just like it’s presumably better to be hit by a car going 60 miles an hour than by a train going 200.

To be sure, it’s news that the Maduro gang is finally seeing the light – sort of. It remains to be seen whether this implicit acknowledgment of the power of the free market will lead to changes in the regime’s rhetoric. Somehow we doubt it. Maduro has been rhapsodizing over chavista ideology so ardently for so many years that it’s hard to imagine him actually admitting that he’s been wrong all along.

Sergi Lanau

In any event, Vyas quotes Sergi Lanau of the Institute of International Finance in Washington to the effect that Maduro’s new measures aren’t exactly leading Venezuela out of the woods. “Is this a turning point? I would say no, definitely not,” said Lanau. “Who knows in a few months if the decision will be ‘Well, we need money again. Let’s print some more.’” In any event, despite the significant drop, Venezuela’s inflation rate remains the world’s highest. Even as America’s economy goes from strength to strength, the economies of the two totalitarian enemies on its doorstep continue to be basket cases.

The Cuba-chavista connection

Hugo Chavez

For those fans of the so-called Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who have denied that chavismo is basically a Spanish word for Communism, the intimate ties between the revolutionary government of Hugo Chavez – and, subsequently, of his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro – with the frankly totalitarian Castro regime in Cuba has always been something of a stumbling block. In a recent article for Reuters, Angus Berwick provided a fascinating new trove of information that substantiated that nefarious link. “The Cuban government has relied on Venezuela for economic and political support for two decades,” Berwick wrote. “In return, Cuba has provided Venezuela with training and support that has allowed Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro to keep a tight grip on the military — and on power.”

Fidel Castro

Berwick revealed that in 2007, when Chavez lost a referendum that would have allowed him to keep running for re-election, he turned for advice to “a close confidant” – namely, Fidel Castro, who told him that if he wanted to stay in power indefinitely, whatever the results of elections, he should assume “absolute control of the military.” Chavez listened, and as a result ordered that Venezuelan troops be spied on. With the help of advisors supplied by Castro, Chavez oversaw the refashioning of a government agency that now goes by the name Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), and that had previously been tasked to spy abroad, into an organization whose primary mission was to conduct espionage within Venezuela’s own armed forces.

Nicolas Maduro

To this end, members of Cuba’s armed forces were brought into Venezuela to restructure the military and train spies. Under the instruction of its Cuban tutors, the DGCIM “embedded agents…within barracks,” tapped the phones of senior officers, put together “dossiers on perceived troublemakers,” and reported “any signs of disloyalty.” Non-chavista officers and enlisted men were duly arrested, imprisoned, tortured; one organization says that the number of former military personnel now in detention as a result of DGCIM investigations is over 300. Since its transformation, the DGCIM has been “accused by soldiers, opposition lawmakers, human rights groups and many foreign governments of abuses including torture and the recent death of a detained navy captain.”

Juan Guaido

For years, Cuban and Venezuelan officials have denied that the relationship between their militaries was anywhere near this intimate. But they were lying. While Venezuelan oil kept Cuba’s economy going, Cuban involvement in the Venezuelan military has kept the chavista government in power. It’s because of this arrangement, this deal between devils, that Juan Guaido’s bid to replace Maduro – a key factor of which was his expectation that many members of the armed forces would take his side – failed so ignominiously. Military officers and enlisted men who might indeed have been supporters of Guaido have long since been culled from the ranks, with the help of Maduro’s ruthless Cuban allies.

Danny Glover, Communist stooge

Danny Glover

Some of the Hollywood stars whom we’ve written about here – whether because they’ve praised Castro or Maduro or accepted big paychecks to perform for some Third World strongman or another – have done so because they’re underinformed, misguided, or just plain greedy and amoral. But one big showbiz name who has been the subject of our attention is a bona fide admirer of totalitarianism. As we wrote in August 2015, Danny Glover, star of The Color Purple, Witness, and the Lethal Weapon pictures, is an out-and-out enthusiast for Communist dictatorship. He loved Hugo Chávez, whom he met in 2006 and who ended up setting up financing for two politically charged movies Glover planned to produce.

With the late Hugo Chavez

And much as he loved Chávez, he loved Fidel Castro even more. For years Glover has been a frequent visitor to Cuba, where he attends the Havana film festival, attends political-cultural events, accepts awards, and pals around with the tyrants who run the place. He views the Cuban Revolution through a quasi-mystical lens, speaking with religious fervor about its “extraordinary will to find truth and to reveal the new human being, the new man and a new woman.” A few years back he campaigned actively for the release of the “Cuban Five,” a group of spies who were jailed in the U.S. and whom Glover praised as “heroic men.” As we’ve previously noted, Glover became friends with one of the five, Gerardo Hernández, who had been involved in shooting down unarmed planes carrying Cuban exiles, and whom Glover – who had visited Hernández several times in his California prison cell – described as his “spiritual brother.”

With Gerardo Hernandez

During a November 2015 visit to Cuba, Glover was reunited with Hernández, whom President Obama freed in a gesture of friendship toward the Castro regime. While in Cuba, Glover enthused over what he described as the spies’ awareness of “their responsibility to humanity” – and, more broadly, celebrated “the work of the internationalists of this island that brings the light of solidarity to remote places

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

This is the man who, on June 19 of this year, testified before the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee in support of a slavery-reparations bill whose main sponsor is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

In the middle of the last century, during the Cold War, members of the American Communist Party, which took orders directly from the Kremlin, were summoned by congressional committees to answer for their loyalty to the totalitarian enemy, which was considered an act of treason. Reasonable people may disagree as to whether it was appropriate for the national legislature to interrogate these Communists. But we have to say that it seems bizarre, to say the least, to invite Communists to Capitol Hill as if they were pillars of wisdom and virtue.

Rep. Steve Cohen

Not that anyone in the hearing room that day would have known from the subcommittee chairman’s introduction of Glover that he is a diehard Communist. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) described him, rather, as an “actor, producer, and an activist for various causes,” not to mention “goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, chairman of the board of Transafrica Forum, an African-American lobbying organization for Africa and the Caribbean, and a friend of Harry Belafonte.” That last bit was plainly meant as a cute touch; in fact the reference to Belafonte served as a useful reminder that he is, in the words of historian Ronald Radosh (whom we quoted here in 2015), an “unreconstructed Stalinist.” So we’re talking about two men one of whom was amiably introduced by the leader of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and the other affectionately referred to by that same leader, as if they were twin American icons, but whose politics are downright monstrous. If they were open Nazis, no member of either house of Congress would invite them to testify about anything. But they are both Communists, and, in the eyes of Cohen and his colleagues, apparently, that’s just fine – although it’s best, of course, to keep that little fact under wraps for the purpose of the hearing.

There’s hardly any reason to get into the details of Glover’s brief testimony, aside from observing that he spoke of “democracy” and “equality” and “justice” as if he genuinely believed in these things. Naturally he supports reparations. Whatever. The point is not what he said but that he was invited there to say it. The point is that being a champion of totalitarianism, a buddy and admirer of the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, is no longer viewed in certain respectable inside-the-Beltway circles as disqualifying one as an authority on justice. That, quite simply, is a disgrace.