Maradona’s unsavory pantheon

In the view of many soccer fans, he’s the greatest player in the history of the sport. Born fifty-five years ago in a shantytown in Buenos Aires, he played for such teams as FC Barcelona and Napoli. He captained the Argentine national squad to victory in the 1986 World Cup finals, where he scored a goal that’s been voted the greatest in World Cup history.

Millions adore Diego Maradona. And there are a few people he adores, too. Recently he recorded a video tour of his home in Dubai – yes, Dubai. In addition to pointing out family portraits, he proudly showed off photographs of himself with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, whom Maradona called, respectively, “the greatest man” and “his best disciple.”

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Maradona with Hugo Chávez

The soccer giant, observed Adam Dubove at the PanamPost, “has never hidden his political inclinations. He publicly backed Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, ardently defends the Cuban dictatorship, and even became friends with the late Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi.” His body bears tattoos of both Fidel and Che Guevara. On his house tour, Maradona displayed a framed letter from Castro, sent to him “earlier this year to debunk rumors of his death,” and another recent missive, from Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. “I framed it,” he explained, “because to me, she is my president.”

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Maradona with Fidel Castro

The letter from Castro, which ran to four pages, made headlines in January of this year. As the Independent put it, the letter provided “the first news heard about Castro and his activities for nearly three months.” When Maradona showed it to journalists, media around the world reported that Fidel – who had not been seen in public for over a year – was, indeed, still alive. Rumors of his death had circulated only a week earlier.

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Showing off his Che tattoo

That’s not all. Maradona is also friendly with the rulers of the United Arab Emirate, and was a fan of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the former President of Iran.

These friendships go back quite a while. In 2005, Maradona went with Chávez to Mar del Plata, Argentina, to protest a trade agreement proposed by the administration of George W. Bush. Appearing on Chávez’s own radio show back in 2007, Maradona said, “I believe in Chávez, I am a chavista.… Everything Fidel does, everything Chávez does is, for me, the best. I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength.”

“I came to Venezuela to find a president,” he later remarked, “and found a friend.” Chávez, he added, “taught me a lot.”  

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With Maduro

In February of last year, Maradona responded to democratic protests against Maduro’s regime by offering to fight for it. “We’re seeing all the lies from the imperialists, and I’m willing to be a soldier for Venezuela for whatever is needed of me,” Maradona vowed. “Chávez would have wanted this.” George W. Bush and others U.S. leaders, said Maradona, “disgust me.” He added: “I believe in Venezuela. Long live Maduro, and Chávez, from the heavens, is accompanying you.”

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At Chávez’s tomb

In April 2013, a month after Chávez’s death, Maradona and Maduro paid tribute to him at his tomb. “What I remember about Hugo,” Maradona confessed on Venezuelan government TV, “was a great friendship, an incredible political wisdom. Hugo Chávez has changed Latin America’s way of thinking. We had surrendered to the United States and he put it in our heads that we can go forward on our own.” Apologizing for not making it to the funeral, Maradona smeared the “imperialist” U.S. and expressed his support for Maduro’s presidential candidacy.

This past June, Maduro himself recommended that Maradona be named head of FIFA, the international soccer association. 

 

Seumas Milne, Ahmedinejad fan

Yesterday we met Seumas Milne, a longtime Guardian writer and editor – and ardent apologist for Stalinism – who’s been tapped by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to be his spokesman. We’ve seen that his appointment appalled former Labour MP Tom Harris, who deplored Milne’s undisguised admiration for jihadists and lack of sympathy for the British soldiers they killed.

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Seumas Milne

Harris wasn’t alone in his revulsion. Michael Moynihan, profiling Milne in the Daily Beast, waxed sarcastic:

Wherever there’s an aggrieved terrorist or an undemocratic regime engaged in an existential struggle with the West, you can rely on Seumas Milne, Oxford-educated warrior for the Third World and former comment editor of The Guardian, to offer a full-throated, if slightly incoherent, defense. If your country’s constitution mandates the burning down of orphanages and the conscription of 6-year-olds in to the army, Milne will likely have your back, provided you also express a deep loathing for the United States and capitalism.

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Michael Moynihan

Moynihan quoted Milne on various subjects.

Communism: in the USSR and its satellites, it “delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality.”

The Soviet bloc: it “encompassed genuine idealism and commitment” to social justice.

East Germany: it was “a country of full employment, social equality, cheap housing, transport and culture, one of the best childcare systems in the world, and greater freedom in the workplace than most employees enjoy in today’s Germany.”

West Germany’s annexation of East Germany: it entailed “a loss of women’s rights, closure of free nurseries and mass unemployment.”

Mahmoud Ahmedinejad: he “stand[s] up for [Iran’s] independence, expose[s] elite corruption on TV and use[s] Iran’s oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority.”

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Che: “innate humanity”

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara: two men whose legacy is one of “innate humanity.”

Meanwhile, in the Spectator, Alex Massie depicted Milne’s appointment as “consistent,” given Corbyn’s own admiration for Cuba and Venezuela, hatred of “American hegemony,” etc. If that’s where you’re coming from, asked Massie, why not pick a spokesman “whose back catalogue features defences of, or explanations and occasional justifications for, inter alia, Joe Stalin, Slobodan Milosevic, Iraqi Baathists attacking British troops, and much else besides”? Why not hire a guy whose published oeuvre “is stuffed with articles downplaying the horrors of Sovietism and then, latterly, redefining Russian aggression as defensive manoeuvres designed to combat – of course – western neoliberalism”?

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Alex Massie

Massie quoted one of Milne’s many cockeyed statements about the USSR: “Whatever people thought about the Soviet Union and its allies and what was going on in those countries, there was a sense throughout the twentieth century that there were alternatives – socialist political alternatives.” Yes: alternatives that involved subjecting citizens to a culture of fear, denying them even a trace of individual liberty, imposing upon them policies of forced collectivization and planned famine that took millions of lives, and establishing a network of forced-labor camps to which millions of those citizens were sentenced for their political convictions or religious beliefs – or for no reason at all.

More on Milne tomorrow.