Visiting Speakers Praise Venezuela’s Socialist Dictator, Despite Evidence of Authoritarianism

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Venezuela is facing a constitutional crisis as its socialist and authoritarian leader, Nicolas Maduro, is facing off against an opposition leader for legitimate control of the country. Maduro is facing off against the country’s assembly leader, Juan Guaido, the latter having declared himself the interim president until a new round of fair and free elections are called for. Guaido declared himself the interim president of Venezuela on January 23, which was met with support from multiple countries, including the United States and many South American countries. Russia and China are supportive of Maduro.

Against this backdrop, two visiting speakers praised Maduro while at Scripps College last week. Scripps is a women’s-only college, a part of the Claremont College consortium of liberal arts colleges in California. The event, celebrating Nicolas Maduro and his socialist policies, was entitled “Venezuela is Irrevocably Free.” The visiting speakers were Akinyele Umoja and Jeanette Charles. Umoja co-founded the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and boasts other left-wing activism. Charles is a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA and had previously defended the Maduro government at Scripps at a November 2018 event.

The event poster criticized the Trump administration’s support for an “attempted coup,” referring to the Trump administration’s support for Guaido and the American president’s call for fair and free elections. It said, “[S]upporters of Washington’s attempted coup have organized bursts of terrorist violence. They are dangerous people: in 2017 they orchestrated the burning alive of Black youth, among them…on the suspicion that the youth were socialists.”

Maduro has been in power since 2007, which occurred when Maduro’s mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez, passed away after being sick for some time. Since Maduro took power, the oil-rich economy of Venezuela has tanked, and the country is seeing an exodus of its people flee to seek shelter, food, basic necessities, and political asylum in neighboring countries such as Colombia and Brazil. In short, Maduro’s regime has led to an economic collapse and a humanitarian crisis in a country that used to be a beacon for democracy and wealth in South America. Also, Maduro-supporting gang members kidnap people, including some Major League Baseball professionals who call Venezuela their home, for ransom. Human rights abuses have been reported in Venezuela, as well, such as imprisoning opposition leaders and murders of opposition party supporters.

Yet, this is not enough evidence or proof to Umoja or Charles of the repressive nature of socialism, when implemented.