A Venezuelan Expat Compares The Rise Of Trump To The Early Days Of Chavez

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Every time I meet with my Venezuelan friends, the political situation of our country is a topic we never miss. And of course, since we are going through the 2016 U.S. presidential race, we also talk about the candidates, especially Donald Trump and his statements, which sometimes reminds us of our late president Hugo Chavez. But are there real similarities between Chavez and Trump?

Chavez and Trump: Are They Really That Similar?

chavtrumpImage Source: Notiverdad

Hugo Chavez was president of Venezuela from 1998 until he died from cancer in 2013. After fifteen years in power, Mr. Chavez left an extensive archive of scandalous and aggressive statements. The most outrageous being his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 20th, 2006, when he said: “The devil himself is right at home. Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here in this same place, still smells like sulfur.”, referring to then-President of the United States, George W. Bush. 

So when Venezuelans hear statements like: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”, or “I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down”, is not casual that Trump´s statements remind Mr. Chavez.

Both, Chavez and Trump have used such rhetoric to remain in people’s minds regardless of whether they believed their statements or not. Such inflammatory rhetoric was used because it was exaggerated, unreal, ridiculous, or even aggressive and intimidating. It did not matter. Their true purpose was to stay present in people’s minds and conversations, thus acquiring immense propaganda. Their words are a fuel that stupefies the public: “sulfur”, “devil”, “rapists”, “7-Eleven”. In the end, their statements are incoherent lies used to persuade certain public sectors. The sort of gullible people who believe that Chavez’s cancer was actually inoculated by the CIA or that by building a wall Trump will really stop undocumented immigrants coming to the USA.

Reviewing old Chavez’s videos before he became elected, I find that Venezuelans were deceived with a discourse that said everything they wanted to hear: eliminate corruption, fight poverty, more opportunity for everyone, but that ended up being false. I will transcribe some questions that journalist Jorge Ramos posed to Chavez back in 1998 (the same journalist that Trump kicked out of his press conference last year):

Jorge Ramos: Are you willing to leave the power after 5 years?

Hugo Chavez: Of course I am willing to, even earlier. We’re proposing a constitutional reform, a transformation of the political system to have a true and authentic democracy. If for example after two years I end up being a fiasco, a failure, a corrupt or I do something that justifies my exit from power before 5 years, I would be willing to leave.

The truth was that Chavez left after 15 years in power, and he left because he had a terminal illness.

Jorge Ramos: Will you nationalize any mass media, any private media?

Hugo Chavez: No, the state-owned station is enough, the state has the channel 8 Venezolana de Television, it will be renovated, put to work for national education, to promote national values. I have the best relationship with the rest of the stations, and they will remain private, we’re actually interested in empowering such stations.

These were just vacuous promises used to gain more votes. Years later, the list of nationalized media became extensive, including TV networks, radio stations, and print/digital publications. However, the most infamous case occurred in 2007, when Chavez decided to not renew the license to Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), a media source critical of the Chavez regime.

In 2000, Jorge Ramos interviewed Mr. Chavez again. This time, Chavez was a completely different person than the one Ramos interviewed in 1998. When Chavez was the candidate, he dressed as a civilian, used a more moderate language (even though he was lying), and was open to listening to your opinion. However, in 2000, Chavez was dressed as an army commander, an aggressive caudillo, who did not listen to anyone. He had transformed into a self-centered, narcissistic tyrant. This is the same attitude that Trump has been showing since the beginning of his campaign.

Trump and Chavez: Sharing the Same Political DNA

download (1)Image Source: Univision

There are many similarities between Chavez and Trump, and it depends on the reader to see them or not. It is very clear that the economic and political views of Chavez and Trump are different. Yet, the common ground for both is populism and the way they use it to deceive a huge mass of people.

Donald Trump has given hints of being a liar, a xenophobe, an egomaniac, and a bully, who has shown no respect for anyone or anything, and who is fueling the anger and hatred of some US population sectors to conquer the White House. 

Let’s Compare Some Outrageous Statements made by Chavez and Trump:

Hugo Chavez: “You are an imperialist pawn who attempts to curry favor with Mr. Danger Bush-Hitler, the number one mass murderer and assassin on the planet. Go straight to hell, Mr. Blair.” Chavez referring to Tony Blair on February 9th, 2006

Trump: “Our weak President, that kisses everybody’s ass, is in more wars than I have ever seen. Now he’s in Libya, he’s in Afghanistan, he’s in Iraq. Nobody respects us.”

Hugo Chavez: “Mr. Obama wants to win votes by attacking Venezuela. Mr. Obama, you are a clown, a clown. Leave us in peace, go after your votes by fulfilling that which your promised your people.”

Trump: “Obama is either grossly incompetent or has a completely different agenda that you don’t want to hear about. He wants to give away the free enterprise system”

Hugo Chavez: “Some minorities, the descendants of the same people who crucified Christ, and of those that expelled Bolivar from here and in their own way crucified him, have taken control of the riches of the world.” Christmas Speech on December 24th, 2005

Donald Trump: “I think profiling (Muslims) is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country. It’s not the worst thing to do… I hate the concept of profiling, but we have to start using common sense”

Hugo Chavez: “Go to hell, Gringos! Go home!.. What does the Empire want? Condoleeza Rice said it..How are you? You’ve forgotten me, Missy…”

Donald Trump: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes you think that she can satisfy the United States.”

I can’t tell anyone to vote against or in favor of, or what would happen if Donald Trump wins. However, I can share my experience as a Venezuelan who witnessed Chavez’ rise to power and experience his regime firsthand.

I remember that in 1997 and 1998, most people considered Chavez a clown who would never win the elections. After he became president, people said Chavez would never do this or that, but once in power Chavez did what he wanted, the way he wanted and when he wanted it. Regarding the United States, it is the responsibility of US citizens to choose who would be their president for the next 4 years. In order to make this important decision, they should analyze the facts, recognize some behavioral patterns, and choose which candidate is best suited to become the POTUS.


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