The President went down to Florida on Monday to tell more lies. He brought some of the crew with him — First Lady Melania; the national security adviser, John Bolton; the ambassador to the OAS; and last but not least, the secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross — and they met with the usual Florida brown-nosers, Senator Rubio and Congressman Díaz-Balart. Florida’s new governor was there, too, Ron DeSantis, as were the lieutenant governor and the attorney general of Florida. Someone even spotted Enrique Tarrio there, chairman of the Proud Boys. They were all at Florida International University, which is apparently the fourth largest university in the country.
The President heaved up to the podium around 4:19 pm Eastern Time and immediately saluted his wife, a former Slovenian model whom the nation never hears from. Her pet project is taking on her husband’s favorite pastime, cyberbullying. “She’s extraordinary. She really is,” the Husband said. “She cares about people.” Then he announced that “a new day is coming in Latin America,” and the wide-eyed people planted behind him started shouting and clapping their hearts out.
It was a relief to see the President might finally be mastering the art of the fake tan, as he was looking a lot less like an orange and a lot more like the last rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. “Not long ago,” he said after he’d verbally stroked every goon in his entourage, “Venezuela was the wealthiest nation, by far, in South America. But years of socialist rule have brought this once-thriving nation to the brink of ruin. That’s where it is today.”
Somebody better get the President a history book on tape. Because the fact is, even though it had been sailing on an ocean of oil since the stuff was found in the first years of the last century, Venezuela was running aground before they elected Chávez in 1998. Unemployment was at 14.5 percent. Half the country was living on less than two dollars a day, while one in five were living in extreme poverty. By 2011, two years before Chávez croaked, unemployment was at 7.8 percent, and the rate of Venezuelans living in poverty had dropped down to 32 percent, with extreme poverty dropping by over 70 percent. Plus back then, under the neoliberal order, there wasn’t any safety net, no basic rights to food or medicine, not like there is today.
But it isn’t like things are exactly coming up bougainvilleas now. A lot of that has to do with the United States and its international community not allowing Venezuela to sell the most valuable thing it has, its oil — that and its people. Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly who thinks he’s president of the whole damned country, set up a fund earlier this month to receive the oil revenues seized by the President, our president. The sanctions imposed by our president, the President, block Venezuela’s access to international credit and other financial options it could otherwise use to climb out of its economic hole.
“The tyrannical socialist government,” said the President, “engaged in massive wealth confiscation, shut down free markets, suppressed free speech, and set up a relentless propaganda machine, rigged elections, used the government to persecute their political opponents, and destroyed the impartial rule of law.”
The President said this. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, said this.
Then he mentioned Óscar Pérez, the actor and commando pilot who flew a helicopter over Caracas back in June 2017, waving a banner which read “350 Libertad,” a reference to Article 350 of the Venezuelan constitution. The President even quoted it: “The people of Venezuela … shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights.”
The President said this. Donald Trump, the president of the United States, actually said this.
Somebody better hand the President a newspaper on tape, because violating democratic principles and encroaching on human rights is precisely what he has been doing from D.C. to Tijuana. How many refugee kids did Trump’s agents separate from their mothers? Your guess is as good as the secretary of Homeland Security’s; the general consensus seems to be somewhere in the several thousands. Or what about those two little Guatemalan kids who died in border detention centers right before Christmas? Or that boy, Nelson Espinal, who got shot in Honduras a week after Trump’s bully-them-at-the-border policy had him deported?
Their blood is on our hands — ours and the President’s.
Meanwhile, according to the popular vote, the people’s vote, Hillary almost beat the President by three million votes. So if you want to talk about democracy, let’s really talk about democracy.
When the President described how soldiers in Venezuela still backed Maduro, and how the Bolivarian army blocked the border bridge to Cúcuta, Colombia, where the U.S.-backed opposition was using humanitarian aid as a ploy to undermine the chavista regime, that audience in Florida got heated. “Send the Marines!” a man yelled. Later, when the President warned members of the Venezuelan military to abandon their commander-in-chief now, presumably before it’s too late, a man (it could’ve been the same man) hollered out, “Send the troops!” And when the President promised he would rid Venezuela of socialism one way or another, an old woman cried out in a thick Spanish accent, “Goh blesh yoo!” No one shook their head and wondered how the President could be forcing humanitarian aid across another country’s border half a hemisphere away, when he doesn’t even allow asylum seekers to cross his own country’s border right here.
Then he went off on socialism. “Socialism promises prosperity, but it delivers poverty” — this from the man who promised to “Make America Great Again” and then immediately cut services to the poor and passed the savings on to the rich. “Socialism promises unity, but it delivers hatred and it delivers division” — this from the man who promised to “Make America Great Again” and pitted Anglo Americans against all comers. “Socialism promises a better future, but it always returns to the darkest chapters of the past” — this from the man who promised to “Make America Great Again” and refused to condemn the neo-Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville (with tiki torches, for some reason). “We know that socialism is not about justice, it’s not about equality, it’s not about lifting up the poor. Socialism is about one thing only: power for the ruling class” — this from the standard-bearer of the Republican Party.
By the time the Russian puppet was calling Maduro a Cuban puppet, some of the retirees in the crowd began yawning and rubbing their hands together for warmth. Most though, especially this big, round, gelatinous man in glasses, seemed completely captivated, their eyes still wide, with goofy grins hanging from their faces. They had the look of love — they were madly in love with power, and they had come to see it embodied in a few hundred pounds of flesh and an expensive suit cheaply worn.
“Everywhere and anywhere it appears, socialism advances under the banner of progress, but in the end, it delivers only corruption, exploitation, and decay,” said the President, our president. “With us today is David Smolansky.”
“America will never be a socialist country!”
Like I said, the President went down to Florida with a whole gang of lies.
Featured image: President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks to the Venezuelan American community at the Florida International University Ocean Bank Convocation Center on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, in Miami, Florida. (Credit: Shealah Craighead/White House)