Socialist Venezuela has become a workers’ hell – not the paradise Hugo Chávez promised. The poor literally pick through garbage to find food. Yet left-wing Hollywood actor and director Danny Glover was oblivious to this misery during his most recent good-will visit to Caracas, the capital, where he hobnobbed with President Nicolás Maduro and praised the socialist regime. The 71-year-old Glover, however, said nothing about Venezuela’s dire shortages of food, medicines, and even toilet paper – calamities that have made President Maduro widely despised by the poor majority in oil-rich yet impoverished Venezuela.
Shocking news reports emerge daily from Venezuela about its collapsing economy. Has Glover not been paying attention? Poor Venezuelans not only eat from garbage piles but are fleeing abroad, having given up on what the late President Hugo Chávez called “Twenty-First-Century Socialism.” They are joining unending columns of refugees trekking under a blazing into neighboring Colombia. Human rights groups and regional leaders call it a “humanitarian crisis.” Yet when speaking at the presidential palace on Saturday, March 24, Glover nevertheless rattled off a list of Venezuela-style socialism’s supposed accomplishments – comments dutifully reported by local media outlets.
“It is a privilege to be here,” beamed Glover, explaining that Venezuela’s revolution was about “uplifting human beings” and creating a “collective humanity.” It was a let-them-eat cake moment – or perhaps that should be “let them eat garbage.”And it was interesting to see who failed to show up: none of Glover’s left-wing Hollywood buddies were on hand. They once made a beeline to Caracas to hobnob with Hugo Chávez and praise his socialist revolution, with the two most famous being Oliver Stone, the director and filmmaker; and actor and filmmaker Sean Penn. Both have kept a low-profile regarding Venezuela since Hugo Chávez’s socialist revolution turned into a nightmare.
Perhaps Stone and Penn still have not gotten the tear gas out of their eyes from their visit to Caracas in March, 2014, when they joined a rogues’ gallery of Latin leftists, including Cuban President Raúl Castro, to honor Hugo Chávez on the first anniversary of his death from cancer. They enjoyed a military parade and civic events – all while massive and bloody anti-government protests raged in the streets. The protests were provoked by an out-of-control murder rate, food shortages, and myriad instances of inept governance.
Did Stone and Penn finally realize they were honoring a thug state? Well, maybe. Yet Glover has no such qualms. He remains a true believer.
During Saturday’s ceremonies, Glover praised the socialist regime’s commitment to social justice, falsely claiming that Venezuela had improved education, health care, and other indices of human dignity. That must be news to human rights groups that regularly condemn Venezuela, and news as well to ordinary Venezuelans – millions of whom have fled abroad in recent years as their socialist-run economy collapsed under epic levels of mismanagement and corruption. Indeed, a refugee crisis is now playing out in which some 100,000 Venezuelans per month cross Colombia’s border, both legally and illegally, say Colombian officials. In all, an estimated 2 to 4 million Venezuelans now live abroad with an estimated 500,000 in Colombia.
The excuse for Glover’s visit was to join Maduro – a bus-driver-turned politician and Chávez’s former protege – in promoting a feel-good U.N. initiative: “International Decade for People of African Descent” which was adopted in 2015 by the America-bashing U.N. General Assembly. The decade’s theme: “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development”. Glover’s role in this idiotic virtue signaling is as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “The international community must increase its commitment to fighting Afrophobia and discrimination against people of African descent,” Glover told a U.N. publication last year. In its online English-language article about Saturday’s event, state television channel Telesur ran an annoying headline: “Venezuela’s Maduro Moves to Eradicate Racism from the Americas.” Glover sits on Telesur’s board.
Maduro, for his part, observed that the world has gone “from one slavery to another: from direct slavery we have passed to the slavery of capitalism.”
Capitalism is a form of slavery? Well, capitalism may be a dirty word to Maduro, Glover, and fellow Hollywood leftists who claim to be champions of the poor. Yet interestingly, Venezuela’s exodus of poor refugees is now heading to countries where capitalism is alive: Brazil, Panama, and Chile are among the most popular destinations for poor Venezuelans who can’t afford to join well-off Venezuelans in the U.S. and Europe. None of these poor refugees, to be sure, is heading to communist Cuba, which has played a behind-the-scenes role in Venezuela’s drift toward socialism. And while Glover praises socialism, he nevertheless has done pretty well under capitalism. Born in San Francisco to parents who worked as postal workers, he has an estimated net worth of $40 million.
Useful idiot or crook?
In visiting Caracas, Glover may have had more than social justice on his mind. He has yet to adequately explain what happened to millions of U.S. dollars that Hugo Chávez gave him, in 2007, to make a biographical movie called “Toussaint” about Haiti’s 1791 slave uprising and man who led it, Toussaint Louverture.
Glover took $18 million from Chávez to make “Toussaint”; and Venezuela’s General Assembly subsequently authorized another $9.8 million (though it’s unclear whether Glover ever received that sum). According to the Wall Street Journal, Chávez’s largess was supposed to help Glover cover “the scripts, production costs, wardrobe, lighting, transport, makeup and the creation of the whole creative and administrative platform.” At the time, news of Chávez’s revolutionary largess irked some Venezuelan filmmakers who complained that “Toussaint” had nothing to do with Venezuela. But no matter: Chávez was then flush with a windfall of petrodollars as oil prices soared. Along with funding bread-and-circuses social programs, he sought to project Venezuela’s influence and leftist political ideology throughout the world – from dolling out subsidized fuel oil to low-income residents in New England (in a program overseen by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II) to financing Hollywood movies with an anti-Western message.
So what happened to “Toussaint” and all the money given to Glover? “We’re still working on it (the movie),” Glover said during an interview three years ago. “We’re in one of those periods where the idea is still alive and still resonates out there. We just have to get all the resources together to make it happen.” Before work on the movie stalled, its cast was said to have included Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Don Cheadle, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Roger Guenveur Smith, Mos Def, Isaach de Bankolé, and Richard Bohringer.
Somebody should ask Glover some hard questions about “Toussaint”– and demand answers about the millions of dollars he received. That money, after all, did not belong to the autocratic Hugo Chávez or the obsequious lawmakers who bowed to his every whim. The money was the patrimony of Venezuelans and was derived from their oil wealth. In 1998, the poor majority elected Chávez in a landslide, believing he would stop their oil wealth from being squandered due to mismanagement and corruption. But as Chávez adopted socialism, corruption soared to record levels – making many well-connected Venezuelans rich.
Danny Glover obviously profited from this corruption gravy train – and perhaps he hopes to continue doing so. Did Glover discuss the status of “Toussaint” with Maduro, whose government is on the verge of financial insolvency? Perhaps Glover’s effusive praise of Venezuela-style socialism is not only motivated by his left-wing ideology, but by his desire to obtain more funding for his movie project – or perhaps he wants Maduro to forget about the money he got for a movie he never made.
Besides being a useful idiot, Glover also may be a crook. He and others involved in “Toussaint” have much explaining to do.
David Paulin, an Austin, TX-based freelance journalist, covered Hugo Chávez’s rise to power while based in Caracas as a foreign correspondent. He also reported from the Caribbean while based in Kingston, Jamaica.