Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro has expelled three top U.S. Embassy officials, accusing them on Monday of fomenting economic sabotage, including all-too-frequent power blackouts, in the oil-rich yet impoverished South American nation. Maduro’s remarks were right out of Hugo Chavez’s anti-American playbook. They dashed Washington’s hope that Maduro, a former union leader and bus driver, would be more “pragmatic” than Chávez, the popular firebrand president who died last March. Maudro was apparently unimpressed with President Obama’s desire for a reset in relations with Venezuela.
“Get out of Venezuela! Yankee go home!” Maduro shouted on live television, during a celebration marking the bicentennial of a battle for independence from Spain. “Enough of abuses against the dignity of a homeland that wants peace.”
The embassy officials were identified as chargé d’affaires Kelly Keiderling; political officer Elizabeth Hoffman; and vice consul David Moo. They have 48 hours to leave the country.
Maduro didn’t say whether the trio had anything to do with the dark side of Venezuela’s so-called “21st Century” socialism: toilet paper and food shortages; an annual inflation rate of more than 45 percent; epic levels of corruption; and Caracas’ status as the world’s murder capital. Power blackouts also have been a problem.
“We have detected a group of officials of the United States Embassy in Caracas, in Venezuela, and we have been tracking them for several months,” Maduro explained. “These officials spend their time meeting with the Venezuelan extreme right wing, financing them and encouraging them to take actions to sabotage the electrical system, to sabotage the Venezuelan economy.”
Regarding the Obama administration, Maduro said he “doesn’t care” about its response. “We’re not going to allow an imperial government to come and bring money to stop companies operating, (and) to take out the electricity to shut Venezuela down.”
“Señores gringos, imperialists, you have before you men and women of dignity that…will never kneel before your interests and we’re not afraid of you. We’ll confront you on all levels, the political, the diplomatic.”
Maduro’s rant underscores that things can only get worse in Venezuela. Under Chávez and Maduro, Venezuela’s old pathologies — Statism, bread-and-circus populism, and corruption — have grown to epic levels. But like Chávez, Maduro is clueless about what’s wrong; and so he finds it convenient to promote conspiracy theories and anti-Americanism. But this isn’t merely about political expediency and demagoguery, because Maduro no doubt really believes what’s he saying, as do many Venezuelans.
“Yankee go home!” Sadly, it’s an old story in Latin America and many parts of the world.
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