Steven Seagal's Maduro Odyssey
A Hollywood tough guy's political pilgrimage.
What's wrong with some of those Hollywood elites?
They neither hear nor see any evil when it comes to liberal fascism – the sort found in the socialist hell hole of Venezuela. Now comes Steven Seagal: the tough guy actor famous for his action films is the latest liberal from La La land to visit Venezuela to support its autocratic president, Nicolás Maduro. The 69-year-old actor's visit follows actor Danny Glover's fawning visit with Maduro two years ago.
Seagal, now overweight and sporting his trademark ponytail, visited Caracas last week as a good will ambassador of sorts representing Russia's foreign ministry. Say again?
Well, in case you haven't heard: Russia's strongman Vladimir Putin bestowed the position upon Seagal in 2018 after granting him Russian citizenship two years earlier. Originally, the position was intended to deepen cultural and youth-related ties with the U.S., but since then it has apparently been expanded to also deepen Russia's ties with anti-American allies like Venezuela. Putin and Seagal are good friends and share a love for the martial arts which figure prominently in Seagal's movies.
Seagal, to be sure, isn't the first creature of Tinseltown to make a fool of himself by hobnobbing with tyrants. Oliver Stone and Sean Penn were among other Hollywood denizens who were big fans of Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chávez, though they apparently decided to steer clear of Maduro's Venezuela as the oil-rich yet improvised South American nation suffered massive protests, food shortages, and an exodus of refugees. It's no surprise that some now call socialist-run Venezuela the sick man of Latin America: a humanitarian disaster, kleptocracy, and narco-state. Its leftist elites nevertheless live in luxury while ordinary Venezuelans starve.
Maduro is clearly to blame for the deepening humanitarian catastrophe, even if Seagal fails to acknowledge this. A Cuban and Russian puppet, Maduro doubled down on the leftist policies of his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chávez; and according to the U.S. and dozens of other Western countries, Maduro rigged his 2018 re-election. They reject his claim to being Venezuela's legitimate president.
Seagal is obviously part of the problem or, to be more precise, its depravity. Visiting the presidential palace on Tuesday, May 4, he presented Maduro with an odd gift: a samurai sword. It was a propaganda victory for Maduro: the ceremony was dutifully broadcast on the state's television channel. Clearly delighted with the sword, Maduro waved it like a samurai warrior. Later, he tweeted his appreciation to Seagal, writing:
"My thanks to our brother and friend Steven Seagal, who has surprised me with a nice gift, a Samurai Sword, symbol of leadership. I received it with great emotion from a great teacher and expert in martial arts. What a great honor!”
Maduro, for his part, presented Seagal with a guitar in behalf of the Venezuelan people. In addition, children and young adults from Venezuela's national Judo team went through their moves for Seagal and Maduro.
One apparently pro-Maduro media outlet in Venezuela described the meeting as being "full of symbolism about values such as international friendship, culture, cooperation, and fighting spirit."
But a prominent newspaper in Peru, a country now flooded with Venezuelan refugees, was not as upbeat. Poking fun of Seagal, El Comercio portrayed him as a buffoonish actor with more than his share of scandal, making him a perfect pal for Maduro. The paper's headline read: "Steven Seagal between action and decadence: from his meeting with Maduro to accusations of sexual violence." Venezuela's El Nacional, an opposition news outlet, republished the opinion piece.
"Seagal is a strange guy," wrote El Comercio's Juan Carlos Fangacio Arakaki, who described him as "a decadent movie star, a troubled behind-the-scenes actor, and a self-confessed admirer of Vladimir Putin. In addition, he is accused by many women of having violated them psychologically and sexually, without taking charge of their accusations so far."
And then came the kicker: "That is why it should not be surprising that last Tuesday he appeared at the presidential palace of Miraflores, in Caracas, to give a samurai sword to Nicolás Maduro."
Maduro, speaking on state television a day after the event, remarked that Seagal had gone to Canaima, a national park in the country's southern Bolivar state, with Venezuela's minister of indigenous peoples.
He added that he was going to star in a movie that Seagal planned to make. Reuters quoted Maduro as saying: "We are going to shoot a movie together that will be called 'Nico Ma Duro de tumbar.'" The title is a wordplay on Maduro's name meaning: “Nico Ma is hard to knock down,” Reuters explained.
Maduro remarked: "It is the new Steven Seagal film. We are going to fight the demons, the bad guys. I am Nico.”
Maduro and Seagal's movie project recalls Danny Glover's ill-fated plans to make a movie funded by Hugo Chavez's government. Glover, in 2007, reportedly took millions of U.S. dollars from Chávez to make “Toussaint," a biographical movie about Haiti’s 1791 slave uprising and man who led it: Toussaint Louverture. However, the movie was never made. 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, and as oil-producing Venezuela's long tradition of corruption soared to epic levels under socialist rule. Maduro, Chávez's protegee, was vice president at the time.
Besides financing movies with an anti-Western message, Chávez used his oil windfall to fund bread-and-circuses social programs and promote Venezuela’s leftist ideology abroad – from dolling out subsidized fuel oil to low-income residents in New England (a program overseen by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II) to financing movies that were never made. Chávez became a darling of the international left, not to mention liberal Hollywood elites.
Seagal reportedly has a net worth of $16 million. Somebody should tell him to finance his movie about Maduro with private funds, including his own, and not those from Venezuela's coffers: Venezuela's government should use that money to feed its own people.
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.