Our Thorny First Lady

35

Imagine a biker girl from Catia who rises up to become a lawyer and then becomes the life partner of a marxist union-leader that she meets while defending a maverick army lieutenant jailed for launching a coup.

Many years later, the gamble pays off. She becomes the first female speaker of Congress in Venezuelan history, and then Solicitor General once the coupster becomes president. Then, the lieutenant-president dies, her life partner replaces him and she becomes the most powerful first lady in Venezuelan history. She is also secretive, conniving and ruthless.

It’s the kind of stuff not even the writers of American cable dramas could come up with. It’s also the life story of Cilia Flores.

Regardless of what you may think about Cilia’s role in our current catastrophe, she remains an intriguing figure – our #tropicalmierda version of Lady Macbeth. But who is she, and what is her agenda now that it’s been reported (as has long been suspected) that she may be the real power behind the throne?

Flores was born in 1956, according to official records, although other sources report 1953, in the Venezuelan plains of Tinaquillo (in a shack with dirt floor, according to Maduro), the youngest of six children. Her family emigrated to Caracas when she was little and she grew up in working-class Catia. She married her high school sweetheart, Walter Gavidia, had three children and received a law degree from Universidad Santa María in the 1980s. Ironically, she was an abstentionist in her youth and never voted until her forties. Like many other chavista honchos, she claims she was politically awakened by the 1989 riots.

It’s the kind of stuff not even the writers of American cable dramas could come up with. It’s also the life story of Cilia Flores.

She met Hugo Chávez while he was serving time for the 1992 coup, after sending him several letters offering her services. Although she claims to have been part of his defense team, most of Chavez’s defense was in fact carried out by renowned criminal lawyer Javier Elechiguerra. She also claims her home was raided by security forces and some of her property confiscated because of her role in Chávez’s defense.

Cilia is not prone to giving interviews. Poker-faced and elusive, we know very little about her personal life. We know she abandoned the catholicism of her upbringing and became a devotee of Indian spiritual master Sai Baba. She is also a follower of I-Ching and Kabbalah. She loves motorcycles and rode a bike during the first years of her political career. But this bike-riding and new-agey woman never emerges during her public appearances; she hosted a family-oriented TV show called “Con Cilia en Familia”, where she appeared robotically bland, playing the role of the Revolution’s dutiful matron.

She divorced her first husband in the early 90s and became Nicolás Maduro’s partner until they tied the knot in 2013. She remains good friends with her ex, who was even favoured by her nepotistic largesse. She prefers to go by the silly moniker of “first combatant” instead of “first lady”, which she and Maduro deem too “bourgeois”.

Although she claims to have been part of his defense team, most of Chavez’s defense was in fact carried out by renowned criminal lawyer Javier Elechiguerra.

Whatever one’s opinion about the criminal nature of Maduro’s regime, his relationship with Cilia appears genuine and loving, and he really appears to trust her judgment above everyone else’s. But beneath the standard chavista slogans, this is not an overtly ideological woman. More than political, Flores is tribalistic.

Her tenure as Speaker was marked by a deep contempt for the rule of law. Under her leadership, the Assembly enacted both the unsuccessful constitutional reform and the successful constitutional amendment that abolished term limits for popular elected offices, and allowed Chávez to run for President in 2012.  She was also vindictive and cutthroat against her opponents.

She is most remembered, however, for practicing nepotism to a degree that would make Donald Trump blush.

Cilia has showered her relatives and friends with political positions without a hint of shame or denial. More than 40 of her relatives were employed by the National Assembly when she was in charge. Her favourite nephew, Erik Malpica Flores, held the position of CFO at PDVSA for several years after being the Republic’s treasurer. Her not-very-bright nephews were allowed free rein to deal drugs, until caught by a DEA sting operation in Haiti.

TSJ Chief Justice/convicted murderer Maikel Moreno… is one of her closest friends and reports directly to Flores.

She is good friends with the explosive minister Iris Varela. Carolina Cestari, the recently appointed Chief of Government of Caracas (the government-appointed institution created to strip all powers from the democratically elected Alcaldía Mayor), is her former assistant and one of her best friends. Her brother, Bladimir Flores, is the Chief of the CICPC (the Venezuelan equivalent of the FBI).

More importantly, we just discovered that TSJ Chief Justice/convicted murderer Maikel Moreno, a key figure in consolidating Maduro’s dictatorship, is one of her closest friends and reports directly to Flores, not Maduro.

Although she is passionate about aiding those within her clan, she is ruthless with her enemies. After Maduro’s rise to power, almost everyone who has fallen out with her is now out of the government, the best example being fallen Prosecutor General and newly-minted opposition idol Luisa Ortega Díaz.

It has been reported that Ortega was ratified in her position as Prosecutor General in 2014, over Cilia’s candidate for the job and comadre Miriam Morandy, a slight Cilia never really forgot and that contributed to Ortega’s demise within Chavismo.

She is most remembered, however, for practicing nepotism to a degree that would make Donald Trump blush.

After Maduro’s election, she retired from her position as Solicitor General and stayed under the radar for awhile until she was elected National Assembly deputy representing her birth state of Cojedes in December 2015. She quit the National Assembly to become candidate for and member of the 2017 fraudulent Constituent Assembly. Although she was not elected ANC President, as was rumoured she would, no one doubts the breadth of her power.

During his testimony before the OAS, fallen-from-grace chavista and former transport minister Hebert García Plaza stated that Cilia is, for all purposes, Maduro’s chief advisor in all political and legal matters and that no decision is issued by the TSJ that she hasn’t reviewed and approved. She personally decided with Maduro not to pardon political prisoner Iván Simonovis, because she deemed it “politically inconvenient”.  

We had women with power in Venezuela before Chavismo: a Chief Justice, a Central Bank President, a Finance Minister and several illustrious congresswomen. It would be optimistic to think that Cilia’s rise is a continuation of this trend. However, chavismo’s version of female empowerment is an amoral criminal matron who destroys the country’s institutions, and ruins innocent lives while playing the role of dutiful and servile wife for the cameras. She is more Griselda Blanco than Angela Merkel. Her rise is not something that any Venezuelan woman can feel proud of. The only fair thing that can be said about her is that she is living proof that women in power can be as ruthless as men.

35 COMMENTS

    • Freedom: Unless it challenges the state
      Equality: For all of those that are members of PSUV
      Community:I suppose standing in line for basic goods would constitute “community”
      Identity: Carnet de la patria.
      Dignity: I’ll leave that alone
      Security: Inside your home and locked up after dark.
      Responsibility: For repression
      Inclusiveness: All welcomed to be miserable
      Creativity: It’s working fine in the finances of the nation
      Integrity : Too easy….

      Progressive values my arse.

    • Narco-aunt has some “Progressive values” such as “Keep the coccaine trafficking in your family”.

      For all what it’s worth, she’ll end locked in a cell for smuggling drugs, what a sad, pathetic end to a “real life Cersei Lannister”

  1. She heads a Chavista circle called the Catia Circle which includes Pdvsa’s recently appointed new president , one of the reasons why Rafael Ramirez was demoted from head of Pdvsa was to give way to one of her proteges who at the time was head of Citgo , Pdvsa is a symbol of power and largesse so she had to have the top position occupied by someone close to her , for health reasons the appointment of her favourite had to be delayed when Ramirez was ousted from his position as Pdvsa Chief . She also had an adversarial relationship with Ramirez mother in law who as a former magistrate of Venezuelas Supreme Tribunal was considered one of the regimes 3 top legal advisors together with Cilia and Escarra.

    What I find curious is for Maduro , an uneducated ordinary Venezuelan to have wed a woman 20 years his senior and to have gone along with her pseudo religious fancies despite his presumed training as a ‘professional’ communist organizer………., this reflects a very odd behaviour on his part , there is something about this pair that ‘doesnt add up’……..!!

  2. “…We had women with power in Venezuela before Chavismo: a Chief Justice, a Central Bank President, a Finance Minister and several illustrious congresswomen”…

    More importantly, women not formally in power, with a lot of power. Why did you exclude Cecilia Matos and Blanca Ibañez?

    • Venny Trader – what is your take on the “missing” i(or maybe just late?) VE interest payment that has made the news today? No big deal? Just noise?

      • Another Gringo, I think just noise. We have seen in the past few months how they have been paying later than usual (they probably need to work a bit around compliance in banks, etc. etc.) And now with sanctions, probably more red tape and hoops to jump. Nevertheless, willingness to pay is still strong so payments will be made one way or the other. After November payments, I want to see what the anal-ists will write about (I have already come across one saying that now default will be in 2019). Groundhog day.

  3. “More importantly, we just discovered that TSJ Chief Justice/convicted murderer Maikel Moreno, a key figure in consolidating Maduro’s dictatorship, is one of her closest friends and reports directly to Flores, not Maduro.”

    If we can never take a little drop of enjoyment out of reading about the totally debased state of affairs of the regime, there really is no hope, so kudos once again Mr. Crespo, for your wry look at this mess.

  4. “She is most remembered, however, for practicing nepotism to a degree that would make Donald Trump blush.”

    See, this is the problem with CC. They don’t recognize that ridiculous, false snipes like this invalidate an entire article. How can one believe anything is accurate in this article, when this claim of Trump nepotism is clearly ridiculous?

    I don’t like nepotism either. I hate America’s acceptance of political “dynasties” (Roosevelts, Rockefellers, Kennedys, Bushes, etc.), but many of these have proven to be good administrations who accomplished good things, or at least tried. And having a relative or two on the payroll…and let’s remember that nepotism also includes friends or professionals you’ve come to befriend…making use of these people you respect and trust isn’t always a negative.

    But to equate the First Lady’s abuse of nepotism with Trump’s, whose appointees don’t even NEED the money, is ridiculous.

    Or is your problem that Kushner is Jewish?

    • Trump only got to his position because of nepotism, he got his wealth from his family.

      It is only natural for Venezuelans to feel hostility to Trump after he directly attacked their country in the UN.

    • Wow Ira let’s play the Antisemitism card when all else fails…He put his daughter and son and law in positions of power with no qualifications whatsoever(failed real estate deals?).That is the very definition of nepotism.

  5. It is not surprising that right wing opposition is threatened by a strong woman, especially one with progressive values!
    —–

    While the Chavistas are full of such wonky pronouncements, they never contrast their supposed values with the epic unfolding in the pueblo – or else they blame it on others. The value of taking responsibility for the disaster they themselves created is entirely missing. Oh, that’s right, there is no humanitarian crisis.

    Even if they were right about an economic war causing all the havoc in Venezuela, they’ve clearly been defeated by the evil empire in this regards. So even by their own metric (it’s THEIR fault), a regime change is indicated.

  6. Missed that link from Oliver de Jong – that Ven. missed an interest payment on outstanding bonds, to the tune of over 150 million. Granted, there’s a 30-day grace period, but this is not looking good for the Emperor.

  7. The interesting thing is that the authors claim fairness, but are so ideological, that they simply can not help themselves. if they would just read the comments, they would know that the swipes, and jabs, are not welcomed (by many), and that their arguments are, whether, intellectually challenging, or spot on to any particular reader, is simply ignored, due to their bias. Then again, probably half or more, have a small hard-on when they read anything anti-trump.

    One would think the authors, would get it, but no.
    I read CNN.com and they are so over the top Anti-Trump, it is actually funny (in that they profess fairness)
    NYT.com is not as bad, but their comment section is where they promote their massive bias.

    • On the other hand, one may think that grown men/women would not act like the delicate snowflakes who find themselves +$100,000 in student loan debt after getting a masters in Women’s Studies and constantly complain about every micro-aggression they perceive or (in their own minds) can justify.

      I may believe Pres. Trump to be an ass of monumental proportions but I wish him great success. His speech at the UN, at least to me, exceeded expectations. His only failures were the “rocket man” comment, going off script about the Iranian deal (because we all should believe everything he says), and the first two or three minutes of unnecessary self-congragatory hyperbole.

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