Maduro at the UN: Monroe, Mandela, Trump and Not Much Else

In Maduro’s disappointing speech at the United Nations General Assembly his face and body language said more than his words.

Photo: retrieved

The second day of debate in the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly opened with President Juan Carlos Varela, from Panama, highlighting the migratory crisis while calling for the reestablishment of dialogue and democracy in Venezuela.

It’d be a hard day for Maduro, and it was just starting.

In harsher words, Colombia’s Ivan Duque, also brought up the topic, describing Maduro’s administration as “a dictatorship that annihilates liberties” and demanded the international community to use all mechanisms to decry, investigate and sanction those responsible.

Unsurprisingly, Cuban President Ramón Díaz-Canel, in his first session in office, defended the “Bolivarian and chavista revolution,” decrying the “special cruelty” that the U.S. government employs against Venezuela. He paid lip service for Nicaragua, Lula da Silva’s incarceration, the independence of Puerto Rico and the return of the Falkland Islands to Argentina, among other pick-and-mix causes.

Hours before Maduro took the floor, there was a lot of speculation about a surprise meeting between himself and The Donald.

But hours before Maduro took the floor, there was a lot of speculation about a surprise meeting between himself and The Donald, to exchange pleasantries and maybe red ties. In this regard, things are murky: Last August, Nico said he was thinking about not attending this session, since “they want me dead,” and Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza was in line to serve as speaker.

Yesterday morning, President Trump said he would talk to Maduro if he showed up. Nico immediately took a plane but Donald didn’t meet him anyway. Lawyer Eva Golinger (remember her?) called the trip “a bit desperate,” saying Maduro has wanted to meet a U.S. president for years.

Alas, Trump did talk about Venezuela, stating that he wants to see the nation straightened out, that he’s going to take care of the country and that “all the options are on the table.”

In the evening, after several hours of delay, sandwiched between Palau and the Central African Republic, President Nicolás Maduro took the floor at the UN General Assembly, the first time since 2015.

The address went on for around 50 minutes, and was a full display of Maduro’s rhetorical repertoire: Claiming to talk for the little people of the continent and the world, he reminded his few listeners of Venezuela’s glorious past and the even more glorious Comandante Chávez, alleging the crisis is manufactured by a vast conspiracy of Venezuela’s enemies while comparing this situation to historical U.S. atrocities, from the Monroe Doctrine to Operation Condor.

Everything was peppered with endless redundancies that mostly served to paddle the speech and drive the point home over and over, always seeking to posit his government as an innocent, peace-loving victim minding its own business, harassed by an evil resource-hungry bully.

He cited The New York Times and The Washington Post—never mind that both have extensively covered the crisis that Maduro is denying—to claim that his assassination attempt was orchestrated in Colombia, with backing from people in U.S. soil, and with the collaboration of government officials from Chile and Mexico.

Maduro also requested a special UN representative with, bizarrely, the collaboration of the FBI to investigate. The guy even had the nerve to compare himself to Nelson Mandela: “How much has the world changed! 30 years ago Mandela was considered a terrorist by the United States, he was part of a list of those sanctioned. Sound familiar?”

The guy even had the nerve to compare himself to Nelson Mandela.

He then turned to a peculiar, conciliatory tone, saying “We Venezuelans don’t hate the United States. We appreciate [it],” claiming later that, despite political differences and a history of U.S. intervention towards Latin America, he was open to sit down and talk to Trump about the Venezuelan situation. Arreaza was more defiant hours earlier, but hey, who’s watching anyway?

Listening from the floor were Cilia Flores and Minister Jorge Rodríguez, both affected by yesterday’s sanctions, who know full well about these days’ implications. Sure, the hall was half empty by the time Maduro spoke, but it was an opportunity to address the world.

Yet the speech was no different than any official broadcast, only that this time his audience was not the usual mix of zealots, coerced public employees and government officials bored out of their minds.

After finishing and cancelling a press conference, I’d say that they know their words have no relevance, or at least far less important than their actions. They repeat the same speech, the same excuses, the same rhetoric but Maduro’s defeated expression and eagerness to leave the U.S. said more than enough.

José González Vargas

Freelance journalist, speculative fiction writer, college professor, political junkie, lover of books and movies and, semi-professional dilettante. José has written for NPR's Latino USA, Americas Quarterly, Into and ViceVersa Magazine.