Trump Throws Meatballs at PSUV’s Propaganda Heavy Hitters

Donald Trump's latest comments on Venezuela may be irrelevant in the international arena, but they do pose a risk for those opposing chavismo in Venezuela

“When I left, Venezuela was ready to collapse. We would take it over, we would’ve gotten all that oil, it would’ve been right next door”

Donald J. Trump

Trump’s statements about Venezuelan oil are made within the context of an electoral campaign for the presidency of the United States. These words may be reduced to charlatanry, but they do hint at discussions that were on the table in the White House during his administration. This controversy today affects those opposition political actors who participated in the caretakership (AKA Venezuela’s interim government), specifically those who publicly identified with the Trump’s foreign policy towards Venezuela at that time and who insisted on the application of a “maximum pressure” strategy that included economic sanctions and military threats that, in paper, would have isolated the country and generated a situation in which Maduro would have been deposed. In paper.

In the middle of heated social media debates and the resurgence of Trump in U.S. headlines, the Venezuelan opposition faces new dilemmas as it tries to revive confidence before its electoral base. One of the many problems is how to avoid again the instrumentalization of the Venezuelan crisis within the political discourse, as well as the media tutelage by individuals running in the current Republican primary (the electoral calendars for 2024 in the U.S. and Venezuela are very similar, por ahora). Electoral campaigns in the U.S. usually pull Venezuela out of the media freezer, and back into the speeches of Rubio, Scott, DeSantis, and Trump. Venezuela is a trigger for attention, a propaganda issue.

Another of the great challenges is to define the participation of the White House in the national political dynamic, making it more constructive, pragmatic, and strategic. Taking into account the realities of the new regional geopolitics and the autonomy that national leaderships require to make their own decisions assuming the consequences of them. It should also be considered that today Nicolás Maduro has the support of Lula and Petro, also the recently re-elected Erdogan. The internal situation in Venezuela changed and the political leadership of the opposition became anarchic. Confidence in the opposition is fragmented. Some leaders continue to consider the United States as a valuable companion, a legitimizer of actions, a political and economic ally that opens many doors. Others have considered working more on the local terrain, with the people and their realities, focusing their efforts on building an electoral force, recovering lost confidence and observing the interests of U.S. foreign policy on Venezuela from a certain distance.

Donald Trump, the same man who promoted the assault on the U.S. capitol, who questioned the presidential elections in his country after his defeat and is today accused of federal crimes, has brought the Venezuelan opposition into a new controversy. With this offhanded statement, he’s digging into the wound that separated the opposition during his administration between those who expected an immediate solution for the Venezuelan crisis and supported Trump’s policies and those who leaned more toward the EU angle and proposed a national political reorganization through an electoral process. Also, it puts a target on the back of individuals such as María Corina Machado, who is currently the front runner in the opposition primaries, and has been a fierce critic of negotiation and dialogue with the regime.

Today, the ruling party appreciates Donald Trump’s statements, as it reinforces the messages and sentiment of the government’s propaganda within the context of an electoral campaign. “The empire sanctions, the empire steals.” Chavismo-Madurismo has painted a very effective picture of its adversaries, whether local or foreign, and has managed to characterize and communicate in a simple way the negative aspects of “capitalism” and the United States. The ruling party, often underestimated, knows how to make propaganda, knows the power of perception, has good spin doctors, communication advisers, and pitchers like Trump that throw bombitas at the propaganda machine.