Venezuelan socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro responded to last week’s call for a military uprising by appearing on television and dancing to a pro-government rapper singing his praises. At the time of his appearance last week, his forces had killed four people and injured dozens of others.
As of Tuesday, Maduro’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) and his repressive socialist gangs (colectivos) have killed five, three of which were minors. The youngest victim was 14 years old.
Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó, who has been head of state since January but has not been able to exercise his powers because Maduro still controls the military, claimed a week ago that he had finally convinced senior armed forces officers to abandon Maduro. To take back the country, he told Venezuelans, civilians must take the streets and stand alongside the troops that had accepted Guaidó’s command. Maduro responded by announcing a “rectification” of the “Bolivarian Revolution” consisting of culling inconvenient Venezuelans from the population and sending GMB armored vehicles to run unarmed protesters over.
But before that, Maduro took a dance break.
On May 2, Maduro staged a rally to celebrate the passage of the “Law for the Great Mission ‘Youth Gigs,’” allegedly intended to find young Venezuelans work in the nation’s catastrophic economy. In a country where, after two decades of socialist economic management, the currency is worth 6,011.61 bolívars to a dollar and the minimum wage is about $2.99 a month, it was not immediately clear what “gigs” Maduro was promising the youth in his event. The law has not yet passed, but it is guaranteed to as Maduro controls the illegal legislative institution he created, the “National Constituent Assembly” (ANC), to replace the legitimate National Assembly. The ANC does not have the power to pass laws as per the Venezuelan constitution, nor did Maduro explain how his government would implement it.
Disregarding the widespread protests and killings by his troops, Maduro offered a party atmosphere, broadcast to the public through state-run VTV and publicized on Twitter.
Maduro and wife Cilia Flores danced to a song with the lyrics “Nico is the one for me … Maduro president … we reject the international lie.”
Maduro went out of his way to publicize his dancing by posting a clip of it on his Twitter account, instead of choosing any other clip from the event that did not feature his dance moves.
Este #2May compartí un extraordinario encuentro con los muchachos y muchachas de nuestra Patria. Su fuerza y alegría es la viva imagen de la determinación del pueblo venezolano, que se sobrepone ante las dificultades y avanza hacia la construcción de nuestra Venezuela hermosa. pic.twitter.com/uqg3HkUzFw
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) May 3, 2019
Maduro did not maintain his upbeat temperament for long, according to those who watched the entire broadcast. Later in the program, Maduro vowed to “cut the heads off of whoever we need so that they learn to respect our people.”
The first four Venezuelans who lost their proverbial heads for defying Maduro last week were 27-year-old Juribith [or Jurubith] Rausseo; Samuel Méndez, 24; Yosner Graterol, 16, and Yoifre Hernández Vásquez, 14. A fifth child, 15-year-old Yonder Villasmil, was confirmed dead shortly after the dance broadcast on May 3. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground confirmed that all five died after Maduro forces, both GNB and colectivos, shot them to death.
Provea, an NGO documenting human rights abuses in Venezuela, has tallied 58 killings in Venezuela since January 22, when Guaidó took over. The vast majority of these were official government forces shooting unarmed victims to death, though a smaller number were attributable to colectivos and, in one case, a man died of a heart attack watching a pro-Maduro mob loot his business.
State violence under Maduro has remained at those levels, greatly surpassing them at times, since he took over after the death of dictator Hugo Chávez in 2013. Maduro has used his powers on multiple occasions to appear on television dancing, and forcing others to dance, through the crisis. The month of May 2017 – a year when NGOs documented 5,000 killed at the hands of his forces – yielded a particularly prolific dance phase for Maduro on his weekly television program, In Contact with Maduro. A month earlier, Maduro had just launched his “Salsa and Urban Heart” initiative, meant to distract young Venezuelans out of protesting, and used his television platform to declare, “Everyone must dance; whoever doesn’t know how to dance needs to learn.”
More recently, Maduro has taken to displaying his percussive musical talents. In February, Maduro appeared as backup congoist at a government-sponsored salsa concert. That month, he celebrated two years of the “Salsa Heart” initiative.
“It is an achievement of the Revolution that shows the identity and cultural diversity of our beloved Fatherland,” he said on Twitter.
Guaidó insisted this week that his military uprising continues, though he admitted that “there were people who did not do their part” and thus set back the movement. His call for an uprising has reportedly triggered vast confusion in the military, where many soldiers are now unsure whether they should follow orders or if their superiors consider Guaidó or Maduro their commander in chief.