The far-left President of Chile Gabriel Boric called for “free, fair, and transparent” elections for Venezuela and for the liberation of Nicaragua’s political prisoners during a speech at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit on Tuesday.
The heads of state and delegations of the 33 countries that form the predominantly leftist CELAC regional bloc gathered in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina on January 23-24.
During his roughly 16-minute speech, Boric manifested on behalf of Chile his support of a “peaceful, democratic, and determined tradition” for the people of Venezuela and its political and humanitarian crisis, which has so far have caused over 7 million Venezuelans to flee socialism over the past decade.
“We express our willingness to collaborate in the dialogue between the different political sectors of the country, to find a solution that allows the holding of free, fair, and transparent elections, with international supervision, in the year 2024,” Boric said.
Despite his comments regarding Venezuela, Boric mentioned its equally repressive ally Cuba to offer support to the communist regime against the alleged American “embargo” by stating that “the policy of exclusion does not offer authentic or lasting results.”
“This is demonstrated by the history of our Latin America and the Caribbean with the ignominious blockade of the United States on Cuba and more recently on Venezuela,” Boric said. “In the end, those who pay are always the poorest. Exclusion and isolation are not a solution to the problems that afflict our peoples.”
Boric did not meet with Castro regime figurehead Miguel Díaz-Canel, also present at the summit.
Unlike other leftist presidents in the region who have expressed support for dictator Nicolás Maduro and the authoritarian socialist regime, Boric — a self-declared Marxist who has referred to his politics as “to the left” of his nation’s Communist Party — has openly criticized Maduro and his socialist regime. A year ago, Boric described the Maduro regime as a “failed experience.”
“Venezuela is an experience that has rather failed and the main demonstration of its failure is the six million Venezuelans in the diaspora,” Boric said at the time.
Boric was also openly critical of the Nicaraguan regime of socialist dictator Daniel Ortega for its continued human rights abuses. During his speech, Boric called for the liberation of Nicaragua’s political prisoners, emphasizing that human rights abuses must be condemned “regardless of the political sign [ideology] of who governs.”
The Chilean far-left president also highlighted “the duty of Nicaragua to move towards the freedom of political prisoners — opponents who are still detained in undignified conditions — because only with freedom and dignity can democracy and the well-being of our peoples be strengthened.”
Human rights groups estimated that the Ortega regime maintains 235 confirmed political prisoners as of November, though the true number is likely to be much higher.
Boric has distinguished himself among his Latin American leftist peers by expressing irritation publicly with leftists who support repressive regimes because of their socialist leanings – a significant contrast to the message recently inaugurated socialist Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva offered to the CELAC conference. During a press conference in Argentina, Lula da Silva expressed his support of the Maduro and Castro regimes while encouraging other Latin American leaders to treat both with “great affection.”
“Brazil, especially Brazil, and the countries that make up CELAC, have to treat Cuba and Venezuela with great affection. Insofar as we can help them solve their problems, we will help,” Lula said.
Lula da Silva was narrowly elected president of Brazil for a third time in 2022 and inaugurated on January 1. The hardline socialist was arrested in 2018 and later sentenced to over two decades in prison for alleged corruption — until Brazil’s top court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), overturned Lula’s convictions on a legal technicality in 2021.
During his previous two presidential terms (2003-2010), Lula da Silva was supportive of both Venezuela’s socialist regime, at the time led by Hugo Chávez, and the Cuban Castro regime, at the time still led by murderous dictator Fidel Castro.
Brazil, under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, had withdrawn from CELAC in 2020, accusing the bloc of having become a “stage” for countries with authoritarian governments such as Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua and chastising CELAC for its “inability to protect democracy.”
The return of Lula da Silva to power also marked the return of Brazil to the far-left regional bloc, celebrated as such by the group’s leftist governments.
In contrast to Lula, Boric has repeatedly condemned not just authoritarian leftist regimes, but leftists who refuse to condemn human rights abuses committed by other leftist leaders, citing the human rights violations committed by the Maduro and Ortega regimes as examples.
“It really pisses me off when you are from the left, so you condemn the violation of human rights in, I don’t know, Yemen or El Salvador, but you cannot talk about Venezuela or Nicaragua,” Boric said at an event in Columbia University while visiting New York in September. “Or Chile! In Chile, we had several human rights violations in the social unrest. You don’t have to have a double standard.”
— Monitoreamos (@monitoreamos) September 23, 2022
His criticisms of the Maduro and Ortega regimes have drawn the ire of both dictators in the past. Maduro has chastised Boric on several occasions, branding the Chilean president as being part of a “cowardly left.”
“There are those who accuse us of being dictators. I understand that Sebastián Piñera [former president of Chile] does it, I understand that Jair Bolsonaro accuses me, I understand that fascism accuses us,” Maduro said in November. “But, from the left, whoever tries to accuse us will have to sit face to face with us to debate the truth of Venezuela.”
Maduro claimed that such criticism seeks to “normalize attacks” against his socialist regime, Cuba’s communist Castro regime, and Nicaragua’s Ortega regime.
Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega has accused Boric of being a “lapdog” of the United States for his continued criticism against him.
“The governments that want to receive applause from the Yankee empire [United States] and some governments of the European Union go out there, like lapdogs, to speak that the political prisoners in Nicaragua must be set free,“ Ortega said during an official event in September.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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