Far-left Chile president uses leftist conference to call free elections in Venezuela

Chile’s far-left President Gabriel Boric called for “free, fair and transparent” elections for Venezuela and for the release of Nicaragua’s political prisoners during a speech at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on Tuesday.

The heads of state and delegations from the 33 countries that make up the predominantly left-wing CELAC regional bloc gathered in the city of Buenos Aires in Argentina on 23-24. January.

During his roughly 16-minute speech, Boric, on behalf of Chile, expressed his support for a “peaceful, democratic and determined tradition” for the people of Venezuela and its political and humanitarian crisis, which so far has caused over 7 million Venezuelans fleeing socialism in the last decade.

“We express our willingness to cooperate in the dialogue between the different political sectors of the country, to find a solution that will make it possible to hold free, fair and transparent elections, with international supervision, in the year 2024,” Boric said.

Despite his comments regarding Venezuela, Boric cited his equally repressive ally Cuba for offering support to the communist regime against the alleged US “embargo”, stating that “the policy of exclusion does not produce authentic or lasting results.”

“This is demonstrated by the history of our Latin America and the Caribbean with the sinister 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 affecting our people.”

Boric did not meet 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 a failed experience, 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 release of Nicaragua’s political prisoners, stressing that human rights violations must be condemned “regardless of the political character [ideology] of who rules.”

The Chilean far-left president also highlighted “Nicaragua’s duty 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 people be strengthened. “

Human rights groups estimated that the Ortega regime maintains 235 confirmed political prisoners as of November, although the true number is likely to be much higher.

Boric has distinguished himself among his Latin American leftist peers by publicly expressing exasperation with leftists who support repressive regimes because of their socialist leanings – a marked contrast to the message recently inaugurated socialist Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva offered the CELAC conference. During a press conference in Argentina, Lula da Silva expressed his support for 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, must treat Cuba and Venezuela with great affection. To the extent that we can help them solve their problems, we will help, Lula said.

Lula da Silva was narrowly elected president of Brazil for the third time in 2022 and was 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 highest court, the Supreme Federal Court (STF), overturned Lula’s conviction on a legal technicality in 2021.

During his two previous presidential terms (2003-2010), Lula da Silva supported both Venezuela’s socialist regime, at the time led by Hugo Chávez, and the Cuban Castro regime, at the time still led by the murderous dictator Fidel Castro.

Brazil, under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, had withdrawn from CELAC in 2020, accusing the bloc of becoming 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 Brazil’s return to the far-left regional bloc, celebrated as such by the group’s leftist governments.

Unlike 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 abuses committed by the Maduro and Ortega regimes as examples.

“It really pisses me off when you’re from the left, so you condemn human rights violations in, I don’t know, Yemen or El Salvador, but you can’t talk about Venezuela or Nicaragua,” Boric said at a Columbia University event while visited New York in September. “Or Chile! In Chile we had several human rights violations in the social unrest. You don’t have to have double standards.”

His criticism of the Maduro and Ortega regimes has angered both dictators in the past. Maduro has chastised Boric on several occasions, branding the Chilean president as part of a “cowardly left”.

“They are the ones who accuse us of being dictators. I understand that Sebastián Piñera [former president of Chile] do it, I understand that Jair Bolsonaro accuses me, I understand that fascism accuses us,” Maduro so in November. “But from the left, whoever tries to accuse us will have to sit face to face with us to discuss the truth about Venezuela.”

Maduro claimed that such criticism seeks to “normalize attacks” against his socialist regime, Cuba’s communist Castro regime and Nicaragua’s Ortega regime.

The Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega has accused Boric of being a “lapdog” by the US for his continued criticism of him.

“The governments that want to receive the applause of the Yankee empire [United States] and some governments in the European Union are going out there, like lapdogs, to say 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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