Let’s say the U.S. representative to the Organization of American States – the Washington-based diplomatic body that embraces the western hemisphere – appears on a television talk show. And let’s say he makes this neanderthal remark about members of a rival political party:
“When a sniper shoots them in the head it makes a quieter sound, like a click, because their cranial cavities are hollow, so the bullet passes through faster.”
The outrage from Alaska to Argentina, and rightly so, would be deafening. So would the clamor for his removal. Indignant Latin American governments would demand to know how a brutish gringo like that could be allowed to serve in an inter-American arena like the OAS.
But! If the guy who made the remark represents the socialist government of Venezuela, he apparently gets a pass.
Roy Chaderton, Venezuela’s OAS ambassador, issued that dreadful quip about his country’s political opposition on a TV show this week.
Worse, he said it just weeks after a 14-year-old student was fatally shot in the head by a Venezuelan police officer during an anti-government protest in the Andean city of San Cristóbal.
Chaderton on Thursday conceded his "black humor" was "perhaps an error."
But only "perhaps." At the same time, don't expect a peep of criticism from the OAS's Latin American cohort. Because, well, that would be insensitive intervention in the sovereign affairs of a neighboring nation – especially a nation run by a left-wing revolution that stands up to the imperialists in Washington.
And don’t bother raising the hypocrisy issue – that a U.S. diplomat would be held to a much more severe standard. That argument just shows you’re a bourgeois norteamericano who doesn’t get Latin America.
I may not be a fan of Venezuela's authoritarian revolution, but I'm certainly no shill for Venezuela’s political opposition, either. I’ve written often about its incompetence – especially how astonishingly clueless some of its yuppier leaders are about the country’s poor and how to reach out to them.
Still, Chaderton’s rhetoric – and the message it sends to more radical pro-government militants that their foes are subhuman – is inexcusable.
What’s more, it’s all too sadly typical of left-wing discourse in Venezuela.
It recalls, in fact, the repellant vitriol we’re all too used to hearing on the right-wing airwaves in the U.S. It can be just as ideologically intolerant, not to mention just as homophobic, sexist, anti-Semitic…you name it.
Let’s start with the way Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro likes to slur Henrique Capriles.
Capriles is one of the more capable opposition leaders and the man who almost defeated Maduro in the special 2013 presidential campaign to succeed the revolution’s founder, the late Hugo Chávez.
Capriles is also, at age 42, unmarried. Maduro and the Chavistas, as Venezuela’s socialists are known, have taken that as a green light to publicly question Capriles’ sexual orientation, the sort of thing that unfortunately still plays well in Latin American politics.
Maduro once labeled Capriles "a fascist faggot." When Capriles last month cited the chronic shortage of milk in Venezuela, Maduro shot back with a vulgar, milk-related colloquialism to suggest Capriles is gay.
THE REVOLUTION'S RUSH LIMBAUGH
Capriles is also a favorite target of the Chavistas’ best known tele-bully, Mario Silva – the revolution’s answer to Rush Limbaugh.
In 20012 Silva went so far as to claim on his aptly named TV show “La Hojilla” (The Razor Blade) that he had proof Capriles was once arrested for engaging in oral sex with another man at a Caracas park. Silva even held up what he said was a police report. The Caracas cops later called the document bogus; but the lie of course got traction among Chavistas.
Silva’s other favorite cudgel is anti-Semitism, which has a long if ironic history on the international left. He once denounced two student opposition leaders by noting their Jewish-sounding surnames. “Right away,” he said, “you can see the problem.”
Silva actually ran afoul of the revolution a couple years ago when he was caught on tape criticizing Maduro and other Chavista brass. Since then he'd been on hiatus. But it’s a sign of Maduro’s desperation – his approval rating sits just above 20 percent as Venezuela's oil-rich economy collapses – that Silva and “La Hojilla” are now back on state-run television.
Chaderton’s remark is another – as is the way the young hosts of the pro-government talk show he was on, Zurda Konducta, nodded in agreement with him. They approved because they too believe the Chavista nonsense that a U.S. military invasion of Venezuela is imminent. And that justifies ugly wisecracks about bullets and their opponents’ skulls.
If you don’t get that, well, you’re obviously just too bourgeois.
Tim Padgett is WLRN's Americas editor. You can read more of his coverage here.