By Eduardo Sanchez
The late Hugo Chávez was widely know in Latin America and the rest of the world for being a fierce promoter of socialism and a revolution of the oppressed people of Venezuela. His successor, Nicolás Maduro has been a long-time believer in Chávez’s project and has continued this tradition, advancing a similar rhetoric.
Maduro’s discourse surely advances the notions of the need for a united nation and patriotic believers in Chávez socialist project for Venezuela. Certain images are needed to garner support especially among the civilian population. In this context, the need for a common enemy (or even a variety of enemies) is an important factor in the discourse of exclusion. Moreover, the inflamed nationalistic and patriotic messages are also charged with the language of the need for a political-economic system that is clearly at odds with the majority of the world.
He portrays capitalism as one of the world’s greatest evils and needless to say it is directly equated to the opposition. His adversaries are also tagged with the word “fascists” (which appears consistently on his Twitter messages, 6 times in October – example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4, example 5, example 6). The use of these negative images from some of the most authoritarian and destructive regimes in Europe reminds his followers of those who attempt against their liberties and who want to promote capitalism in the citizen’s disfavor.
While Maduro’s administration has redirected resources in favor of social needs, the economic distortions resulting from the state’s tight control on revenues and social programs have undoubtedly affected the economy. However, these consequences are once again blamed on the opposition, the capitalist “bourgeoisie” and countries like the United States. He has even advanced the notion of these actors implementing a well-planned and cohesive “economic war” against the government, the Venezuelan economy, and the people.
Maduro’s trademark initiative “Government of the Streets” (Gobierno de Calle) is deeply embedded with a revolutionary rhetoric and putting socialism ahead of any other system to guarantee the wellbeing of the citizens. It intends to make decision-making processes more inclusive in line with some of the basic premises of socialism. He has used this social media platform to inform about the highlights of the program as well as reaching out to the people in a combination of accountability and inclusion. “Government of the Streets” has even become a hashtag #GobiernoDeCalleCaminoDeChavez used by government officials and has an officially sanctioned Twitter account (@GobDeCalle) that goes further into specific details. It is therefore that the initiative is also one of the prominent themes in Maduro’s Twitter feed.
The discourse of the Venezuelan president constantly hails other leaders around the world such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and China’s key political figures, who are also in line with criticisms to capitalism (at times in a less confrontational manner than that put forward by Maduro). This helps in reinforcing the notions of inclusion and exclusion to strengthen the relationships with these specific political and economic partners.
Social media has become an important avenue to spread Maduro’s revolutionary message, being instrumental in both highlighting the government’s successes and the forging of the image of the “other” in the opposition, outside actors, and political-economic-social systems at odds with the Bolivarian version of socialism for Venezuela.