On Friday, July 2, a delegation from the Democratic Socialists of America embraced the Venezuelan dictator, Nicolas Maduro. This was no rump group; a news report says the delegation included “the chairperson of the National Political Committee of the DSA, members of the International Committee, and members of the organization's Political Formation, Foreign Policy and Bilateral Relations sections.”
Support for the Maduro dictatorship is not new for DSA. In 2016, the organization issued a statement of solidarity with the Maduro regime, and called on then-president Barack Obama to end all sanctions against it.
No one can be in doubt about the brutal and undemocratic nature of the Maduro regime, in 2016 or since. The 2020 parliamentary election was rejected as neither free nor fair by the European Union, International Contact Group, OAS, United States, and every other observer.
Amnesty International’s most recent report on Venezuela begins this way:
The continuing human rights crisis in Venezuela saw further reports of extrajudicial executions, excessive use of force and unlawful killings by the security forces during the year. People expressing criticism of government policies – including political activists, journalists and health workers – were subjected to repressive measures including criminalization, unfair trials and arbitrary detention. There were reports of torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearance of those arbitrarily detained. Human rights defenders were stigmatized and faced obstacles in carrying out their work…. The UN Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Venezuela established there were reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela since 2014 and that President Maduro and senior military and ministerial figures ordered or contributed to the crimes documented in its report.
The most recent report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former Chilean president Michele Bachelet, states that her office (OHCHR):
continued to receive credible allegations of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. OHCHR received some accounts of beatings, electric shocks, sexual violence and threats of rape....Previously identified patterns of enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention persisted....
OHCHR continued to document restrictions to fundamental freedoms limiting the civic and democratic space. The work of civil society organizations and the media was impeded through regulatory and administrative restrictions, with some members thereof facing criminal prosecution related to their work.
OHCHR recorded 97 incidents related to human rights defenders, including journalists, union leaders, human rights activists and civil society organizations....Human rights defenders, civil society representatives, independent journalists and media workers were branded as “criminals” or “terrorists”
That report was issued last week—just as the DSA delegation was embracing Maduro. The only word to describe this is grotesque.
On July 2, Maduro's police moved once more against human rights activists. Reuters reported that:
Police arrested Javier Tarazona, director of Venezuelan human rights non-governmental group FundaRedes, two days after he held a news conference in Caracas alleging links between members of the government and illegal armed groups from Colombia.
This happened while the DSA delegation was in Venezuela. They said nothing.
There are two DSA members in Congress, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Neither has ever uttered a single word of criticism of the Maduro regime, and now the DSA has given him its endorsement.
The term “Orwellian” is over-used these days, but it surely applies here. The DSA web site says “Our vision pushes further than historic social democracy and leaves behind authoritarian visions of socialism in the dustbin of history.” That line ought to be re-written now: “We rescue authoritarian visions of socialism from the dustbin of history” would be far more accurate.
Democratic Socialism exists, and is represented globally by the Socialist International--established in 1951 and grouping 134 socialist, labor, and social democratic parties. On democracy in Venezuela, the group had this to say last year about the farcical "parliamentary elections" Maduro held:
The Socialist International once again raises its voice to express its resolute support for and solidarity with the people of Venezuela, and with its democratic forces that have once again seen their freedoms and rights seriously violated by the dictatorial regime of Nicolás Maduro, this time with the illegitimate elections that were held yesterday.
The Socialist International slogan is "Progressive Politics for a Fairer World." Its "Declaration of Principles" says this:
[I]t is only possible to speak of democracy if people have a free choice between various political alternatives in the framework of free elections; if there is a possibility for a change of government by peaceful means based on the free will of the people; if individual and minority rights are guaranteed; and, if there is an independent judicial system based on the rule of law impartially applied to all citizens....Individual rights are fundamental to the values of socialism. Democracy and human rights are also the substance of popular power, and the indispensable mechanism whereby people can control the economic structures which have so long dominated them. Without democracy, social policies cannot disguise the dictatorial character of a government....For socialists, democracy is of its very nature pluralist, and this pluralism provides the best guarantee of its vitality and creativity....Freedom from arbitrary and dictatorial government is essential....
For Venezuelans, it is tragic that visitors from the so-called "Democratic Socialists of America" ignore and violate these principles, instead shamefully giving their support to a vicious, brutal dictatorship.