Throughout November, Scripps College has been hosting and funding more speakers heavily praising Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela. This series is the third semester in a row in which Scripps has hosted talks extolling the virtues of Venezuela’s government; this small women-only liberal arts college in Claremont, California also hosted and funded speakers openly in support of the Maduro regime during the spring 2018 semester and last fall. This semester’s talks took place on November 4, 5, 19 and 29.
In the past two semesters Venezuelan government officials spoke at this event series, causing Scripps to receive backlash from across the country, including a rebuke from US Senator Marco Rubio. This semester, no Venezuelan officials spoke at the talks.
The talks include a “Zapatismo 101 Workshop,” described as a “crash-course, introductory contact with the Zapatista movement.” The Zapatistas are a far-left political and militant group that controls Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico.
Other talks include “Bolivia’s economic miracle and Indigenous-led change,” “Gendered Perspectives on Black Venezuela in a Socialist Age,” and “Africa’s Cuba: Black Liberation, Women & Socialism.”
According to posters circulated, the Scripps Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Gender, Feminist and Sexuality Studies Departments sponsored the series, as well as the Scripps Dean of Faculty Funds.
A correspondent from the Independent was able to attend a Nov. 5 talk by Jeanette Charles entitled “Venezuela’s Black Majority in 2018: Elections and Reparations.” Charles is an alumna of Scripps College, graduating in 2010. Charles has also worked as a journalist for teleSur—a Latin-American news organization primarily funded by the far-left governments of Venezuela and Cuba.
The talk started with Charles explaining that in “the past few decades Venezuela has been exploited by US economic exploitation,” adding that Maduro’s regime is part of a global movement to “move away from American and European hegemony.”
During the question and answer session, one student asked why Venezuela should be supported despite having a severe “lack of basic resources” for its people and that the regime didn’t allow its main opposition to run for office in the recent May 2018 election.
Charles’s response largely avoided the second part of the student’s question. Addressing food shortages, she replied “[food shortages are] caused by by Venezuelan private companies that don’t cooperate with the government,” and added that many such companies are owned by “people of primarily Italian or Portuguese ancestry,” implying racism against non-Caucasians may play a factor in the lack of resources provided to Venezuelans. She insisted that “capitalism isn’t working—so we have to ask what are we willing to do?” in defence of Maduro’s socialist policies, and argued that “we have to be prepared to face challenges.”
This appraisal for Maduro’s socialist regime comes despite the country facing a 34.3% unemployment rate, a 1,370,000% inflation rate—the highest in the world—and 61% of Venezuelans living in extreme poverty. Venezuela has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, and other countries such as the Gulf States with far less reserves have been able to use their oil resources to become some of the richest states in the world. When referring to the deceased Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s predecessor and fellow socialist, she described him as “physically dead”—suggesting he is immortal and even god-like.
Another student at the event asked why there were so many Venezuelan refugees if the Venezuelan government is successful and is doing good for its people. Charles responded by insisting that “Venezuelan refugees aren’t real refugees,” because they soon realize that life is harder in a capitalist society. She also claimed that these expatriates sometimes speak on state television upon their return, telling their fellow citizens “if you think it’s easier outside, you’re wrong.” While admitting that millions of Venezuelans have left the country in recent years, she asserted that “lots of them come back,” but failed to give even a ballpark estimate of this amount.
Scripps College is a member of the Claremont Colleges consortium, which also includes Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, and Pitzer Colleges.
Aaryaman Sheoran, a junior at Claremont McKenna College, told the Independent after hearing about the event that “lending any credibility to the Venezuelan government is wrong. It has purged it’s political opponents, created an illegitimate rump legislation, and caused large scale hyperinflation. Any defence of such a government is wrong not only morally but entirely lacking in facts.”
“You shouldn’t stop people from speaking just because they have a different opinion,” said another student on the condition of anonymity. “Clearly this speaker was controversial, but we have free speech so views like hers can be heard, but that should work both ways. I’d like to see more pro-capitalist and conservative controversial speakers in Claremont, too.”
This comes after Scripps refused to allow the Independent to bring Andrew Klavan, a prominent conservative, to speak in Claremont, while continuing to host defenders of Maduro’s regime on campus.
Photo: Flickr/Joka Madruga
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