On Monday—amid the Venezuelan presidential crisis in which human rights activists and international observers accused Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro of an illegitimate election—Scripps College hosted two pro-Maduro speakers to defend the regime against perceived foreign intervention in the country’s crisis. Scripps has previously hosted pro-Maduro officials and speakers three times, including during last November. Scripps, a women-only college, is part of the Claremont Colleges consortium—a group of elite liberal arts colleges in Southern California.
Titled “Venezuela is Irrevocably Free,” the event celebrated the endurance of socialist dictator, Nicolas Maduro. The college hosted two speakers at the talk: Akinyele Umoja and Jeanette Charles. Charles is a very familiar face at Scripps College, speaking in November, actively and enthusiastically defending the Venezuelan Maduro regime. Umoja is “a co-founder of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement,” and “participated in the International Reparations Summit and witnessed Venezuela’s ratification of the UN Decade of African Descendants.”
According to the event poster, “supporters of Washington’s attempted coup have organized bursts of terrorist violence. They are dangerous people: in 2017 they orchestrated the burning alive of Black youth, among them…on the suspicion that the youth were socialists.” Maduro’s United Socialist Party has been the dominant force since 2007.
“Venezuela is 60% ‘Afro descended.’ Its people have supported the revolutionary process and their constitution in 23 out of 25 elections since 1998…Majority Black regions in Venezuela have supplied the highest vote tallies for socialist programs and candidates. They also disproportionately risk their lives to defend the revolution when it comes under attack,” the poster adds.
The sponsors of the event—including the Chiapas Support Committee, Latin American & Caribbean Studies at Scripps, and Latin American Studies and the Draper Fund at Pomona College, another college in the Claremont Colleges consortium—describe the event as “[a] talk on the attempted coup in Socialist Venezuela.”
Following the recent diplomatic severance between the United States and Venezuela, along with Washington no longer recognizing Maduro as the legitimate leader of the country, Umoja and Charles defended Maduro at the event, arguing that the United States is trying “to dictate to a sovereign people.” This accusation comes despite Maduro being a de facto dictator, along with widespread civil unrest and food shortages. Both the United States and Canada under Justin Trudeau, along with a host of other countries including those in the European Union, have denounced Maduro and recognized Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaidó or the assembly which he heads as the legitimate leader of the country.
Umoja and Charles also emphasized the ramifications of the situation for the black community of Venezuela, claiming that they “disproportionately risk their lives to defend their revolution when it comes under attack,” with revolution referring to an authoritarian regime that has ruled the country for 20 years.
One main premise of the event was that the struggles of the Bolivarian socialist regime are due to the US is trying to overthrow Maduro, or “stop the revolution,” to get more influence in the region. Roughly two-thirds of Venezuelans now live in severe poverty due to appalling economic malpractice, resulting in hyperinflation and severe shortages of essential resources such as food and medicine.
When one student, who attends Claremont Graduate University—a graduate school within the Claremont Colleges consortium—was shown the poster, he remarked to the Independent on the condition of anonymity that “the delusion about Venezuela here is incredible, totally divorced from reality,” adding even that “[the talk] would be funnier if people’s lives and an entire country’s ability to function weren’t at stake.” The student also argued that “these people [the speakers] are the same sort of people who would have defended Khmer Rouge back in the 70s.” Khmer Rouge, a communist regime lead by Pol Pot, oversaw the genocide of a third of Cambodia’s population.
Such repeated events call into question not only Scripps’ political affiliation, but even their stance on free speech, following the college’s barring of conservative speaker Andrew Klavan from talking on campus last academic year after the Independent attempted to invite Klavan to speak.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons