Either this is eight-dimensional chess by Maduro or proof that he’s an idiot about more than just macroeconomics. He brought Ramos in, I assume, because he thought he saw a propaganda opportunity in being able to speak directly to Latinos in the U.S. via Univision. But Ramos didn’t pull punches with his questions, to his credit; he’s far left on immigration but not so far left on everything that he’ll join American progressives in excuse-making for Venezuela’s dictator. It’s strange that Maduro’s staff wouldn’t have done their homework about him beforehand, knowing that there’d be no elegant way to disengage if the interview turned confrontational.
But it’s moronic of Maduro to have let it backfire completely by seizing Ramos’s equipment in a huff and detaining him for several hours. When you’re putting on a show for Americans about how you’re not an autocrat, one thing you probably want to avoid is … detaining a famous reporter for asking hard questions and stealing his stuff. The best Maduro’s team could do afterward to spin what happened was mumble something about Ramos being in cahoots with the State Department. That’s our Jorge — always doing favors for his pal, Donald Trump.
Venezuela hawks instantly began touting the incident as further evidence, in case more was needed, that Maduro’s a bad guy whom the region would be better off without. (Hannity, who has Ramos on occasionally as a guest, picked up the story immediately during his show last night.) Which brings me to the eight-dimensional chess theory: Does Maduro want to antagonize the U.S.? Treating Juan Guaido’s claim to power as an American-backed coup attempt is one way for him to leverage local suspicions about American designs on South America. As tensions with the U.S. increase, that theory is destined to seem more plausible to some Venezuelans. Detaining Ramos was one small way to encourage further hostility from the United States, which Maduro can put to good propaganda use.
The breaking point in their interview, says Ramos, was when he showed Maduro video of three Venezuelan men foraging for food in the back of a garbage truck. You can watch that footage here. It’s in Spanish with no subtitles but the sight of people eating literal garbage to survive doesn’t require much exposition. Read this recent New Yorker piece for a sense of how grim the situation is, and what caused it. Quote: “It’s not due to droughts, or floods. The situation is purely political.”