Venezuela's dire situation needs no embellishment: Millions are starving. There's hardly any food, no gas, and little medicine. Toilet paper has been scarce for so long that Caracas' airport bathrooms don't even pretend they have any. The dire situation has snowballed into massive protests against President Nicolás Maduro's authoritarian regime, including yesterday's "Mother of All Protests," which brought out hundreds of thousands and left at least three dead.
Amid all of the misery and chaos, $500,000 could go an awfully long way. Think of how many Caracas mothers could feed their families for a month with just a fraction of that sum.
Instead, newly filed federal campaign records show, Maduro's regime gave half a million bucks to Donald Trump to help him throw a party in Washington, D.C. Through the state-owned Citgo Petroleum, Maduro's government dropped that cash to Trump's inaugural committee: one of the largest corporate donations listed on the newly filed federal disclosures.
If it seems odd that a self-branded socialist revolutionary who blames most of his ills on evil American plots would give so much cash to the new U.S. president, it shouldn't. Maduro, though talking tough domestically, has worked hard not to overly antagonize Trump.
What better way to build bridges than a cool half-million dollars to Trump's favorite kind of charity: one dedicated solely to throwing a self-congratulatory party. In all, Trump's committee raised more than $100 million for his inauguration, which — despite what the president insisted — drew less than either of Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremonies.
(A quick review of the disclosures also turn up a handful of generous Miamians: Attorney Stuart Kalb dropped $25,000, financier Bruce Berkowitz chipped in $125,000, former ambassador and GOP sugar daddy Clifford Sobel handed over $100,000, and controversial golf course developer Wayne Rosen added $25,000. The biggest South Florida-tied cash came from the Fanjul sugar barons, whose Florida Crystals gave Trump $500,000).
The image of Maduro-tied bureaucrats chumming it up in D.C. at Trump's white-tablecloth parties could hardly stand in greater contrast to the bedlam in Caracas right now.
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Yesterday hundreds of thousands marched through Caracas and other cities to demand Maduro step down. They were met by riot police, tear gas, and even live ammunition, which killed at least three marchers.
More protests are scheduled today across Venezuela, but Maduro seems unlikely to bend. He vaguely promised new elections yesterday but gave no date when they would happen. Unlike past uprisings in Venezuela, this one seems to be driven by the same poor barrio dwellers who largely formed the base of former President Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian Revolution.