Socialist Venezuelan President “Saint” Nicolás Maduro officially declared that Christmas started November 1 and lasted until he said so. Perhaps this made him feel it was excusable to leave his nation on Christmas week proper to spend it with Raúl Castro, while the Archbishop of Caracas condemns his “political apartheid.”
Maduro posted pictures online this week allegedly of former Cuba tyrant Fidel Castro and his successor Raúl by his side, as he made his way to Havana for the holiday– an unannounced visit after his previous trip to Cuba last week. The meeting, according to the EFE, involved discussion of Maduro’s Socialist Bolivarian Party winning municipal elections last night and “victories” in general of international socialism. While not an unexpected destination for Maduro, who also visited Cuba last year under Hugo Chávez’s auspices, it is a place in which anyone less well-connected than the president of Venezuela could find themselves in grave trouble with the government for celebrating Christmas. Christian leaders who host official religious services are often the target of persecution by the Cuban government, which is Marxist and officially atheist and anti-religion.
Like every good dictator’s Christmas Cheer Meet and Greet, this one included a gift exchange. “I brought him the complete works of General [Daniel Florencio] O’Leary about our Liberator,” Maduro said of his gift to Castro on his Twitter account, later republished on Venezuelan state media. Maduro made with some gifts of his own, too, at a separate event on the island. Rene Gonzalez, the only member of the Cuban Five spy group currently free, gave the Venezuelan premier a gigantic painting of Hugo Chavez and his daughter, made by Cuban Five member Antonio Guerrero, still serving a prison sentence in the United States. Maduro also released footage of himself sitting around with the Cuban president.
Meanwhile, back in the country Maduro is actually in charge of, the tenuous political situation has the nation’s Christian leadership concerned. “We can’t keep going the way we are,” Archbishop of Caracas Jorge Urosa Savino told national Venezuelan paper El Universal. While moderately praising Maduro’s choice to meet with opposition leadership last week, the Archbishop suggested that the state’s treatment of opposition was dangerous and unhealthy for the nation. “In a line of confrontation and exclusion of those who disagree with you, in a species of political apartheid, we cannot continue,” he warned.
Aside from declaring the beginning of the Christmas season on November 1, Maduro used his near-infinite decree powers this week to force small businesses to keep prices down during the shopping season. Venezuela has faced an increasingly desperate economic situation throughout the year since Maduro’s ascent to power in March, with Venezuelans struggling to find toilet paper and fearing an exorbitant gas price hike for an oil-rich nation used to very inexpensive prices.