A video surfacing online of Nicolás Maduro Guerra, son of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, dancing in a shower of dollar bills at the wedding of an elite business owner has outraged the nation. Maduro Guerra, who himself is a public official in his father’s repressive socialist government, has become a prime target of the opposition on social media over the embarrassing display.
The video first appeared on YouTube through an outlet called “VVPeriodistas,” alleging to be a collective of journalists related to the network Venevisión who have turned against the censorship of Maduro’s state. The video was allegedly taken at the wedding of José Zalt, a Syrian-Venezuelan businessman whose family owns the Wintex clothing brand. The wedding took place at the lavish Gran Meliá Hotel in Caracas; Argentine news outlet Infobae explains that showering guests in money is a traditional part of Arab wedding celebrations.
On their Twitter account, VVPeriodistas posted a message they received from YouTube indicating that they had received a “privacy” complaint about the video, and that without a sufficiently convincing rebuttal, the video would be removed. The result was the mass duplication of the video and publication on several international outlets in Mexico, Argentina, Peru, and elsewhere in Latin America.
— VVSincensura (@VVperiodistas) March 17, 2015
The outlet Periodista Digital alleges that Maduro Guerra was drunk during the celebration, and followed a multi-hour military parade intended to display to the world Venezuela’s military might in light of sanctions the White House imposed against it this month.
The images of Maduro’s son celebrating with money to spare has struck a cord in a nation ravaged by socialist economic policies that have made it nearly impossible to acquire basic goods such as vegetable oil and laundry detergent. New rationing systems intended to ensure Venezuelans distribute resources evenly have created grocery lines that can last for five hours, a problem that has created an industry all its own: professional standers-in-line who are paid to buy groceries. Others seeking to buy butter or milk have resorted to illegal “pop-up” markets that appear in streets outside until they get raided by police; in these markets, buyers use what they purchased with their ration cards to barter with others who acquired a different set of goods.
Amidst this poverty, the image of the President’s son–who is also the chief of the Special Inspectors Body of the Presidency, the head of the National Film School of Venezuela, and a legislator in the National Assembly as a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV)–rejecting socialism in an outward embrace of money has shaken the nation. The image is particularly jarring following several similar scandals involving the children of deceased caudillo Hugo Chávez.
In 2011, Rosinés Chávez, the dictator’s youngest daughter, caused a stir in the nation by embracing capitalist icon Justin Bieber in a photograph. She did it again a year later by posting a photograph of herself holding a large fan of American dollar bills.
Chávez’s eldest daughter, María Gabriela, and her sister, Virginia, refused to move out of Miraflores Palace, the President’s estate, for months after her father’s death, leaving President Maduro with no choice but to continue residing in the less affluent vice presidential estate. Adding insult to injury, Maduro’s vice president, Jorge Arreaza, is the father of two of Virginia’s children, and as such maintains something of a presence at the palace, though the frequency of his visits is disputed. Miraflores is maintained through taxpayer funding.
An investigation released in August 2014 found that the children of Chávez and Maduro combined spent a total of $3.6 million a day, most of it from government coffers.