Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro formally endorsed “revolutionary friend” Bernie Sanders for president during a broadcast Tuesday night, suggesting that Sanders would win in a landslide “if the election were free.”
“Bernie Sanders, our revolutionary friend, ought to win in the United States,” Maduro said during his regular TV program, In Contact with Maduro. “If the elections in the United States did not depend on an archaic system from 200 years ago, Bernie Sanders would be president,” he declared, clarifying that he was not speaking as president but as a “geopolitical observer.”
“In the United States, the people do not have social rights,” he continued. “They do not have the right to work, to stability, to a salary, they do not have the right to public health, free quality public education at all levels.”
“American society and youth are looking for a change towards new models,” he insisted. He noted that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton “has turned all her rhetoric towards change and Bernie Sanders said two days ago: if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, the only way to win is to nominate a leftist vice president.”
Venezuelan state TV is downplaying the comments on Sanders and instead highlighting calls by Maduro to start a “new era” in relations with the United States, whom he accused of trying to “recolonize” Latin America. In doing so, Maduro alleged that the American government is squarely at odds with the desires of its people, hence the rise of Bernie Sanders.
Maduro’s accusation that American elections are necessarily fraudulent recalls his own assumption to the presidency of Venezuela. Maduro became interim president in March 2013, following the death of Hugo Chávez, and later won an election European observers deemed fraudulent.
According to Gustavo Palomares, an observer for the European Institute of Higher Study who was in Venezuela during the election, “without a doubt there could have been important alterations regarding the final result [of the elections].” Palomares personally testified to seeing armed pro-socialist individuals allowed to freely loiter around voting stations, threatening voters who preferred the alternative to Maduro, Miranda governor Henrique Capriles Radonski.
Following Maduro’s “victory,” thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets protesting the fraud. Capriles, who is now personally leading the effort to force a recall election against Maduro, at the time called Maduro “illegitimate” and demanded international watchdog groups show solidarity with the Venezuelan people.
Some legislators also found evidence that Maduro may not have been born in Venezuela, but Colombia, making him ineligible to run for president, though Maduro-controlled courts have not investigated the evidence further.
Under Maduro, the nation’s already declining economy has nearly fully collapsed. In February, the nation’s legislature proclaimed a “nutritional emergency,” declaring that the country had run out of food. Lootings in supermarkets and of trucks transporting food have become a violent and daily occurrence nationwide as civilians struggle to find anything from rice to flour to feed their families.