Isaías Rodríguez, a longtime prominent figure in Venezuela’s socialist regime, quit his post as dictator Nicolás Maduro’s “ambassador” to Rome, publishing an open letter to the dictator circulating in Spanish-language media on Tuesday that claimed his wife was forced to “sell jewelry her ex-husband gave her” to survive.
Rodríguez asserted that he remains a loyal socialist and supports Maduro, blaming the United States for placing personal sanctions on him that made it impossible for him to maintain the standard of living that he had achieved working to repress political dissidents as late socialist strongman Hugo Chávez’s attorney general. While refusing to question socialism, he asked in the letter, in an underhanded criticism of Maduro’s closest advisers: “Is the church failing, or is it God?”
“With immense respect for the dignified and brave battle that you have waged against the declining empire [the United States], I am directing myself to you to present my resignation as Ambassador for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela before the Republic of Italy,” Rodríguez wrote. “I can’t take it anymore! The embassy I represent has been disrespected and I am 77 years old”:
I am leaving [my position] with no resentment and no money. My wife just sold the jewelry her ex-husband gave her so that we could sustain ourselves before the American blockade. I am trying to get rid of the car I bought when I arrived at the embassy and, as you know, I do not have a bank account, because the gringos sanctioned me and the Italian bank expelled me. They put my honestly on a pike, but when I die they will know exactly how much I left to my children. … I cling fiercely to chavismo with absolute faith, as if it were a wooden plank floating in this sea of contradictions surrounding your government.
Rodríguez goes on to say that, under his leadership, the Venezuelan embassy in Italy has accrued nearly nine million euros of debt. Maduro’s regime has failed to pay the employees at the embassy or rent for the building.
Critics on social media blasted the letter, calling it “corny” and “melodramatic” and condemning him for human rights abuses he committed as Hugo Chávez’s attorney general, a job he held before leaving to Rome. “The only thing Isaías didn’t do was set up a Go Fund Me,” Mario Massone, Juan Guaidó’s ambassador to Romania, joked on Twitter.
“What a melodramatic letter from Isaías Rodríguez. Those who don’t know him can buy it. Fortunately, we saw him act as attorney general under Chávez, and we remember how he complied with all the crap he [Chávez] wanted,” Enrique Aristeguieta, a longtime Venezuelan political figure who Maduro temporarily detained last year, at age 84, remarked.
Rodríguez came under U.S. sanctions in November 2017 for his close ties to the Maduro regime. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, he and others sanctioned at the time “are associated with undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela.”
Resigning from his post will not end the sanctions against him. Rodríguez was acting as an envoy for the illegal Maduro regime, which does not constitutionally rule Venezuela. Maduro’s tenure as president of Venezuela ended in January, when his last term ended and the National Assembly swore in Juan Guaidó as the nation’s president. Guaidó is offering amnesty to Maduro loyalists who defect and help him re-establish the rule of law. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said this month that, abiding by Guaidó’s amnesty, the United States would lift sanctions on “all those who step forward, stand up for the constitution, and support the rule of law.” So far, only one Maduro loyalist – former secret police chief Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera – has taken the offer.
While Rodríguez has worked from Rome since the year he was sanctioned, he has a long trajectory of working for the Venezuelan socialist regime. Once a member of the socialist Democratic Action party, Rodríguez later joined the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Chávez’s outfit. He served as the nation’s vice president for a short time in 2000 before being appointed attorney general, responsible for the persecution of anti-Chávez political activists. He notably oversaw the imprisonment and torture of three members of the opposition accused with little evidence of killing Danilo Anderson, a chavista prosecutor killed by a car bomb in 2004.
Rodríguez would go on to serve for a short time in the “national constituent assembly,” a counterfeit legislature Maduro fabricated to override the National Assembly, before becoming ambassador to Rome. He has denied the existence of a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and accused the United States of waging a “war for oil” against the country.
Rodríguez, a self-style poet, also claimed to communicate with Chávez posthumously following his death in 2013.
“We had a mental communication. I have no doubts. It is a mystical experience,” he reportedly claimed.