President Donald Trump’s Special Representative for Venezuela, former opponent Elliott Abrams, accused Venezuelan conservative leader María Corina Machado on Monday of indulging in “magical realism” for refusing to ally with socialist opposition members against socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro.
The head of the socialist faction of the anti-Maduro movement in the country, President Juan Guaidó, urged Venezuelans to vote in an upcoming election organized by Maduro to choose new lawmakers for the National Assembly. Those counting the votes and mediating voter disputes would all be Maduro cronies and Maduro has presided over at least five fraudulent elections since assuming power in 2013.
Guaidó had vowed not to participate in the elections a month ago.
Machado — the head of Venezuela’s only major conservative party, Vente Venezuela — said in a video statement published this weekend that she would not join a coalition of socialists and center-left leaders participating in Maduro’s election, coming to the decision after a personal conversation with Guaidó she described as “frank.”
“The country is very clear that we are facing a criminal regime, there is nothing more to consult,” Machado said, rejecting Maduro-run elections. “It is not true that Venezuelans have only to choose between the indefinite permanence of Nicolás Maduro, through electoral farces, or the indefinite permanence of the interim government, through plebiscite consultations.”
Abrams, who has championed Guaidó to President Donald Trump, dismissed Machado’s comments as “magical realism,” a literary concept usually referred to as “magic realism” in which an author weaves dream-like or fantasy concepts into a story otherwise meant to be read as based in the real world.
Asked to respond to Machado in an interview with Venezuela’s NTN24 News, Abrams appeared to challenge the seriousness of her concerns.
“We have an expression in the United States, ‘it’s a free country.’ Of course, Venezuela is not a free country, but María Corina is apparently free to say whatever she likes and I would not try to censor her remarks. But I am reminded of Gabriel García Márquez and the famous magical realism,” Abrams said, referring dismissively to Machado on a first-name basis.
“What it seems to us the opposition needs to do is the very hard work of organizing opposition under a very repressive and brutal regime. And María Corina, seems to me, is calling for a kind of magical plan B that is going to solve all the problems of Venezuela and who is going to do the solving? Foreigners who intervene.”
Abrams then appeared to call Machado lazy.
“Venezuelans understand the nature of the Maduro regime and they understand how hard it is to organize opposition to it. … So the task is very hard but it doesn’t make the task easier when Venezuelan opposition political leaders basically say ‘I don’t want to do that work, I want a magical rescue,'” Abrams asserted.
AVANCE | Elliott Abrams, enviado para #Venezuela del @StateDept pide unidad a @MariaCorinaYA con la oposición: «la tarea es muy difícil pero no la hace más fácil cuando los líderes de la oposición dicen ‘no quiero hacer el trabajo, quiero un rescate mágico’»
— Cuestión de Poder NTN24 (@CPoderNTN24) August 31, 2020
García Márquez — a Colombian, not a Venezuelan — was one of Latin America’s most famous writers, who had close ties to some of the region’s most prominent leftists and remarked in an interview that he sought for Hispanics to build “our own brand of socialism.” Márquez worked for the communist Cuban state propaganda outlet Prensa Latina and reportedly allowed dictator Fidel Castro access to and input into his manuscripts.
Abrams never explains what he took in Machado’s statements to mean that she sought foreigners to invade and solve Venezuela’s problems, or why he would object to such a move given his history of supporting American kinetic ventures in places elsewhere, such as Iraq, Iran, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
He also did not address polls showing as many as 90 percent of Venezuelans would support a foreign military ousting Maduro.
Neither did he clarify what about Machado’s declaration reminded him of magic realism. Examples of magic realism in literature include the man who wakes up to find he is a giant cockroach in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis or Márquez’s self-explanatory “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” neither of which do much to illuminate Abrams’ comparison.
Abrams received his role as top Venezuela diplomat — which he manages in tandem with his newer role as chief diplomat on Iran — after campaigning against Trump in 2016 and spending much of the time after the presidential election that year angling for a job in the State Department. In a column written for the Washington Examiner that year, Abrams posited that Trump’s election was impossible, comparing him to failed 1972 Democrat Party figure George McGovern as “someone who cannot win and should not be president of the United States.”
“Do not allow the Republican convention to be a coronation wherein Trump and Trumpism are unchallenged. There’s no reason others who won many delegates, from Rubio to Cruz to Kasich, should not have their names put in nomination,” Abrams affirmed at the time. “The party needs to be reminded that there are deep divisions, and Trump needs to be reminded of how many in the party oppose and even fear his nomination,” he added.
Abrams made waves years later for urging Trump, who he never expected to attain power, to fire people in his government who would oppose him having a role in the administration he advised Republicans to prevent from existing. Then, in 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his appointment to run Venezuela policy, casting him as a “perfect fit” in a statement backing Guaidó.
Since Abrams assumed office, Guaidó — a 37-year-old novice lawmaker who became president in January 2019 after Maduro’s legal term expired and the legislature voted him into the post — has become increasingly prominent in Trump’s Venezuela policy. Guaidó personally attended Trump’s State of the Union address as a head of state guest this year, receiving a standing ovation. With the United States leading, most nations in the free world have recognized his legitimacy as president.
Guaidó became president as member of Popular Will, a political party that is a full member of the Socialist International. He has since left the party, citing his obligations as president.
Multiple polls taken of the Venezuelan people this summer found that most do not support Guaidó. The Venezuelan polling firm Meganálisis found in July that 78.8 percent of Venezuelans would like to see Trump stop supporting Guaidó. A month later, 82.4 percent of respondents told Meganálisis that they believed Guaidó had “deceived” Trump into supporting him.
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton, one of Guaidó’s biggest supporters in the Trump administration, claimed in his “tell-all” book that Trump himself had reservations about the “kid” being too weak for the job.
María Corina Machado was elected to Venezuela’s National Assembly as a conservative lawmaker in 2011, under dictator Hugo Chávez. In 2014, following Chávez’s death, Maduro’s soldiers chased her out of her own office, attacking her with tear gas until they got her out of the National Assembly building and refusing to let her in again. She has not been able to tend to her job since and instead focused on organizing conservative opposition to Maduro. Machado has suffered several physical attacks since her expulsion, including a gang beating with sticks and pipes in 2018.
She rejected Guaidó’s attempts to dialogue with Maduro last year using nearly the same language with which she rejected his current scheme.
“All us Venezuelans understand that, before a criminal regime, has repeatedly lied to society regarding dialogue, this [the negotiation] has generated enormous concern,” Machado said in May 2015. “It is clear that they mocked the Vatican and Pope Francis. On another occasion, they did it to the foreign ministers of Mexico and Chile. … Every time there is a situation of enormous pressure on the regime close to creating a rupture, these dialogue incentives appear with the only objective to dim and pacify society and internal pressure.”