Venezuelan socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro said during a radio broadcast on Thursday that he was applying for a U.S. visa to attend a salsa music festival in New York City next month, omitting that the U.S. government has not only sanctioned him but is offering up to $15 million for information leading to his arrest on charges of drug trafficking.
Maduro made the remarks on his radio program Salsa Time – which he launched in 2016 but had been on hiatus, and he rebranded this week as Salsa and Happiness Time. His remarks follow reports, citing senior officials in the administration of President Joe Biden, that the White House is planning to lift sanctions on Maduro’s repressive regime. Specifically, the reports claimed that Biden would allow the oil corporation Chevron to engage in negotiations with Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Maduro’s state-run oil company, and Biden would lift sanctions on Maduro’s nephew, a former PDVSA official.
Maduro has governed Venezuela since the death of socialist dictator Hugo Chávez in a tenure marked by the mass killing of children, torture and disappearance of political dissidents, and widespread malnutrition (which Venezuelans, including Maduro, refer to with the euphemism “the Maduro diet”). The Maduro regime has taken no significant action to improve the quality of life of Venezuelans – citizens of a country that was Latin America’s wealthiest before the socialists took power – but regularly engages in ostentatious displays of wealth, including broadcasting Maduro gorging on a lavish birthday cake and visiting the wildly overpriced restaurants of Nusret Gökçe, a Turkish communist chef known as “Salt Bae.”
Venezuelan state media relaunched Salsa and Happiness Time on Thursday, claiming it to be a necessary “space for maintaining contact with the people.”
In this week’s broadcast, Maduro expressed interest in traveling to New York for a “Puerto Rican salsa festival,” responding to his cohost listing several international salsa events scheduled to occur in the near future.
“So we have to go to New York then? Well, alright then. I’m asking for my visa to go to New York to the Puerto Rican salsa festival in New York,” Maduro said. “On June 11, Cilia and I will go directly to New York.”
Cilia Flores, who was also present on the broadcast, is Maduro’s wife and a Venezuelan socialist lawmaker the regime refers to as its “First Combatant.”
“They await me in New York. I like New York a lot, I know New York very well,” Maduro continued. “I have driven a lot in New York, right Cilia? In southern New York, I think in Little Italy, Little Italy, they sell some amazing spaghetti.”
Maduro did not appear aware that driving in Manhattan is onerous and not a popular option for most New York residents.
“Chinatown and Manhattan, and the Dominican neighborhood, and the Puerto Rican neighborhood, I hung out there on the streets of New York,” Maduro alleged.
The dictator, who regularly rails against America and claims the country is engaging in an “economic war” with Venezuela, concluded by sending “love” to Americans.
“My greetings to the good people of the United States of America. We love the United States of North America, for the United States, what we have is love,” he claimed.
Elsewhere in the broadcast, Maduro claimed that he was giving away tickets to something called the “World Salsa Festival” organized by his own regime.
Maduro appeared to be referring to the New York Salsa Festival scheduled to take place in Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center on June 11.
Maduro has made several visits to New York since becoming dictator, usually around the time of the United Nations General Assembly held in that city. In 2015, Maduro detoured from the Assembly to visit far-left leaders at the People of African Descent Leadership Summit in Harlem, where he met Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi.
Maduro most recently visited the city in 2018.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) lists Maduro as a Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Person (SDN), which freezes all assets he may have in the United States and bans Americans from doing business with him. The State Department also announced a $15-million reward for information leading to Maduro’s arrest in 2020.
“Maduro negotiated multi-ton shipments of [Marxist Colombian narco-terrorist group] FARC-produced cocaine; directed the [Venezuelan criminal enterprise] Cartel of the Suns to provide military-grade weapons to the FARC;” the State Department detailed. “During his tenure as Foreign Minister coordinated foreign affairs with Honduras and other countries to facilitate large-scale drug trafficking; and solicited assistance from FARC leadership in training an unsanctioned militia group that functioned, in essence, as an armed forces unit for the Cartel of the Suns.”
Maduro’s claim to be interested in a visit to New York caught the eye of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who questioned if the Biden administration would allow Maduro into the country. The Biden administration has made no public pronouncements on Maduro’s intent to travel to America at press time.