Venezuela’s dictator Nicolás Maduro has plenty of problems on his plate – soaring hyper-inflation, food and medicine shortages, the surging popularity of the opposition movement against him – and this year he has delivered at least one concrete plan to solve them: dancing.
Maduro, a former bus driver who served as his predecessor Hugo Chávez’s foreign minister, has long enjoyed using his television program In Contact with Maduro to broadcast his dance moves. As the current crisis in Venezuela intensified, however – with a ceaseless wave of protests beginning a month ago, in response to Maduro’s Supreme Court’s attempt to dissolve the National Assembly and install itself as the national legislative body – Maduro has appeared dancing on Venezuela’s airwaves with increasing frequency.
Below are five times this year – four times this month! – that the head of state of one of the world’s most volatile nations danced on television while his people demanded his ouster:
May 3: Dance Celebration of Move to Draft a New Constitution
Narnia VS Venezuela pic.twitter.com/2FwhyvweYZ
— Yusnaby Pérez (@Yusnaby) May 3, 2017
On Wednesday, Maduro appeared before the National Election Center (CNE) to formally demand the establishment of a “Constituents’ Assembly,” which would draft laws in lieu of the opposition-controlled National Assembly and create a new national constitution from scratch. To celebrate his power move, Maduro danced before the head of the CNE on television, flanked by high-level officials.
One video of this dance went viral on social media: a video apparently taken in Caracas of a television broadcast of Maduro’s dance, which then pivots from the television to the window, where armored tanks are visibly confronting unarmed protesters below:
April 26: “Everyone Must Know How to Dance”
During a national event last week, Maduro mandated that all Venezuelans dance as part of a political effort to construct a greater socialism. “The youth of the Revolution must know how to sing, love, and dance to construct a peaceful and happy Revolution,” he decreed. “We must all dance. Whoever does not know how needs to learn.”
The comments appeared to be part of a promotion of a new dance initiative meant to distract students from protesting Maduro’s government, which he had announced that week:
April 23: The “Salsa and Urban Heart” Initiative to Bolster the Bolivarian Revolution
Maduro announced that initiative on Sundays with Maduro, his weekly television program. The initiative is meant to channel youth energy into frivolous dancing, rather than organizing an anti-socialist movement on the streets. The nation’s student population has been at the heart of the opposition protests, as young Venezuelans who have lived most of their lives under socialism have largely rejected the destruction of their country under Chávez and Maduro.
Maduro announced that the initiative was intended to provide opportunities to young students to “express themselves” in a healthy way. While the head of state typically dances salsa in public – he loves the genre so much he also hosts a radio program called Salsa Time – in this video, he attempted to dance to hip-hop music along with breakdancers:
April 21: Dancing in Lab Coats
On April 21, Maduro appeared on television wearing a lab coat and what appears to be a stethoscope dancing salsa with his wife, legislator Cilia Flores. This particular episode of his weekly program elicited severe criticism over Maduro’s mockery of the protesters, including a man who confronted an armored tank wearing nothing and holding a Bible and protesters who were forced to flee into a toxic sewer to avoid being attacked by military tear gas canisters in Caracas:
February 18: Patriotic Congress of Youth Dance
Thursday afternoon in Caracas, and Maduro declares the start of Carnival…. pic.twitter.com/Tzh4OCyFZu
— Nathan Crooks (@nmcrooks) February 16, 2017
In a less recent episode that appeared to embarrass his vice president, the Hezbollah-tied “drug kingpin” Tareck El Aissami, Maduro appeared on television to celebrate a socialist youth assembly meant to bolster loyalty for his dictatorship. Amid the celebration, Maduro announced the start of the national Carnival festivities. “We declare the launch of Carnival and we are going into the streets to dance,” he announced before the music began and he did as he promised.