Have you visited a strange country?

“State visit” to Venezuela : The strange trip of a German left-wing politician to Maduro

Nicolas Maduro no longer has many allies, but who he can rely on is the German left. Since most heads of state and government avoid Venezuela's rulers, Maduro has now received the left-wing MP Andrej Hunko, who is rather unknown in Germany, as a state guest, in front of the flags of both countries. "We had an important meeting to strengthen relations with the European community and to promote the recognition of international law," said Maduro after the meeting.

Now Hunko is not exactly the head of the EU Commission, but at least the European policy spokesman for his parliamentary group in the Bundestag. Both are joking, as can be seen on television pictures. The state TV news reported extensively about the meeting. Maduro loves the staging, sometimes he dances salsa or when the power fails again, he plays the noises of the blow dryer to encourage women to forego blow drying in order to prevent the power collapse in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world .

And while many starving people lost ten kilograms and more in weight, Maduro treated himself to a huge steak on a visit to Turkey, with star chef Nusret Gökce ("Salt Bae"), who also served the gold steak for Bayern footballer Frank Ribery . In any case, the former bus driver with the distinctive mustache seems to be gaining more body in the crisis.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is next to Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's head of state Xi Jinping, his most important ally - and something behind him is apparently Andrej Hunko. He is now being beaten by the Union, the Greens and the SPD ("scandalous", "embarrassing"), because the federal government no longer recognizes Maduro, but supports the president of the disempowered parliament, Juan Guaidó, as interim president.

But at least: Hunko met him too. This was organized through the Foreign Office and the German Embassy in Caracas - which only works in limited operations after Ambassador Daniel Kriener was kicked out. The meeting with Maduro was arranged through the Venezuelan embassy in Berlin.

The sanctions should be stopped, said Hunko

Hunko has been touring the country for eleven days since April 16. Since Lufthansa had already stopped the flights in 2016, Hunko traveled with TAP via Portugal to the crisis country, from which more than three million people have already fled. Hunko emphasizes that the sanctions against the Maduro government must be stopped. Like Maduro, he particularly sees the one-sided recognition of Guaidó by many Western states as illegal interference in internal affairs - many leftists are asking why they are not interfering in internal affairs to the same extent as, for example, in Saudi Arabia.

And with a view to US President Donald Trump, who also leaves the military option open, the 55-year-old emphasizes: "A solution to the crisis cannot be brought about by force from the outside." Hunko simply calls Guaidó's proclamation as interim president an "attempted coup".

After the extremely friendly meeting of the backbenchers and the president, Hunko emphasized: "We had a long exchange about the international situation and especially about the erosion of international law," said Hunko, referring to the recognition of Guaido by numerous western states.

Maduro stressed the illegality of the sanctions and the confiscation of Venezuelan assets by international banks under pressure from the US, "which make the situation in the country worse"; reported Hunko after the meeting with the socialist, who is still in power thanks to generous donations to the military.

And the rising oil price plays into his cards. "I have made my wish clear that Venezuela should not become a no-go area and that I therefore expect that many MPs, journalists and interested people would visit the country during this difficult time and get a comprehensive picture of the situation," said Hunko. Maduro said, "everyone is welcome."

Numerous opposition members are in custody

Well, anyone who has recently been to Caracas and seen the "Colectivos" chasing Maduro opponents with chains on motorcycles should have doubts. Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world - and numerous opposition politicians are in custody or under house arrest. Guaidó could also be arrested soon - there has been no separation of powers and an independent judiciary for a long time.

Hunko was the first federal politician to visit Venezuela since the power struggle began. The SPD politician Nils Schmid called it "shameful that the Left Party still supports a ruler who has destroyed democracy in Venezuela and plunged his country into economic ruin".

CDU parliamentary group vice-president Johann Wadephul called on the parliamentary group leadership of the Left in the Bundestag to withdraw all international tasks from Hunko - for example in the Council of Europe. The Greens foreign politician Omid Nouripour accused Hunko of allowing Maduro to "exploit him for propaganda purposes". "Maduro is not a left-wing president, but a bad kleptocrat who is ruining his country and people," he said.

Hunko stressed that before the Maduro meeting, he had also met with the President of Parliament Guaidó and other high-ranking representatives of the opposition. "I expressed my conviction there that a solution to the crisis can only be peaceful and dialogical. Guaidó introduced me to various union leaders who are in opposition to the government." As for the chances of dialogue, there have been mixed signals: "Maduro said that he was always in favor of dialogue, even with the devil." Afterwards, Hunko also took part in a parliamentary session as an observer.

Hunko clearly shows who he is closer to

Hunko said that some representatives of the opposition saw only time savings for the government in negotiations. And the experiences of the past are likely to play a major role: Maduro is a political survivor and wanted to win Pope Francis as mediator, but the only concession was a new election of the disempowered parliament. The election on December 6, 2015 was the last free election in Venezuela and the opposition won with a two-thirds majority.

The pictures of the founder of socialism of the 21st century, Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013, have been removed. Maduro, who describes himself as Hijo de Chávez (son of Chávez), had the reins tightened, his re-election as president was not recognized by many states - in view of the increasingly authoritarian structures, it is foreseeable how a parliamentary election would turn out.

The Venezuelan government, and especially Maduro, are masters of staging, who also know how to present a kind of Potemk village to visitors. Hunko clearly shows who he is closer to: "What is completely underestimated by the regime change supporters is the still strong social basis of Chavismus. That is at least my impression after the first days of numerous discussions with completely different actors in the country . "

Even if Maduro is nowhere near as popular as Chavez, "the cronyism of the extremist sections of the opposition around Guaidó with violent interventionists, particularly those of the USA, is met with broad rejection." It will be interesting to see what the left-wing leadership thinks of this adventure trip to the abyss of socialism.

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