By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Embattled Venezuelan strongman danced salsa, was serenaded by Mariachi and watched a display of elaborate fireworks in celebrating his birthday Monday night, seemingly oblivious to the fact that a party of 16 minors and includes a 4-month-old baby, is still lost at sea after having been deported in pirogue boats by Trinidad and Tobago Sunday.
Tuesday morning, the Venezuelan representative before the Organization of American States (which doesn’t recognize the Maduro regime) David Smolansky said the party, which also includes Venezuelan female migrants, has not been heard of for the last 40 hours, and blamed Maduro and Trinidad and Tobago’s Keith Rowley for the ordeal.
Venezuela entered in November its fourth year of hyperinflation. Some 90% of the country lacks running water and two-day blackouts have become the norm in poor areas. But none of that, nor the largest exodus in the history of the Western Hemisphere, was enough to stop the celebrations.
Rowley and Maduro are allies and Rowley is the only head state in the region that still recognizes the Maduro regime, while other neighbors such as Brazil and Colombia say Juan Guaido, the President of the National Assembly, is the interim President of Venezuela after Maduro’s fraudulent 2018 reelection.
But while a T&T judge ordered that nation’s Defence Force to launch a search and rescue mission Monday morning, Maduro has still not announced a similar effort. Some 5.5 million Venezuelans have left the country since Maduro first took over in 2013 and the strongman has expressed insulting, disparaging views about the migrants, denying them travel documents and support, calling them “slaves” and “toilet cleaners” and describing returning ones as “bioweapons” infected with COVID 19 before sending them to shelters where they are extorted by regime military and where conditions resemble concentration camps, according to survivors.
But none of that mattered Monday in Miraflores, as the portly Maduro sported a grin so wide, his facemask couldn’t fully conceal it. Video of him being serenaded by mariachis (odd, since traditionally in Latin America, only females get serenades at their birthday parties) and elbow-bumping dozens of supporters reminded some of other occasions during which Maduro has openly celebrated while the country was mired in tragedy, such as during the 2014 and 2017 demonstrations, when the strongman made a point of salsa dancing live every afternoon on television when a demonstrator was killed by regime law enforcement.