For being such a famously outspoken member of Congress from a majority-Hispanic district who likes to position herself as a champion for people of color, freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been conspicuously quiet on the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Ocasio-Cortez’s avoidance of the issue is interesting, to put it charitably, given the significant news coverage of the litany of calamities in the country, from children dying of hunger, young protestors being shot at point-blank by Nicolas Maduro’s police forces, and the ongoing political struggle.
Plenty of Ocasio-Cortez’s colleagues in Washington, including at least one fellow Latina Democrat freshman House member, have spoken out on Venezuela and condemned the Maduro regime. Yet, a cursory search of Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter history shows that the representative from New York’s 14th congressional district has never even mentioned the word “Venezuela.”
Interestingly, Ocasio-Cortez’s sole reaction to yesterday’s dramatic developments — where the United States, Canada, France, and at least 11 Latin American countries recognized National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president — has been to retweet progressive Rep. Ro Khanna’s (CA-17) pushback against a statement by a fellow Democrat, Senator Dick Durbin, in support of a transition to democracy in the country.
Make no mistake, Ocasio-Cortez’s silence on Venezuela, and apparent opposition to the United States recognizing Guaido’s constitutional interim presidency, is not due to a lack interest in the topic. It’s indicative of her extreme ideology and political commitments that the media have regularly failed to scrutinize, or worse, have even sought to normalize.
Ocasio-Cortez, like Rashida Tlaib and other progressives, ran for Congress as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the country’s largest socialist organization. As Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro has pointed out numerous times, DSA’s ideology is not synonymous with the economic system that Americans mistakenly associate with places like Denmark, a capitalist country. Last year, when I presented a team of Norwegian economists with a Vox article summarizing DSA’s economic proposals, 11 out of 12 indicated they fall on the “far-left/fringe” end of Norway’s ideological spectrum.
Another one of DSA’s extreme views is its unabashed support for the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro. When the Obama Administration imposed banking sanctions on a handful of Venezuelan regime officials for participating in human rights violations, DSA issued a full-throated defense of Maduro and mischaracterized the bipartisan measure, which was narrow and targeted specific individuals, as a broad-based policy aimed at the entire country.
To be fair, to my knowledge, Ocasio-Cortez has never explicitly endorsed the Maduro regime. But she has also never criticized it or disassociated herself from the organization in light of their public comments on the matter.
Moreover, yesterday, as most of Latin America, the European Union, and other countries joined the United States in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president, DSA chapters across the country described the move as an imperialist coup by the United States. Similarly, in the tweet that Ocasio-Cortez shared, Congressman Khanna admonished the U.S. for “anointing” the country’s new president. This, of course, is absurd.
The United States and other countries are merely recognizing Venezuela’s presidential succession laws and respecting the will of the people, the overwhelming majority of whom want change. As President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Guaido is akin to a U.S. Speaker of the House and, as required by his country’s constitution, became interim president in the absence of a legitimate executive officer holder.
According to articles 25 and 138 of the Venezuelan constitution, if an election violates human rights and usurps legal authority, it is not binding. In 2018, Venezuela held a fraudulent presidential election whose results were deemed illegitimate by the country’s National Assembly and 40 other countries.
While the Venezuelan constitution does not specifically address what should happen in the event of a sitting president’s fraudulent re-election effort, Article 233 sets forth that in the absence of an elected president, the head of the National Assembly must assume the presidency. Accordingly, pursuant to Venezuelan presidential succession laws, when Maduro’s term came to an end on January 10, Guaido became the country’s interim president until a new election is held.
Instead of standing alongside the millions of Venezuelans who are marching for freedom, including the thousands living in exile in the United States, Spain and throughout the world, Ocasio-Cortez is using her platform to amplify baseless arguments in defense of their oppressors. This not only points to her ideological extremism, it highlights, bolds, and triple-underlines the fact that she’s not as bold or new as she’s made out to be by the media.
Far from being a “fresh face,” Ocasio-Cortez’s silence on Venezuela is a throwback to the progressives of yesteryear who served as apologists for left-wing regimes throughout the world. Like Angela Davis’ supporting the Soviet Union and Rep. Barbara Lee eulogizing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, by spreading talking points designed to buoy the Maduro regime, AOC is legitimizing the Venezuelan dictatorship and turning her back on its victims.
This is clearly morally reprehensible, but we also live in a culture that rewards fame over virtue; soundbites over substance; deems leftist extremism more tolerable than mainstream conservatism; prioritizes feelings over objective truth; and ultimately agrees with Ocasio-Cortez that while she may be frequently wrong, she’s morally right. As such, we should not expect her to pay any social consequences for her refusal to stand up for the Venezuelan men, women, and children who are fighting for their lives or for her peddling of demonstrably false, pro-Maduro propaganda.
While the invitations to softball interviews, late-night comedy shows, and panels will keep coming in, there’s a reason why the majority of Americans who know Ocasio-Cortez hold a negative view of her. Those of us whose parents and grandparents suffered under the boot of Latin American socialists can spot the radical ideology a mile away and we have never been shy about sharing our insights with fellow Americans.
We’ll never hesitate to share how the beliefs of this country’s nouveau socialists are rooted in the same envy, economic ignorance, and logical fallacies that ruined our families’ countries and those that our friends and neighbors also fled.
Still, some Americans will have a hard time accepting the fact that certain politicians and their allies simply don’t care about the victims of socialist regimes because it challenges deeply held existing beliefs. Rather than addressing their confirmation bias, they’ll concoct all sorts of excuses to avoid confronting difficult truths about their favorite leaders.
The rest of us who’ve seen this movie play out know better and we should challenge our friends to skip the mental gymnastics and come to terms with reality. And that reality is that, when given a choice between standing alongside the men, women, and children of Venezuela or their tormentors, politicians like Ocasio-Cortez have shown us who they really are. When someone does that, we should just take them at their word.