Hugo Chávez dreamed of a sweeping “Bolivarian” revolution that would blanket the hemisphere. He was able to consolidate power outside of Venezuela, including Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia and Nicaragua, in part by interfering in their electoral politics and campaigns. Today, that international socialist movement is rearing its ugly head once again. This time, it’s in Spain, where there is a paper trail that shows Venezuela is helping bankroll the radical left-wing “Podemos” (We Can) Party that is gaining in power.
It is amazing what Podemos has accomplished in a short period of time. It was incorporated in January 2014. At the time, Spain was reeling from its economy’s near collapse, with the national debt close to 100 percent of GDP. Today, Spain’s economy is improving, but adult unemployment is still at a painful 24 percent, and for the young, it is 50 percent.
The austere, perhaps necessary, fiscal and economic measures imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund might have saved Spain from economic demise, but it also destabilized the country politically.
Capitalizing on this, a group of political-science professors of the Complutense University of Madrid founded Podemos, an offshoot of Spain’s version of Occupy Wall Street called the Indignados (the Indignant). Under the charismatic leadership of Pablo Iglesias, Podemos has become a voice for the radical left and political contender for the elections to be held this year.
At 35, Iglesias has demonstrated great political skill and savvy. He doesn’t work alone; fellow Complutense professors, Juan Carlos Monedero and Inigo Errejón, are Podemos co-founders. Both worked for the Chávez government. They also count the money the Venezuelan government sends Podemos, which they say is necessary for campaign “messaging.” They would know — they did it in Venezuela.
Monedero was a personal advisor to Hugo Chávez. He and Errejón worked on a number of projects that included the Central Bank of Venezuela and Venezuelan state television, where Monedero appeared with some regularity. They tout Venezuela as a beacon of democracy because of the frequency of elections which is a curious position for these professors who know that there is more to a democracy than that. In Venezuela, elections are rigged. Iglesias isn’t bothered by Venezuela’s political duplicity; to the contrary, he praises it.
Iglesias defends Venezuela’s fight against capitalism and is a proponent of government censorship of the media. He supports minimum and maximum wages, a 35-hour work week and government intervention in private companies that make a profit. Iglesias is so extreme that he supports state intervention in every area of public life. He supports the current Spanish constitution until Spaniards vote to change it, which is what he wants. Like Chávez, Iglesias aspires to create a new constitution that includes all the elements to keep Podemos in power. Clearly, liberal democracy is not his thing. Sound familiar?
The Chavistas are ambitious and want a foothold in Europe for political and economic reasons; they are willing to bankroll Iglesias and Podemos to get there.
According to several Spanish newspaper reports, Iglesias’ confidant and former Chávez adviser, Monedero, recently received numerous bank transfers totaling more than 1 million euros, or approximately $2.5 million, from Venezuela. Trying to hide their tracks, the money was funneled into an academic foundation, the Center for Political and Social Studies Foundation, which was processed by Roberto Viciano Pastor, a professor of Valencia University who — surprise, surprise — also has ties to the Bolivarian revolution. Viciano is an adviser to the constituent assemblies in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. The circle is complete.
Iglesias is trying to distance himself from the Chavistas; however, the paper trail proves otherwise. It might have an impact on his party’s popularity. No one likes to find out that they are being played by a foreign government.
Unfortunately, Spain has been rocked by recent political scandals, including corruption that has harmed both mainstream parties, Partido Popular (PP) and the socialist party, PSOE, and even the monarchy.
Given that and the dire economy, it is no wonder many are looking for new leadership. If Spaniards support Podemos, they will certainly get change, but it will be more than they bargained for. It certainly was for Venezuela, and that country is falling apart.
Helen Aguirre Ferré, is an award-winning, bilingual journalist who maneuvers through various media platforms to deliver the news and analysis in print and broadcast media.