Monstruos to Destroy

(M2D Newsletter 9/5)

Buenos Días, Subscriber de Mi Corazón,

Ah, yes, indeedy, it has been farrrrrrrrr too long since I last wrote you. Please excuse the absence of my insights in your inbox. It’s grant-writing season here in M2D land, so my energy has been focused elsewhere.

In particular, it’s been focused on South America, where some familiar themes and iguanas native to the Galápagos have come into focus:

For those new to the mailing list, this iguana is my friend and mortal enemy, Jesse.

Venezuela has long experienced an economic crisis, thanks to President Nicolás Maduro’s mismanagement of plunging oil prices and hyperinflation. Maduro hasn’t, erm, taken so well to criticism, violently cracking down on protesters to the point where Peru, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Paraguay accuse Maduro of crimes against humanity — and that’s not even mentioning Venezuela’s “accelerating slide toward mass starvation” under his watch.

Over 1.6 million Venezuelans have fled since 2015, roughly equal to the flow of migrants to Europe in the same period, according to Bloomberg. Last week, I noticed a spike in coverage of the sich down south (hehe), all touching on the same theme: backlash to Venezuelans fleeing to Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador.

In each country, ascendant Right-wing politicians are villainizing Venezuelans, exploiting a few incidents (e.g. the robbing of a jewelry store in Lima) to construct a narrative about refugees that furthers their own political agendas. In Brazil, supporters of Jair Bolsonaro — a right-wing presidential candidate nicknamed “Trump of the Tropics” — have labeled Venezuelans as things like “calculating and cold-blooded.”

See the photo above for a better illustration of those adjectives.

With Professor Diya Abdo, my gracious host in Greensboro, NC (thanks, Diya!). More pix from the event to come.

I’m unnerved to see themes I cover in M2D pop up in Latin America.

Meanwhile, the largest neo-Nazi march in Germany since WWII took place last week after word spread that a Syrian asylum seeker was suspected in a knife attack. And in Syria, at this very moment, Bashar al-Assad is launching an offensive that will likely secure his “victory” in the seven-year conflict.

Am I comparing manzanas and naranjos? Maybe. But in seven years, Venezuela and neighboring countries could look similar: with the monster who forced his people to flee and the monsters who reject refugees not only still in power but tightening their grip on it.