When in doubt, desperately reach for the Reductio ad Hitlerum argument. Venezuela’s self-styled socialist “liberator” President Nicolas Maduro has dubbed Brazil’s newly elected right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro “a Hitler of the modern era.”
Speaking in front of members of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly on Monday, Maduro decried that Brazil was “in the hands of a fascist.” And in a sign he’s perhaps been watching too much vapid American media punditry (though CNN is currently expanding in South America) which knows little beyond the tired argumentum ad Nazium in expressing outrage toward political enemies, he said: “Bolsonaro is a modern-day Hitler. He is. What he doesn’t have is courage and his own decisions because he’s the puppet of a sect.”
The “puppet of a sect” remark is a reference to the fact that Bolsonaro has a huge base of support from the country’s conservative Evangelical Christians, often branded by leftists as “fascist” for their adherence to traditional values like marriage between a man and a woman.
The two leaders have been trading barbs for months, with President Bolsonaro among an increasing chorus of regional and world leaders declaring Maduro’s inauguration last week as “illegitimate” while simultaneously voicing strong support to the opposition. Maduro, for his part has consistently condemned his Brazilian counterpart, dubbed by local media as the “tropical Trump”, as a “fascist”.
Meanwhile, some international reports have gone so far as to speculate that with both men fully in power and trading verbal blows in the neighboring South American countries, open conflict could develop to the point of leading to military confrontation. The heated rhetoric took on new geopolitical importance when the Brazilian president said he’s open to the idea of his country hosting an American base in the near future. “Depending on what happens in the world, who knows if we would not need to discuss that question [hosting a US military base] in the future,” Bolsonaro said early this month. He further called the controversial Brazilian embassy move to Jerusalem a “done deal”.
The new Brazilian government has made clear it stands by Bolsonaro’s desire to see Maduro ousted from power, with Brazil’s now foreign minister Ernesto Araújo publicly stating in December that “all of the world’s countries must stop supporting him and come together to liberate Venezuela.”
A Washington Post op-ed this week summarized the results of Maduro’s first term after he was just sworn in for a second last Thursday, describing “an implosion unprecedented in modern Latin American history: Though his country was not at war, its economy shrank by 50 percent.”
The editorial described further, “What was once the region’s richest society was swept by epidemics of malnutrition, preventable diseases and violent crime. Three million people fled the country.”
And yet the Post finds, “Maduro, having orchestrated a fraudulent reelection, presses on with what the regime describes as a socialist revolution, with tutoring from Cuba and predatory loans from Russia and China.”