U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is a rarity in American politics: a self-described socialist running for the White House. And this September, Sanders sought to distance himself from one of the most well known socialists of the new millennium — Hugo Chávez.
Sanders accused Hillary Clinton supporters of attempting to smear him by linking him with the divisive figure. Clinton is Sanders’s biggest rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the comments were allegedly made by pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC Correct the Record. But in trying to distance himself from Chávez, Sander is making many Venezuelans angry.
“Yesterday, one of Hillary Clinton’s most prominent Super PACs attacked our campaign pretty viciously…They suggested I’d be friendly with Middle East terrorist organizations, and even tried to link me to a dead communist dictator,” Sanders wrote in a fundraising email.
The senator’s strong words are likewise stirring up trouble. One Venezuela news website dryly noted that Sanders dictator remark was “referring to Venezuela’s three time democratically-elected former president Hugo Chávez.” Maximilien Arvelaiz, Venezuela’s ambassador in the United States, also defended the the late leader in the American media.
“Venezuela has become…the bad guy. We’re the villain,” Arvelaiz said. “I could send a couple of good books to Bernie Sanders.”
Sanders’s email was one of his first statements dealing with foreign policy. So far, the politicians has instead focused on rising income inequality. According to the Pew Research Center, the wealthiest 10% of Americans own 80% of the country’s stocks and mutual funds.
Supporters of Chávez were quick to point out that the democratic socialist president addressed similar concerns in Venezuela. And if he wants to become president, then perhaps Sanders could take lessons from Chávez’s many supporters around the globe.
In the United Kingdom, fellow socialist Jeremy Corbyn recently won a decisive election to become the Leader of the Labour Party. Corbyn has publicly endorsed Chávez in the past.