Sunday, 7 June 2020

Are the Putinists weaker or stronger now in Venezuela?

A few months ago Putin changed his ambassador in Venezuela. The new one is the Armenian Russian Sergey Melik-Bagdasarov. The one before was Vladimir Zayemski (Wikipedia Spanish here).  Zayemski was an old school Brezhnev apparatchik. In fact, he started working as a "translator" at the Soviet embassy in Costa Rica back in 1974 and he became ambassador in the back then democratic Venezuela in 1976. He stayed there until 1979 and did the usual tour of a Soviet diplomat. He became again ambassador to Venezuela in 2006, while it was being transformed into a dictatorship with Cuban and Russian help. While Zayemski was a quiet albeit very loyal Putinist - remember Russia has never known the difference between State, government and ruling party - he was rather quiet and pretended to follow the rules. You would not see him on Twitter sending messages Trump-style. He would give some interviews to El Universal, a Venezuelan newspaper that became neutralized by the regime years ago, he would talk to Putin's largest organ abroad, RT, and he would give interviews to the Russian Kommersant. I have written about him earlier.
Parrot in a jail in Cuba

The current ambassador, Melik-Bagdasarov, keeps on tweeting in a rather chatty, clumsy way...but die-hard Chavistas follow him and parrot him.

Last year Russian journalists in exile published in English an article about why Putin is meddling in Venezuela so much. Things haven't changed: if Venezuela becomes democratic, Cuba's dictatorship falls and that would be a sign for a lot lot more.

Bear in mind: I will from now on try to differentiate more and more between Putinists and Russians. Not all Russians are Putinists and not all Putinists are Russians. It is true Russia has never known a democracy - unless we talk about Veliki Novgorod's times, but then that was a city-state -. But more and more Russians are starting to think their country deserves better.