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The government of the United States said that it was “disturbed” by the release of former general Hugo Carvajal yesterday from an Aruban prison.

The Associated Press reported earlier today that the U.S. Department of State was sure that the Venezuelan government had used threats against Aruba to secure the release of Carvajal, who is accused by Washington of being a drug trafficker.

U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki spoke on Carvajal’s release, saying:

We are disturbed by credible reports that have come to us indicating the Venezuelan government threatened the governments of Aruba, the Netherlands, and others [to secure Carvajal’s release].

Psaki also said that while Washington was “deeply disappointed” by Carvajal’s release, it would continue to work to ensure “that Carvajal is brought to justice”.

Carvajal received a hero’s welcome upon his arrival in Venezuela, and met with Maduro on stage at the PSUV annual congress:

83 Detained in Sucre State Over Protests

Luis Acuña, the governor of Sucre stated, announced today that 83 people had been detained over their involvement in 27 guarimbas [barricades] that had been mounted throughout the state.

The barricades were mounted early this morning in Cumana, a city in the state, to protest the appointment of General Efrain Barrio as the city’s new police chief.

The National Guard was called to restore order in the city, which resulted in Cumana being “practically militarized” by government troops, according to El Universal.

Bird Talks to Maduro, Again

Last year, Maduro raised eyebrows when he suggested that Chavez’s spirit had embodied a bird which had approached him and communicated with him through singing. The comment drew widespread ridicule, particularly from opposition supporters and skeptics of reincarnation.

Today, Maduro doubled down on his assertion that the spirit of Hugo Chavez is still in contact with our plane of existence.

At the inauguration of a plaza in Sabaneta, Barinas, Maduro said:

I have to confess that a little bird came up to me again. He came up to me and said, “Don’t tell anyone, so don’t you [the audience] tell anyone. The Commandante is happy, full of love for his people, full of loyalty, and he must be proud and happy. Don’t tell anyone!

On a more serious tone, Maduro spoke of Chavez’s legacy, saying:

The Revolution must be kept alive.
(…)
[Chavez] gave up everything he had [for the revolution], because he never have – nor did he leave – any material processions, [only] his hearth, body and life.
(…)
[Chavez] fulfilled the destiny of the prophets, by lighting the light of his era, opening up a new historical era, by setting forth while young and leaving his people to continue his project.

Opinion

I believe that Maduro’s “bird talk” is an attempt to appear folksy and charming to his audience. I don’t really believe that Maduro literally thinks that he had a conversation with a bird regarding the current status of Chavez’s soul.

Still, there’s something to be said for what Maduro’s trying to convey when he says – even tongue-in-cheek – that he has a direct link to Chavez’s spirit through the birds.

For as long as Chavez was in power, he was Venezuela. He was the revolution, the PSUV, and Bolivarianism. The whole movement, the entire project was embodied in Chavez. When Chavez became ill and he realized that the possibility of his death grew, he personally assigned Maduro as his successor. For better or for worse, the whole movement would now have to pass on to Maduro.

It became painfully obvious fairly early on in Maduro’s term that he was no Chavez. Maduro lacked the persona, the character, the voice and the charisma that had won Chavez so many followers. And so the PSUV and Chavismo faced its greatest threat: death at the hands of an incompetent leader.

Maduro knows this. He faced a wave of national protests unlike any the country had seen in over a decade. Maduro is fully aware that people – both opposition and PSUV supporters alike – are disappointed in him.

Faced with this crisis, one of Maduro’s only resources is to channel Chavez’s spirit, even if only half-jokingly. By claiming to somehow have a connection to the spirit of El Comandante, Maduro is trying to turn himself into an avatar of the departed leader. By claiming to know what Chavez’s spirit is feeling and thinking, Maduro is painting himself as a kind of oracle, a living portal through which whatever remains of the will Hugo Chavez can make itself known in this world.

For this reason, I don’t think we’ve heard the last from the Birds.

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