I try to keep up with as much as possible here — movies, television, books, and politics — but we can’t follow everything, and when it comes to Venezuela? To be honest, the extent of my knowledge, until a few days ago, was largely defined by right-wing media: Oil, socialism, Hugo Chavez, corruption, starvation, and Wilmer Valderrama. But getting up to speed on Venezuela is a little like trying to get up to speed on the Middle East: Newspaper articles will tell you what’s going on now, but they don’t typically provide the necessary context to make sense of current events.
This week, Venezuela is in the news here because the Trump Administration is applying new sanctions to the country because a corrupt politician named Nicolas Maduro has run the country into the ground and won an illegitimate election, while a man name Juan Guaido claims to be the legitimate President, and he has the backing of a lot of Western nations, including our own.
As with everything that involves Trump, I look at the actions of the United States cynically. When I found out that the U.S. was supporting Guaido, my first thought was, “Who does Putin support?” In this case, Russia (and China) actually support Maduro, so I think we’re on the right side of this. But we also know that Trump is considering using military action in Venezuela in support of Guaido, and people from both sides of the aisle think this is a bad idea.
Well, why? I don’t know! But I wanted to know! And what’s the easiest, most accessible way to do a deep dive on a subject like Venezuela?
Late-night television, of course. Seth Meyers did an 11-minute “A Closer Look” on Venezuela and Trump last night, and while it is very helpful in elucidating what’s going on now, if you are actually interested in Venezuela, I encourage you first to watch John Oliver’s 20-minute piece from last May. It’s a terrific primer (with jokes! And Wilmer Valderrama in a bird costume).
After you’ve watched that, then Seth Meyers’ “A Closer Look” will make much more sense.
And now I feel like I have a fairly basic grasp of what’s going on, and it comes from two sources that I trust. Late night television is so terrifically educational. Thanks, Seth Meyers and John Oliver!