People suffering from mental disorders, vulgarly called “mad,” sometimes provoke smiles, or in the worst cases, discrimination and shame. Many of them are inoffensive, while some are secluded in psychiatric hospitals where they are supported and monitored away from society, in case they prove a danger to their families or other people.
The idea that a mental illness could come to govern an entire country, to control a state, sounds crazy in itself. But it happens. There’s no doubt that the greatest genocides of history — those of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, among others — have proved the dangers of putting madmen in power.
And although the saying goes that “the wise man learns from the mistakes of others,” it perhaps seems that the people, those who take decisions in democracies, would rather play Russian roulette than learn from the mistakes of history.
There are plenty terrifying cases of the insane coming to power in the world today. But the most dramatic, perhaps, are the examples of Russia and Venezuela.
If Vladimir Putin and his paranoia seem far away and of little concern to this American continent, the evil of the illegitimate Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is on show for all of us, every hour of every day.
And before the lovers of Venezuelan democracy and groupies of the oracle now in power — who often talks with the birds, and speaks of the “multiplication of the penises” — take offense at the term “illegitimate,” let’s remember that Maduro came to the presidency with 50.61 percent of votes, against 49.12 percent won by Henrique Capriles. Maduro’s “victory” by 1.49 percent falls firmly within the margin of statistical error.
Returning to mental disorders, it’s evident that Maduro suffers from one of the most dangerous of all for society: that of paranoia. The reliable authorities at MedlinePlus describe paranoia as “a mental health affliction in which a person suffers from prolonged mistrust and suspicion of others.” Its symptoms include worrying that others have hidden motives, fears of being exploited by others, inability to work with others, social isolation, and hostility — judge for yourself whether that isn’t an accurate description of Maduro.
But the worrying thing isn’t the disorder in itself. It’s that the patient is now governing a nation, and has brought it to a dead end. We can, of course, fill entire volumes with the crimes that his government has committed, and for which he should be tried at nowhere other than the International Criminal Court. But considering that the criminal is a madman, doubts about his responsibility emerge: his mental condition might deny him the use of his reason. Put another way, what guides him are his instincts and low passions.
In effect, there exists no logical explanation for the daily actions of this Latin-American “statesman”, the worst example to emerge in recent decades. How can we explain how a country that barely 15 years ago was the greatest producer of electrical energy in South America is now incapable of producing its own electricity?
No one can explain in a rational way how, in the 21st century, it can still be possible that people don’t have toilet paper: even newspapers are scarce. Or how citizens of a country which once exported food to the majority of the countries of the continent now spend hours waiting in line for rationed foodstuffs — or, if they have the resources, journey to Aruba to do their shopping.
The fear of persecution is typical among the paranoid, according to the symptoms listed above. It doesn’t matter to Maduro that the whole world is laughing at his destabilization plots, coups d’etat, and other idiocies. For Maduro, like typical patients of paranoia, the enemy has to appear real: in this case, it’s the United States, the “fascists,” and so on — the usual list of suspects.
Venezuela is now confronting a dictatorship of the most brutish and vile kind. The rule of law in Venezuela was already gravely injured by the rule of Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, the “little bird” with a penchant for real coups. But it was finished off by Maduro with the illegal arrests of Leopoldo López, Daniel Ceballos, and Antonio Ledezma — on Maduro’s direct orders, not with the authorization of a judge, as would happen in a civilized country. The coup de grâce for basic human rights came during the murder of teenagers during the latest demonstration against the barbarity of the madman in the Miraflores Palace.
The time to laugh at the stupidities of Maduro has passed. Now is the time to isolate the patient from society and civilized people, for Maduro’s own good, even though it may appear to be too late.
It took Maduro and Chávez 18 years to completely destroy not only the economy, but Venezuelan society. It will take far longer to restore what remains of both to full health once more.
Originally published at PanamPost and translated by Laurie Blair