The best way to deal with tragedy and sadness is often considered to be laughter — but if Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has anything to say about it, his country won’t be laughing at Venezuela’s crumbling economy and political structure anytime soon.
A Wall Street Journal article reported recently that Maduro has been targeting comedians over the past year, but that the regime’s crackdown on political satire has actually become dangerous for many Venezuelan performers.
Maduro’s presidency has been filled with unintentionally comical events; the most notable being a woman throwing a mango at Maduro’s head. The woman had been in desperate need of an apartment, and although the mango was perhaps thrown in anger, she had also written “If you can, call me” and wrote her phone number on the mango.
Surprisingly, it worked; Maduro announced on public television that he would be giving the woman an apartment within three hours. Unsurprisingly, more Venezuelans began throwing tropical fruit at their president and media outlets began calling him “Nicolás ‘Mango’ Maduro.”
More recently, a Chilean mobile phone company released a commercial that referred to an event two years ago where Maduro stated that the late Hugo Chavez once appeared to him in a dream as a “little bird.”
In the past, comedians like Emilio Lovera and Laureano Márquez were able to use Maduro’s political mishaps to lighten the mood for a country that’s so poor, grocery stores rarely have basic items like milk and diapers.
But now, as NPR reported, Maduro has started cancelling satirical TV programs like Lovera’s once-popular “Misión Emilio.”
Outdoor Theaters have been shut down suddenly, citing vague tax evasion issues, right before Márquez’s live stand-up performances.
As Maduro’s crackdown of his political enemies continues worsening, comedians and performers actually run the risk of being jailed for their jabs at the country’s plight. Many performers have fled the country — not just because shows are more successful in a country like the U.S., where nearly 46 million Americans go to live performances at least once a year, but because the performers don’t have to worry for their lives when they’re off stage.
“It is getting worse every day,” said Lovera, regarding Venezuela’s harsh regulation of the entertainment industry. “I can no longer work on television.”