Alejandro Peña Esclusa, engineer, writer, analyst, and political consultant was a pioneer of the first protests in Venezuela against Hugo Chávez’s regime. He was imprisoned for a year in El Helicoide (a prison notorious for torture and other abuse) and is still a political prisoner of conscience. He is an expert on the São Paulo Forum, an organization founded in 1990 by Fidel Castro and Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. It comprised 48 left-wing parties and movements from Latin America and the Caribbean (which has grown to 200 as of 2019), to push communist, socialist, and anti-imperialist policies across the region. He has written four books on the subject. His latest, The São Paulo Forum’s Cultural Warfare, is being widely distributed internationally. He discusses Foro Madrid (the Madrid Forum), an international alliance whose priorities are the defence of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Its objective is to counteract the geopolitical influence strategies of the São Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group, building a network of freedom-loving allies in all the countries of the Iberosphere.
You just presented your book, The São Paulo Forum’s Cultural Warfare, in Slovenia.
Yes, the book was first published in Colombia in May 2021, and has already been translated into English, Portuguese, and Italian. The Slovenian edition came out on December 27, and the idea is to continue publishing in other languages.
The former Slovenian prime minister, Janez Janša, accompanied you to the presentation and pointed out that the Slovenian Left has been supported by Venezuela, i.e. the activities of the São Paulo Forum reach unexpected places.
That’s right! Levica, the Slovenian far-Left party was formed by employees of the Venezuelan embassy in Slovenia and now they are members of parliament. This is the modus operandi of Chavism (the left-wing political ideology based on Hugo Chávez’s policies) and the São Paulo Forum: the illegal financing briefcases in Argentina for Cristina Kichner, the country’s vice president; financing Chavism’s allies through El Salvadoran oil company Alba Petróleosin Central America, such as political parties like Farabundo Martí Front and Sandinismo; the financing of left-wing Podemos party in Spain; and, according to ‘Pollo’ Carvajal, the head of Venezuelan intelligence under Chávez, the Five Star Movement in Italy and Syriza in Greece. These are the proven cases, but there are also rumors of illegal financing of Honduras’ former President Manuel Zelaya, and other politicians in Central America.
In my previous book, The São Paulo Forum: A Continental Threat, I counted the Chavista ambassadors who had been expelled from their posts for meddling in the internal affairs of countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia. This is how Chavism operates; they buy consciences. Many elections in the continent may have been fraudulently won with Venezuelan oil money.
In other words, they are repeating a model that works.
That’s right. The Left uses exactly the same strategies and we can identify the same pattern throughout Ibero-America. Their parties have permanent connections, share information, and operate as a single international organization with the same homeland: communism. People like Hugo Morales, Nicolás Maduro, and Rafael Correa are much more loyal to the communist project than to their peoples.
Is this comparable to the Komintern?
Yes, it is a group that manages to wrest loyalty from the nation because Marxism is a worldview, a universal faith. When someone joins this immanent religion, which is the opposite of transcendent religion, he stops caring about the welfare of his country and has no qualms about destroying it, as Nicolás Maduro has done.
In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, the nation’s president since 2007, won the municipal elections and did not allow the opposition to participate. It seems that once a country falls into the clutches of the Puebla Group, a progressive academic and policy forum, there is no escape.
There is no escape through the electoral route, but there is a road through the democratic and constitutional. The democratic system was designed around the values and principles shared by society as a whole. But the Marxist culture war has gone precisely against those values and has left younger generations incapable of distinguishing between good and evil. When you have a degraded system of values, democracy no longer works. For example, in my parents’ time, Hugo Chávez would never have been a candidate; society would not have allowed it. Even if they had let him participate, he would not have received more than 1-2% of the vote. This is what has happened in Colombia for decades; pro-guerrilla parties achieved minimal results. But in the current circumstances, the rules of the democratic system no longer work and when these parties come to power they destroy democracy from within.
Daniel Ortega has imprisoned all opponents. He is behaving like a dictator, and the international community does not have the tools to deal with that. Why? Because the international community is morally sick.
Should we write these countries off?
Yes and no. The Marxist culture war still encounters obstacles: traditional values such as the family, respect for elders, the culture of life and work are still very much alive in Latin America’s population. That is why there is still strong resistance against abortion, euthanasia, gender ideology, indigenism, and an environmentalism that portrays human beings as parasites.
For example, in the September 2022 elections in Chile, the Left suffered a crushing defeat in the plebiscite to approve a new constitution. It was so progressive that the Chilean people overwhelmingly rejected it. Now these ideologues want to do it through the political parties because the people do not want that change. The Left does whatever it wants and thinks it can stay in power, but that is not the case. The reaction will come and it will not be electoral. It is possible that it will look like Eastern Europe with the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the moment, people do not accept the model that Gustavo Petro proposes: abortion, legalization of drugs, progressivism, etc.
Without an independent judiciary, there is no democracy, as we have just seen in Brazil. Doesn’t calling an election under these conditions, as Bolsonaro did, guarantee a political loss?
In Venezuela the Left developed an electoral fraud technique so successful that the opposition does not even have the means to detect it. In Bolivia, the election observers detected fraud in 2018 because there was a technical team and the fraud was too crude. I was one of the international observers in the Colombian elections in June last year and there was no capacity to detect modern fraud: the adulteration of the electoral roll, the purchase of polls, or the control of software.
However, for me the main problem is that the Right has not focused on the cultural battle. Instead, they are concentrated on economic development, the defense of liberties, and the rule of law. The Left has controlled the narrative, the universities, all artistic expressions, the media, and, until recently, social networks like Twitter. In the United States more than 60% of university professors are socialists, while only 10-15% are conservatives. And that is because conservatives have ignored the most important battle: the battle of ideas.
A battle that many still refuse to fight.
Yes, right-wing political parties have not been training young people in philosophy and the humanities. They abandoned all that and became clientelist parties in order to win elections. They put aside the most important things for pure pragmatism, and that explains why, for example, in Colombia, the Conservative Party supported Gustavo Petro. That is why I wrote my most recent book, which is an urgent call to return to the soul of the political struggle, which is not the struggle for power. The soul of the political struggle is belief.
What do you think of the Madrid Forum promoted by VOX? Is it useful in confronting the São Paulo Forum?
The Madrid Forum is focused on counteracting the influence of the São Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group by building an international coalition of conservatives in the Ibero-sphere. They are doing necessary work and it seems to me that it is making an extraordinary contribution. All the right-wing parties, despite their differences, should be integrated into this project because we are living through an extremely dangerous moment. The Madrid Forum defends its positions in a very courageous manner and recently presented a document signed by more than 100 parliamentarians defending Peru’s institutionality in the face of attacks by four presidents of the São Paulo Forum: Gustavo Petro, Alberto Fernández, Luis Arce, and López Obrador.
The Madrid Forum has also condemned the violence in Brazil, while also denouncing the Left’s double standards, which justifies violence depending on who perpetrates it. I think they are doing very positive work and hopefully this project will grow and succeed. Unfortunately there are many on the Right who do not understand reality, like the Christian Democrats in Chile who preferred to support Gabriel Boric, a communist, rather than the conservative José Kast in the 2021 presidential elections. They do not understand that the São Paulo Forum is a tool of Russia, China, and organized crime that exists to destroy our continent. We have to put differences aside to defend our region, our democracy, and freedoms.
Earlier you mentioned Podemos, Spain’s predominant extreme left-wing political party, and its well-known relationship with Chavismo. However, the most important Spaniard in the Puebla Group is the former socialist president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. What has his role been?
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has done terrible damage to Venezuelans. He is jointly responsible for the humanitarian crisis in my country and for the seven million Venezuelans who fled in order to survive. Zapatero hypocritically took advantage of his status as former president of Spain to pretend to be a neutral mediator, but he was never neutral and was always in favor of Chavism. He was a mediator between the regime and the opposition, in mediations that only served to buy time for Chavism. He was an observer of the various fraudulent elections in Venezuela, which he always endorsed. He was paid for this role and later became an advisor. Moreover, as a founding member of the Puebla Group, he sits on the board of directors with all the international partners of Chavism: Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Lula da Silva, Manuel Zelaya, etc. He pretended to be neutral when he was a socialist ally of Chavism, and history will condemn him for what he did to my country.