Last night, Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal said that, indeed, Maria Corina Machado’s expulsion from the National Assembly could stand. On its own, this shouldn’t seem so shocking – chavismo has created a habit of kicking people out of Parliament, out of city hall, and out of politics altogether. But Maria Corina is no Richard Mardo, and she is no Maria Mercedes Aranguren – no offense to either one.
In twisting the law to slam one of the opposition’s most visible political leaders, the government is signalling that repression is only going to escalate. The move against Machado will only heighten tensions, and it reeks of petty vindictiveness. It is also incredibly sexist.
Machado was expelled as payback for the trip she took to the OAS a few days ago. As you may recall, she traveled to Washington to speak to the OAS about Venezuela after Panama invited her. Machado was expelled for supposedly accepting a job as Panamanian “ambassador” to the OAS – never mind that the OAS Secretary General has clearly stated that she appeared as a Venezuelan legislator. Venezuela’s maneuvering meant that Machado did not actually get to speak to the General Assembly and make her case, but this meant nothing to Venezuela’s institutions.
Machado is hugely popular among the opposition’s hard core base. The people who are protesting the loudest are not likely to take this lying down. But as the government moves against the opposition’s most visible female political leader, one has to wonder – if Machado had been a man, would they have done this? They have already beaten her up. They have tried to beat her up again. They have insulted, demeaned and sexualized her. Through it all, she has stood strong.
Violent, vitriolic hatred against visible women leaders is nothing new. It happens in the US, it happens in the Ukraine, it has happened in the UK, and it has happened in India. A female leader has to be “motherly,” “bland,” or even a tad “masculine” in order to be accepted by certain segments of society. But when a woman is fierce, determined, and in-your-face such as Machado is – well, that simply won’t stand – she instantly becomes a threat to men with small egos, and she must be destroyed.
However much we evolve, it seems as though powerful women simply cannot be tolerated in our society. As such, they have to be taught a lesson, they have to know what “their place” should be – second to a man. What happened to Machado was not necessary. It serves no political purpose – Machado’s ouster does not give the government more power in the National Assembly -other than to send a message – it was done because they can. Actual rape is used as a weapon of war, and in a similar fashion, what happened to Machado is a message to forceful female leaders out there who simply won’t shut up and sit down. It’s not really about Machado, but about women in general in our society.
The move against Machado should not stand. It’s a shame that it probably will.