As diplomatic and rhetorical tensions quickly escalate between Caracas and Washington, Venezuelans are drawing a line in the cybersand and gathering under social media banners such as #ObamaYankeeGoHome and #ElGobiernoEsLaAmenaza (the government is the threat).
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded to the announcement of U.S.' sanctions yesterday by accusing President Barack Obama of "personally taking on the task of toppling my government and intervening." Maduro said Obama's executive order, which labels Venezuela a threat to the “national security and foreign policy of the United States” and places economic sanctions against seven high-ranking Venezuelan officials, constitutes a threat to Venezuela. "We are facing an aggression and threat to the integrity of our country," Maduro said during a lengthy national address Monday night. He added that Venezuela is a "peaceful country" and that the U.S. government represents the real threat to the U.S. people.
Supporters of the embattled Maduro government, which is facing domestic unrest amid an economic tailspin, were quick to trumpet their loyalties on social media using hashtags #ObamaYankeeGoHome (which has various spellings), #ApoyoRotundoAMaduro (full support for Maduro), and #SueloPatrioAntimperialista (anti-imperialist homeland). By playing into Maduro's narrative about the U.S. conspiring to destabilize Venezuela, Obama's sanctions appear to be further radicalizing the radicals.
Even some in Venezuela's opposition expressed doubts about the wisdom of the U.S.' sanctions. This tweet from opposition Mayor Ramón Muchacho says the "aggression of the empire" against Venezuela will, in the short term, unify support around Maduro and distract the public's attention from the real problems of the country, all while giving the government even more excuse to persecute, oppress, and jail opponents and perhaps even suspend the upcoming elections.
Venezuelan sociologist Luis Vicente Leon also questions whether the sanctions are playing into Maduro's hands, saying "I have no doubt that soon the U.S. will be blamed (in official discourse) for the crises of inflation and shortages, among others."
Others mocked the situation and the government's reaction. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles challenged others in Maduro's administration to tear up their U.S. visas and forgo any future trips to Disney World.
Some government critics were left scratching their heads. Activist Hector Ramirez tweets, "In a serious country the government would be investigating what the hell these people were doing with bank accounts in the U.S., not defending them on national TV. The Chavistas getting upset because they can't go to the U.S. is like a vegetarian getting upset over an increase in the cost of meat. I don't get it."
And of course some Venezuelans used the moment as an excuse to take sexy selfies, such as this revolutionary post from @RojoAngelrojo, who says "Today we're more radical, more Chavista, more patriotic."