Venezuela went on the offensive against critics of the Bolivarian revolution this week — and the government's latest target is 57-year-old actress Maria Conchita Alonso, a vocal opponent of President Nicolas Maduro.
The socialist government —whose leaders are regularly on the lookout for internal and external threats— began proceedings on Wednesday to revoke the Venezuelan citizenship of Alonso, a Miami-based actress and singer, surprising newspapers in Latin America and even shocking Alonso herself.
Government officials did not immediately comment on the decision, which was announced in the official gazette.
But Alonso was quick to lash out at the unprecedented move.
“I think it’s absurd,” she told Fusion. “They are concentrating on this and putting their energies on this when really bad things are going on in Venezuela, like the lack of medicine, lack of food and lack of toilet paper…Isn’t it a bit ridiculous to concentrate on taking my nationality away when Venezuela is suffering the way its suffering?”
Alonso, whose sultry love ballads won her millions of fans in Latin America, is an outspoken critic of the Venezuelan government.
She regularly posts messages on Twitter lashing out at Maduro and his predecessor, the late President Hugo Chavez. She has also called on actor Sean Penn to stop publicly supporting the Venezuelan government.
It appears Alonso landed in her current predicament because of statements she made to Voice of America in May as she left a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill that focused on Venezuela.
Alonso told the network the U.S. should invade Venezuela to rid the country of its “communist dictatorship.”
“I would like the U.S. to invade with bullets, and take out those disgraceful communists out of Venezuela. Cuba invaded [the country] without bullets and they are now the owners of Venezuela,” Alonso said.
A former beauty queen, Alonso was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba in 1957 and moved to Venezuela at the age of five when her family fled Fidel Castro’s regime. At the time, Venezuela was governed by a pro-U.S. administration that backed free market economics and openly criticized Castro . Alonso said that she has opposed Venezuela’s Chavista government since it assumed power in 1998 because, because coming from a Cuban family, she “knows what communists are like.”
Article 48 of Venezuela’s Citizenship Law states that people who have acquired Venezuelan nationality by moving to thecountry can be stripped of that privilege if they directly or indirectly “encourage or facilitate actions” that go against the interests of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
According to BBC Mundo, government prosecutors could use this part of the law to argue that Alonso should be stripped of the Venezuelan citizenship, which she has held for five decades.
But Alonso believes she hasn't broken any laws. She says that she only expressed her opinion and has not planned any attacks against the country.
In our interview, she stood by her controversial statements.
“I want the U.S. to to do what they did in Panama,” Alonso said on Thursday. “You know they went and kicked [dictator Manuel] Noriega out, but I know they’re not going to do it.”
The proceedings against the actress must be reviewed by a judge and could take months to conclude.
But Alonso, who has lived in the U.S. since the 1990s and also acquired American citizenship, said that she will appeal any decision taken against her. She said that no matter the outcome she will still consider herself Venezuelan.
“If Venezuela takes away my nationality it’s just a paper,” Alonso said. “They can’t touch my feelings, they can’t touch my heart they can’t touch my beliefs. And there are millions of Venezuelans that are with me.”
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.