American 1990s action star and current Special Representative on Foreign Policy for Russia Steven Seagal met Venezuelan socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro in Caracas on Tuesday, offering him a samurai sword as a gift and enjoying a children’s martial arts exhibition.
Seagal, long absent from Hollywood and one of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s most prominent celebrity fans, visited Putin’s ally Maduro to “ratify the brotherhood between Venezuela and the countries of the world,” according to Maduro’s VTV state broadcaster.
The event did not adhere to social distancing standards. Maduro wore a mask for some of the event, but Seagal did not. The coronavirus vaccination status of those in attendance is not publicly available.
While Seagal is officially a Russian diplomat despite being born in Michigan, Maduro has not been the legitimate president of Venezuela since at least 2019. In January of that year, the Venezuelan National Assembly used its constitutional power to declare a “rupture in the democratic order” after Maduro held fraudulent and widely boycotted elections the year before. The legislature replaced Maduro with current President Juan Guaidó. As the Venezuelan military leadership has chosen to not recognize Guaidó, he has been unable to exercise almost all of his presidential powers in the last two years. Rogue states like Russia, China, Cuba, and Iran continue to recognize Maduro as the country’s president, complicating Guaidó’s struggle to assert power.
Seagal’s visit was reportedly meant to reiterate Putin’s support for the Maduro regime, one of the world’s most notorious human rights abusers, and express support to Venezuela as it struggles to contain the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
“Steven Seagal counts on valuable experience in building bridges to strength cultural ties between his birth country, the United States, and Russia,” Venezuelan state television claimed, noting that his nomination to a formal diplomatic post in Russia was officially meant to give him the power to improve Russian-American relations, not to serve as envoy to countries like Venezuela.
State television broadcast images of Seagal enjoying a martial arts exhibition by Venezuelan children. While announcers said the exhibition was a display of judo – a martial art Putin famously earned a black belt in – much of the display appeared to show other, unidentified martial disciplines.
The visit also featured a bizarre moment in which Seagal presented Maduro with what appeared to be samurai sword for unspecified reasons. A VTV anchor described the sword as a “symbol of leadership.” The video shows Maduro posing flamboyantly with the sword following receipt of the gift.
Seagal, a staple of Hollywood action movies in the 1990s, began to rise to prominence as a celebrity fan of Vladimir Putin’s in the 2010s, long after his acting career had waned. In 2014, Seagal prominently applauded Putin’s illegal invasion and colonization of Crimea, Ukraine, declaring Putin a “brother” and all American foreign policy in eastern Europe “idiotic.”
Russia granted Seagal citizenship in 2016 and promoted him to diplomat status in 2018. He has since faced accusations of sexual assault while on American movie sets, accusations he has not directly addressed.
— Russian Embassy in USA 🇷🇺 (@RusEmbUSA) August 4, 2018
At the time, the Russian Foreign Ministry insisted that Seagal’s diplomatic portfolio would consist only of “humanitarian” operations and, in particular, forging closer ties between Russia and America.
Seagal is far from the only Hollywood personality to express support for the socialist dictatorship that has controlled Venezuela for two decades. Actors such as Sean Penn and Danny Glover, directors Oliver Stone and Michael Moore, and model Naomi Campbell have been among the Bolivarian Revolution’s most high-profile supporters. None has challenged Maduro amid years of evidence of his use of the Bolivarian National Guard to kill, injure, and torture political dissidents, reports of Maduro’s torture and killing of children, or socialist policies that have led to mass starvation. Mounting evidence – which the regime denies – of an uncontrolled Chinese coronavirus outbreak in the country while Maduro promotes untested coronavirus “cures” has not led to any increase in celebrity criticism of the regime.
Russia is one of the Venezuelan socialist regime’s closest allies and has stood beside it since the days of late dictator Hugo Chávez. Its reward has been Maduro allowing extensive Russian military activity in the country, across the Caribbean Sea from the United States. Russia has denied, contrary to documented evidence, that it has a sustained military presence there.
In addition to the samurai sword on Tuesday, Russia awarded Maduro its “Order of Lenin” prize in 2020.
“We all have Lenin in our hearts,” Yaroslav Listo, head of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation on youth policy said in awarding Maduro. “This is a commitment. A revolutionary commitment to building socialism in the 21st century.”
The award ceremony was part of the 2020 “World Anti-Imperialist Congress.”
“It is here that we are the vanguard of a model of socialism, of anti-imperialism that will transform the world for humanity,” Maduro said in his acceptance speech. “Mao Zedong called U.S. Imperialism a paper tiger.”
Maduro’s regime has admitted that Russia, alongside China and Iran, dictate its foreign policy.