The Corner


Birds of a Feather

Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin shake hands during a ceremony at the Kremlin in 2013. (Maxim Shemetov / Reuters)

Who is allied to whom? Who is friendly to whom? That is something to keep an eye on, when evaluating world affairs. I noted in a recent column that the attendees at Erdogan’s latest inauguration were interesting: Medvedev of Russia; Orbán of Hungary; Maduro of Venezuela.

Do you know that Maduro created a Hugo Chávez Peace Prize? Yes, he did. More formally, that honor is called the “Hugo Chávez Prize for Peace and Sovereignty,” whose aim is to recognize “personalities who have stood out in the struggle for peace, for sovereignty, and for the independence of peoples.” Maduro announced the creation of this prize on the day the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that it would give the Nobel Peace Prize to Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia.

The first winner of the Hugo Chávez Prize? A natural. Vladimir Putin, that great respecter of sovereignty and champion of peace.

He is a veteran winner of peace prizes, actually. In 2010, the Nobel committee gave its prize to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese democracy leader and political prisoner (since dead). In response, the Chinese dictatorship created the Confucius Peace Prize — an early recipient of which was Putin.

The Nazis were once ticked at the Nobel committee, too. That’s when the committee gave its prize to Carl von Ossietzky, a political prisoner of the Nazis (who would die a prisoner, as Liu Xiaobo would). The Nazis forbade Germans to accept Nobels and created separate awards.

Stalin was ticked at the Nobel committee, too: because he himself was not winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and neither were his fellow Soviet Communists. So, he created the Stalin Peace Prize, more formally the Stalin Prize for Strengthening Peace among Peoples.

(To read more about this kind of thing, consult my history of the Nobel Peace Prize, Peace, They Say.)

You know who else won the Confucius Peace Prize? Fidel Castro. And who else has won the Hugo Chávez Prize for Peace and Sovereignty? I’m not sure they’ve given it to anyone since Putin. He is a hard act to follow, understandably.

But we know what sits on his mantle, if he chooses to put it there. According to Sputnik, the Kremlin media organization, the winner of the coveted Hugo gets a statuette, rather like an Oscar.

“The statuette is a replica of a statue of Chavez designed by Russian sculptor Sergei Kazantsev, which was unveiled last year in the late leader’s home village of Sabaneta. That six-meter tall monument was commissioned by Russian state-run oil company Rosneft at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader, Maduro said Wednesday, ‘deeply loved Commandante Hugo Chavez’ . . .”

To the extent Putin is capable of deep love — I imagine it’s true.


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