Speed Reads


John Oliver has a message for Venezuela's tragicomically inept president, Nicola Maduro

John Oliver's look at the crisis in Venezuela on Sunday started off with a NSFW Ben Affleck joke, but he got serious pretty quickly. "This is not going to be one of those feel-good Last Week Tonight stories, like 'Slippers!' or 'Everything Looks Okay at the Pudding Factory,'" he warned. There's a reason all the news out of Venezuela in recent years has been grim.

You may not have been paying attention to Venezuela amid all the excitement in U.S. politics, Oliver said, "but what is happening in Venezuela is not just extremely important, it is absolutely worth paying attention to," a tragic tale of "epic mismanagement." Because Venezuela is having a presidential election on May 20, he explained, "tonight, we thought we'd check in on what's been happening there, to try and understand how Venezuela got into this mess and how, despite making it even worse, their current president, Nicolas Maduro ... is almost certainly going to win, despite having the support of only about a fifth of the population."

Venezuela's problems started under late President Hugo Chavez, a beloved figure whose expanded social programs and vast corruption helped tank the economy when oil prices plummeted, soon after his death. Maduro has responded with a combination of authoritarian power grabs and economic and political ineptitude.

Maduro is blaming everyone for his mess, mostly the U.S., but "accusing America of creating Venezuela's crisis is about as fair as accusing O.J. Simpson of murdering Princess Diana — I'm not saying it would be completely out of character, it just happens to not be true in this particular instance," Oliver said. "At this point, seeing as Maduro won't listen to reason or to the will of his own people, perhaps it's time to call in the one voice we know he'll listen to," a bird — in this case, That '70s Show star Wilmer Valderrama, dressed as a bird. Watch below. Peter Weber