Sunday, August 22, 2004

What about Chávez?

Marc Cooper and Randy Paul do me the favor of encouraging their readers to look at my recent posts on Venezuela. Marc notes that I'm "agnostic" on Venezuela, which isn't a bad way to describe my thoughts--if that means I don't believe in one side or the other in that highly polarized political environment.

Recent posts have focused on the fraud allegations, and brought to light the beyond-rational craziness of the opposition. But I'm also no fan of Chávez, who strikes me as a demagogue with dubious democratic credentials (as evidenced by his numerous efforts to erase any checks-and-balances in the current political system).

However, although I wouldn't go as far as Marc in favoring a vote for Chávez' recall (if only because the opposition seems equally scary), he does make many valid points in his critique of Chávez and his international leftist supporters, with his usual polemical flair:

And if I were a Venezuelan, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment. My vote would be to recall Hugo Chavez.

Let’s be clear: I make no illusions about his opposition. It is led, in great part, by an oil-spoiled oligarchy and by elite right-wing parties. This opposition is also buoyed by Bush administration support. And most likely braced by numerous covert programs, not necessarily excluding the CIA itself.

Further, the traditional Venezuelan political class wallows in corruption and dysfunction, having squandered on itself the vast petroleum-based riches of Venezuela. It was only a matter of time until a populist demagogue would come along to exploit the righteous anger of millions of impoverished Venezuelans. So
I’m fully cognizant of the fact that Hugo Chavez is but a Frankenstein created by a failed political system.

But so what? He’s still a Frankenstein. And the sycophantic little
that Ali and legions of other Chavez groupies including Mark Weisbrot and Richard Gott perform with this thug are truly appalling. American and British leftists find themselves so inorganic to power, so relegated to the margins, so detached from the “masses” they purport to lead and enlighten, that their politics often becomes little but primitive cheerleading for any tin-pot Third World dictator who strikes an anti-American pose. Truly pathetic.

Venezuelan leftists know much better, because they actually have to live in Venezuela under Chavez’s authoritarian and intellectually-insulting rule. The most important and imaginative of the country’s leftist parties, Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) and Causa R, stand in firm opposition to Chavez and
along with the country’s central labor federation are supporting his recall. I understand where they’re coming from. Last year I spent a couple of hours in Chavez’ presence during a clumsily arranged “press conference” in Brazil and I found my IQ dropping by the minute. Chavez is but a brutish ego-maniac who blathers on for hours at a time about matters he knows nothing about. Imagine a cheap, cartoonish imitation of Fidel Castro with absolutely not a trace of any of the redeeming qualities one can find in the Cuban lider maximo.

There is no “Bolivarian Revolution” in Venezuela. Instead you find the anti-democratic demagogy of a blow-hard bully who – in the name of “serving the people”—imposes harsh austerity and poco a poco erodes whatever survives of Venezuelan democracy.

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