November 29th, 2007

Chavez: what a guy

That man of the people, Hugo Chavez, is up to his old/new tricks in Venezuela: using the democratic process to subvert the safeguards built into it (see this for my discussion of the perils involved). An upcoming referendum will let Venezuelan voters decide just how far they’ll allow Chavez to go in his so-far successful bid to assume long-lasting dictatorial powers.

Chavez is the darling of the Left, partly because he is one of the few ascendant Leftists of the old school, whose rhetoric of “let’s-nationalize-everything-and-make-the-poor-richer-and-the-rich-
poorer-and-stick-it-to-the-US-and-by-the-way-I’m-so-well-meaning -that-I-need-to-become-a-dictator-to-expedite-the-whole-process-so-
just-trust-me-I-have-your-best-interests-at-heart” rings true with those who are soggy with nostalgia for the days when Castro and Che seemed to be the wave of the future.

Some admirers such as recent Sanity Squad interviewee Fatima Bhutto are reluctant to give up on Chavez just yet; “the jury’s still out,” they say. No, it’s not; he’s established his bona fides quite nicely, and if a person fails to recognize the pattern at this point I’m afraid it’s just a question of outright denial.

Many revious supporters in Venezuela have finally decided enough is enough, however. I hope it’s not a case of trying to lock the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Here’s what’s going on:

Venezuelans will vote Sunday in a referendum that would remove all limits on presidential re-election, grant Chávez direct control over foreign currency reserves, allow him to censor the media under a state of emergency declarable at his discretion, expand his powers to expropriate private property and create the second formally socialist nation in the Americas alongside Fidel’s.

“The measures amount to a constitutional coup,” said Teodoro Petkoff, who edits an opposition newspaper.

In Venezuela it’s the students who are organizing protests. This particular referendum seems to have struck a deep nerve, generating a more organized opposition. According to a roundup at Fausta’s:

This new anti-Chavez movement has been brought about by one man. He is the former Chavez Defense Secretary; General Rafael Baduel. Baduel has publicly opposed the constitutional reforms in Venezuela calling them an attempt at a “coup d’etat. As a result he has become the new de-facto leader millions of Venezuelans were waiting for. Until recently, Baduel could be blamed for allowing Chavez to co-opt the military in Venezuela and use it to strengthen his regime and for loyalty to a man who spoke about installing a socialist, revolutionary regime backed by the military. Yet, it is the same Baduel that now begins to rebel.

Whatever Baduel’s reasons were, there is no doubt that the former Defense Secretary and Chief of staff has generated a new momentum and opportunity which will be foolish for those who oppose Hugo Chavez to miss.

In the last couple of weeks students have gone to the streets demanding a halt to the constitutional reforms and protests were organized across the country….he student movement in Venezuela is today the Latin version of the Prague spring of 1968. Whereas the political opposition has become flaccid, legalistic and virtually shut down by the intimidating nature of the Chavez regime, it is the non-political students who are fighting.

The Prague Spring was short-lived because the Soviets intervened to stop it, but ultimately the Soviets came into their own Long Winter.

The students of Venezuela may not be able to buck the tide in Venezuela, especially if the election is rigged. It is my sincere hope that they do, though, or Venezuela may end up like Cuba, waiting patiently for their ancient Dictator for Life to finally kick the bucket.

One of the best bloggers on the subject is Daniel in Venezuela, who attempts the perilous task of predicting the referendum results. Please read.

41 Responses to “Chavez: what a guy”

  1. Gringo Says:

    (As my first posting got buried- what is the word limit?- I am breaking this up)
    Some will claim that whatever the excesses of El Chávez, that he has been a good steward for Venezuela and its poor since he first was elected in 1998: improvements in health, education, etc. Consider these statistics before you accept as gospel truth that claim.

    If El Chávez is such a good steward of Venezuela from 1999 on , then please explain the following:
    The murder rate in Venezuela nearly doubled from 1998 to 2005, from 22 to 42 per 100,000.

    Housing units constructed per 1,000 population. This shows how good El Chávez is at creating infrastructure.
    1990-1998 3.2
    1999-2006 1.2

    Regards the superior progress of the health care system of Venezuela under the stewardship of El Chávez , take a look at Infant Mortality, which is usually considered the benchmark for evaluating a country’s performance in public health.

    % reduction in Infant Mortality, 2000-2005
    Latin America 13.4%
    Venezuela 12.6%

    Consider the claims that of El Chávez has eliminated illiteracy.

    In 2006, youth literacy (ages 15-24) for Latin American and the Caribbean was 96.0%; for Venezuela, 97.2%. The 2006 figures for adult literacy are 89.7% for Latin America and the Caribbean compared with 93% for Venezuela. From 1990-2006, Latin America and the Caribbean increased its youth literacy rate by 3.3%; Venezuela by 1.2%.

    For all the oil money that El Chávez has had, it doesn’t appear that with regards to health and education, he hasn’t done any more than the rest of Latin America has, and most of Latin America hasn’t had the oil revenue windfall ( from $10 to $90/bbl since 1998) that Venezuela has had.

  2. Gringo Says:

    Sources and more from the first posting.
    Here is a good essay on the Venezuelan petrostate before and after El Chávez took power.
    Here is an article on the milk shortages in Venezuela:

    Neither is El Chávez a good steward nor is he a democrat. Check out the quotes on the sidebars in Caracas Chronicles for whom are friends of El Chávez. As they say, ducks of a feather.

    Housing Sources:
    a) , El déficit y la producción formal de viviendas. (05- 2006)
    Murder rate:
    Infant Mortality, Population, and Education: World Bank World Development Indicators, online (access via State Library System)

  3. Ymarsakar Says:

    It is not the word limit, Gringo. IT is the number of links and certain forbidden words that make your post disappear.

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    Btw, this is why democracy and republics suck at killing the people that need killing. It includes war as well.

    Democracise and republics have an incredible amount of hardcoded weaknesses that enemies can exploit. This happens whether such a democracy or republic is at war or not.

    Martial law and systems of empire are much better at getting rid of people like Chavez, before they gain enough power to be the ones giving orders.

    Iraq’s problems in 2003 was that the US didn’t kill enough people via martial law and ruthless decisions, not that the US killed too many civilians that sparked a popular “uprising”.

    The Left always likes to think that it is violence that creates grassroots blowback. Yet in Chavez, it was the lack of violence that created his power base. The lack of violence by his enemies, that is.

  5. TC Says:

    thx for this good link
    I had been looking for some solid blog in Venezuela for a while now.
    Sunday is going to be interesting.
    What scares me most about Chavez is his friendship with some muslim fools. That is a VERY unhealthy mix.

  6. Gringo Says:

    The web portal VenezuelaToday has the best 1-stop access for Venezuelan blogs and news.It was down for ~ 4 months, but recently was reactivated. Thank you, Ed!

    Perhaps the best and most prolific blogs are Caracas Chronicles, Devil’s Excrement, and Venezuela News & Views ( a.k.a. Daniel-Venezuela, the blog that Neo refers to.)

    As I used to work in Venezuela, and have worked in the US with Venezuelans, I have perhaps more interest in Venezuela than the average gringo.

  7. Doom Says:

    I really wonder if their is a communist or socialist the Democratic Party doesn’t like, other than Hitler (and only because he lost, I think) and a few European moderates (Sarkozy for example)? I do not even think it is so much that they like them, it’s that they want to BE them, sort of an amoral daydream thing. The lackies just stay in step to be hip and cool. How short are memories, Teddy’s daddy lost his chance in politics because of his vociferous pronunciations in favor of a, what is now “despised” by the “left”, dictator on the rise Adolf Hitler. The apples certainly didn’t fall far from the tree. And those apples are darlings of the left. Go figure (it won’t take long, done!, see?)

  8. Laura Says:

    Chavez has abused his power. Taking power and letting it corrupt. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  9. Xanthippas Says:

    I really wonder if their is a communist or socialist the Democratic Party doesn’t like

    You mean like the communists of the cold war, who Democratic presidents battled?

  10. Tap Says:

    Yes, the very ones. It’s sad how things change, isn’t it?

  11. James Says:

    What are they teaching the students in Venezuela?

    It seems their university establishment is open and encouraging of real debate. An establishment that recognizes ‘debate and discussion among peers’ as the end itself and not the means to a cookie cutter ‘Liberal education’.

    Send me over, I think I might learn something.

  12. bunkerbuster Says:

    Neoneo writes:
    “Chavez is the darling of the Left”

    By what measure?

    There is, and probably always will be, a nutty left-wing fringe that is drawn to people like Chavez. These exoticists have no political power in American and never have. Why would neoneo, or anyone, pay attention to them? As a group, the aren’t too bright and have just about zero political influence.

    America does, however, have a left wing that includes many Democrats, Greens and independents. Among these non-fringests, I have yet to read a word that could be described as making Chavez into a “darling.”

    By contrast, I have read thousands of words raising doubts about Chavez’ leadership and the direction into which he’s leading Venezuala.

    Yesterday’s New York Times has just such a left of center columnists Roger Cohen. Marc Cooper, a noted leftist who acted as the personal translator for Chilean leader Salvador Allende, has made a cottage industry of penning essays calling Chavez a thug and belittling his silly fringist supporters in the U.S.
    John Kerry, in the 2004 campaign, called Chavez a supporter of “narco-terrorists” and “detrimental to our interests.”
    Liberal former senator Tom Harkin said (in response to Chavez U.N. speech in which he said he “smelled sulfur” near where Bush had stood earlier: “Yesterday’s comments by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela were incendiary and unworthy of a nation’s leader…This is especially inappropriate at a forum such as the United Nations, dedicated to civil and peaceful dialogue among nations.”

    To be sure, there have been some left-leaning actors, musicians and, even, politicians who have defended Chavez at various levels.

    I agree that Chavez actions, in particular those of the past year, are indefensible. But I am also sympathetic to the view that we should avoid cheerleading for an attack on Venezuela.

    Former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson famously called for Chavez’s assassination and, given the long history of U.S. involvement in assassinations of Latin American leaders, only a fool would believe it’s unlikely to happen again.

    At any rate, whatever support Chavez does retain on the American left is bound to fade fast as he consolidates control and moves toward dictatorship–assuming he doesn’t shift course.

  13. bunkerbuster Says:

    CIC (Conservative Inferiority Complex) Watch:

    “The lackies just stay in step to be hip and cool.”

    Those liberals are just so hip and so cool. How can a conservative stand being terminally unhip and uncool? Poor things, it must just drive them crazy…

  14. sammish Says:

    I liked Chavez as a leader when he first emerged on the political scene. Quite franckly, first I did like his vision and leftist leanings. Because I sometimes like to see some South Aamericans leaders stand up to the big neoliberal market oriented bully in the North. It sort of puts North and South American politics in a new light and dynamics instead of the old dictates of the IMF and their US allies proning the trade barriers be erased and social services curtailed and corporate takeover on major industries (Halliburton/ Water/ Bolivia case) and so on.

    HOWEVER, when Chavez started to go after the US with his rampant diatribes personally and curtailing internal opposition to his agenda then I started to think that political power is certainly corrupting and can mislead well intentioned leaders towards totalitarian tendencies.

    What did it for me in terms of classifiying Chavez as a nutcake and a mediatized street bully is when he allied himself with Iran and its similar nuthead Ahmedinejad, who denies the Holaucaust, think that America is the big Satan, and believe that Islam is the true religion. Considering Chavez a leftist progressist! Does he know what Iran is doing to women if they show some hair outside their hijab? How they are put them in jail and humiliated and their parents for the simple mistake for not wearing the hijab properly. Does he know how the vice police operate in Iran. Where is the freedom Chavez is always trying to fight for and tell us about. I thought South Americans are progressists and freedom loving leaders who would not align themselves with backwards, obscurantist tyrannical and mysogynist Middle Eastern leaders.

    I might be accepting of economic freedom for any country willing to go its own way in terms of determining its economic future even if it stands against the interest of neoliberal market oriented policies of Washington. HOWEVER, when this “economic” policy becomes an totalitarian ideology that spills over in areas of the denial of individual rights, social freedom, and freedom of decent for me that’s stupidity, slander and deceit.

  15. Trimegistus Says:


    Lefties like these:

    and these:

    and these:

  16. Talkinkamel Says:

    One problem, sammish, is that you, and those like you, gleefully support totalitarians who are anti-America because you empathize with their standing up to “neo-liberal markets” (whatever those are) and “speaking truth to power”, whatever.

    Then, when they start showing their true colors, and allying themselves with other totalitarians, you are truly shocked—SCHOCKED!—to disover they’re actually bad guys!

    At some point, you really are going to have to chose between, say, supporting America and the west (even if they induldge in “neoliberal markets”), or throwing your support to tyrants, because of some misplaced idealism.

  17. harry9000 Says:

    “But I am also sympathetic to the view that we should avoid cheerleading for an attack on Venezuela.”

    And where on earth does BUNK get the idea anything like that has even been considered?

    “Former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson famously called for Chavez’s assassination and, given the long history of U.S. involvement in assassinations of Latin American leaders, only a fool would believe it’s unlikely to happen again.”

    Chavez isnt the “darling” of the left according to Bunk, but somehow, Robertson speaks for all neocons. How ’bout that?

    “only a fool would believe it’s unlikely to happen again.”

    Only a fool would believe Bush didnt steal the 2000 election. Only a fool would believe Bush didnt blow up the WTC in order to create a pretense for an illegal, immoral war for oil in Iraq. Only a fool would believe Bush didnt blow up the levies in New Orleans to rid the city of its poor black population. Only a fool would believe…..

  18. Doom Says:

    What the left says is of little note regarding the truth in action. As I understand it, B. Clinton was “For that thing in Iraq” (had a plan off attack before that, while in the White House, as I recall: and, before he was against it), J. Kerry believed there were WMD in Iraq, before he didn’t and then decried the war which he now believed was based (in his newer belief) solely on the lie of WMD being in Iraq (or did it change, in the end, to being about oil, I can’t keep track). The list goes on. What Democrats like or don’t like depends on the day, the base, the wind, and the humidity. It’s not that it changes, it’s more that it never existed. Hollow men, even the ones with hairy legs and girlfriends.

    Being that H20 is the greatest cause of any actual global warming (far outstripping C02 as a “causative” (which, by the way, it isn’t, it’s an effect of global warming), my thesis is that all the bloviating by leftists is the actual cause of global warming. Having to tell every audience that they believe whatever that audience wants means a LOT of double talk. *sigh* I just write, and once. See, greennnnn.

  19. Roundhead Says:

    but haven’t you guys heard!

    Chavez has got his hands on a CIA memo conveniently written in Spanish that details how the CIA is working to undermine the glorious victory of the Chavista revolution!

    check here for the details:

  20. bunkerbuster Says:

    The binary-brained conservatives have spoken and made obvious that, for them, everyone is either a friend or a foe, good or evil, black or white.

    Unfortunately, there are some leftists who think the same way and I daresay these are the ones who still support Chavez.

  21. Roundhead Says:

    admit it bunker, you wrote that CIA memo didn’t you?

  22. Doom Says:

    1 + 1 = 2. There are no other correct answers (in spite of engineering and mathematical humor indicating that, with large enough values of 1, 3 is possible). The more complicated the equation, the more likely to have many (and mostly) wrong answers. It does not mean those with the correct answer are no more correct than those with the wrong answer. Belief in no “correct answer” is as bad as, if not worse than, the belief in the wrong answer. You won’t learn that in school, sadly, it’s too true. Believe what you will, hug a cactus or get permanently fixed for all I care. It’s only when your solutions become skin off my nose that I become involved. I am involved.

  23. Occam's Beard Says:

    Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    That’s very good, Laura. May I use that? I’m writing a speech for Lord Acton.

  24. Occam's Beard Says:

    I really wonder if their is a communist or socialist the Democratic Party doesn’t like

    X: You mean like the communists of the cold war, who [sic] Democratic presidents battled?

    Going back aways, aren’t we? The last Democratic Cold Warrior President was LBJ, who left office in 1968. The difference from today’s Dems is telling.

    Why not go back a bit further yet, to when the Democratic Party fought for slavery?

  25. Occam's Beard Says:

    America does, however, have a left wing that includes many Democrats, Greens and independents. Among these non-fringests, I have yet to read a word that could be described as making Chavez into a “darling.”

    Mendacious. Defines away the problem – since anyone admiring Chavez is now a “fringest,” and to be discounted. It’d be like saying no Catholic priests molest boys, because the instant one does so, he ceases to be a priest.

    To see Hugomania at its finest, spend a few minutes on Democratic Underground, DailyKos, or HuffPo. I can supply dozens of links, if you like.

  26. Sloan Says:

    Back to the election on Sunday. Is Jimmuh Cahteh going to monitor the election? You know, just to make sure the right, or in this case left, results are voted in?

  27. bunkerbuster Says:

    Occam’s Beard writes:
    “Mendacious. Defines away the problem – since anyone admiring Chavez is now a “fringest,” and to be discounted. It’d be like saying no Catholic priests molest boys, because the instant one does so, he ceases to be a priest.”

    Careful OB. Binary thinkers shouldn’t play with analogies. Your analogy above implies that you think pederasty is the “darling of the Catholic priesthood.”

  28. Gringo Says:

    For further evidence that Americans who support El Chávez of Hugoslavia are not confined to fringe lefties and Hollywood types, please peruse these articles. Unless you consider Congressmen to be fringe lefties, of course.

  29. Occam's Beard Says:

    Careful, bunkerduster. Null thinkers shouldn’t even post, much less worry about analogies. Leave that to the grownups.

  30. Occam's Beard Says:

    Gringo, this presumes that liberals/ leftists/ whatever can be embarrassed. If that were so, however, they’d have dropped dead long ago.

  31. bunkerbuster Says:

    Gringo: you misunderstand the situation because you can’t or won’t distinguish between declining to join in every criticism of Chavez and supporting him.

    There is no evidence whatsoever in the links you provided that these congressmen support Chavez. The AmericanThinker describes the congressmen as pro-Chavez, but provides no evidence whatsoever that they are.

    Objecting to calls for assassinating a leader or opposing violent overthrow of a leader does not equal supporting that leader.

    I objected to the invasion of Iraq, but that does not make me a supporter of Saddam Hussein.

    I know that’s very difficult for binary thinkers to understand, but maybe if they focus hard, they can get it.

    On lefty blogs, there is much talk about how awful Chavez is. On many occassions, I’ve taken the position that we should be careful in criticizing Chavez because the criticisms feed into a mindset that says bad political leaders need to be overthrown violently by the U.S.

    Many of the commenters on this blog offer evidence for my point.

    Jimmy Carter is by no stretch of the imagination a supporter of Chavez, yet the “American Thinker” describes him as one, merely because he participated in a team of election observers who confirmed that the vote was free and fair.

    Carter has done this in many countries and elections and has an unassailable record of integrity and fairness. Otherwise, he would not be asked to lead such efforts.

    Chavez is clearly abusing his democratic mandate, but it is just as clearly a fact that he does have a democratic mandate. He was elected, then re-elected in internationally supervised voting.

    This doesn’t make him a good leader and doesn’t mean that he’s not leading Venezuela on the road to ruin. It just means that, at the moment, he still has some claim, though an imperfect one, to rightfully lead his country.

    The failure of chauvinists to distinguish between people like Carter, who merely supervised the election Chavez won, from actual supporters of Chavez on the loony left, is just more evidence of how binary thinking forces them to distort reality.

  32. bunkerbuster Says:

    And as for accepting heating oil at a 40 percent discount from Venezuala: I hardly think this is sign of support.

    Why wouldn’t anyone be willing to cut Chavez revenue by 40 percent, while at the same time lowering their constituents’ heating costs, which have soared in the past few years?

    Again, binary thinkers can only recognize two points of view: absolutely for them, or absolutely against them. Anything else, they just don’t or won’t or can’t understand.

  33. Occam's Beard Says:

    How about Chavez’s “Enabling Act?” Now, where have I heard that phrase before?

    For those who are apparently incapable of grasping elementary truths, Chavez’s “democratic mandate” or lack thereof is irrelevant if he uses that mandate to destroy democracy (viz., the Enabling Act), as he bids fair to do.

    He’s a low-rent, smelly socks knock-off of two other famous socialists, lacking only a mustache and a few dozen IQ points.

    And for my part, I’m not a binary thinker. There are good things about Chavez, too. He is making the trains run on time, I hear.

  34. bunkerbuster Says:

    Smelly socks?

    Say it ain’t so O.B.!

    I didn’t know you had a thing for lingerie…

  35. harry9000 Says:

    “Carter has done this in many countries and elections and has an unassailable record of integrity and fairness. “

    He has an unassailable record of being an unwitting (or not) dupe and useful tool for tyrants and dictators world wide, and a hindrance to a foreign policy that calls for moral clarity and certitude. Other than that, Im sure he’s a model of patriotism. To whom, Im not too sure…

    “On lefty blogs,…I’ve taken the position that we should be careful in criticizing Chavez because the criticisms feed into a mindset that says bad political leaders need to be overthrown violently by the U.S.”

    LOL! Oh, Im sure thats true. But on “lefty blogs” its not as though you’re going to run into anyone there thats willing to go to war for anything anyway, so you’re pretty safe there.

    Take a moment and think about absurd you sound. You dont want to talk bad about a dictator because you’re afraid that, that alone would trigger a US invasion. Honestly, what the hell is wrong with you?

  36. harry9000 Says:

    Thats…”how absurd you sound”.


  37. harry9000 Says:

    You know what Bunk? Now that I think about it, what you had said about being careful about what you say to your lefty pals on your turf, and what you admit to us about Chavez on our turf, must mean you trust us “binary-brained” “chauvinists” to act in a more rational manner. Its an important revelation and self discovery on your part. I encourage you to continue to examine your beliefs further.

  38. Sally Says:

    On the previous comment thread, Bunk whined on and on about how people — “chauvanist” people — said mean things about him and his surrenderist ilk. Here, his whole shtick is merely to run whatever variants he can think of, and that isn’t many, on “binary thinker” as a taunt. The simple fact is that he’s a troll, a swollen-headed troll ever since neo devoted a post to arguing with him, but a fairly dim example of the type at that (binary thinking being at least one level higher than the mono-thought that pervades his herd).

    Nevertheless, it is of course true that Chavez should be left to stew in his own juice, along with the poor, benighted multitudes who have fallen for the old, old socialist shell game yet again, and do support him. I haven’t seen anyone here or elsewhere calling for his forcible ouster, only hopes that the coming referendum will be just some approximation of “fair” (if it’s not, or even if it is, it’s unlikely that there’ll be any future elections during his tenure). But — should there emerge any real evidence that he’s making deals with jihadis, as a means of getting at his obssesive hate-figure, Bush — Chavez coming across as almost as Bush-deranged as some American lefties — then he should be taken out fast. As with pirates, nobody and no state, democracy or otherwise, has a right to harbor or support terrorists.

    As for his admiring entourage of high-profile, celebrity lefties, it’s particularly comic to see our resident trolls squirm trying to pass them off as a lunatic “fringe”. No, sadly, they’re all too representative of the degraded level to which so much of the contemporary left has been reduced — fawning over any posturing thug that comes along in the mono-brained, adolescent belief that he’s “sticking it to the man”.

  39. pst314 Says:

    I have read that most of the student opposition is leftist. One article quoted a student leader who calls himself Stalin. When parents name their children Stalin you know that a culture is ready for examination by a pathologist.

  40. Occam's Beard Says:

    I fervently hope that the US Government (both the current Administration and the next one) merely ignores Chavez (which in any case would be entirely appropriate). Go ahead and implement it as best you can, Hugo. Use your country as a Petri dish, so we can later point to it as an example that socialism does not work, and we had nothing to do with its failure.

  41. Gringo Says:

    News from Caracas Chronicles blog is that Chavez lost.
    A great sigh of relief.

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