Monday, December 3, 2007

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)


Praise for Hugo Chavez

Your humble blogger has had great fun at Hugo Chavez's expense for quite some time. So in the aftermath of his first electoral defeat in a long while, it's worth concurring with something that Time's Time Padgett points out:

[J]ust as important [as the referendum's defeat] was Chavez's concession. The opposition "won this victory for themselves," he admitted in a voice whose subdued calm was in contrast to his frequently aggressive political speeches. "My sincere recommendation is that they learn how to handle it." Despite his authoritarian bent, Chavez (whose current and apparently last term ends in 2012) had always insisted he was a democrat that he was, in fact, forging "a more genuine democracy" in a nation that had in many ways been a sham democracy typical of a number of Latin American countries. His presidential election victories in 1998, 2000 and 2006, as well as his victory over an attempt to recall him in a 2004 referendum were all recognized by credible international observers; and that conferred on him a democratic legitimacy that helped blunt accusations by his enemies, especially the U.S., that he was a would-be dictator in the mold of Fidel Castro.

In the end it was a cachet that, fortunately, he knew he couldn't forfeit. As a result, the referendum result will resonate far beyond Venezuela. Latin Americans in general have grown disillusioned by democratic institutions particularly their failure to solve the region's gaping inequality and frightening insecurity and many observers fear that Latin Americans, as they so often have in their history, are again willing to give leaders like Chavez inordinate, and inordinately protracted, powers. Chavez, critics complained, was in fact leading a trend of what some called "democratators" democratically elected dictators. His allies in Bolivia and Ecuador, for example, are hammering out new Constitutions that may give them unlimited presidential re-election. The fact that Venezuelans this morning resisted that urge and that Chavez so maturely backed off himself when he saw it may give other countries pause for thought as well. It could even revive the oft-ridiculed notion that this might after all be the century of the Americas.

We'll have to see how Chavez responds to the electoral defeat after 24 hours. Still, if nothing else, Bloomberg reports that Chavez has unintentionally managed to boost the value of Venezuela's bonds.

posted by Dan on 12.03.07 at 12:07 PM




Comments:

Call me a sceptic, but isn't it true that Chavez still has 5 years to try again to "reform" the constitution? Does anyone really think he is a lame duck now? Chavez is certainly smart enough to learn from his mistakes. Of course he will try again-- next time with more handouts for the poor, fewer blatant power grabs, and more effective use of the media.

posted by: OpenBorderMan on 12.03.07 at 12:07 PM [permalink]



I agree w/ OBM and would add that Chavez has probably given the nod to demonstrators who will be taking to the streets this week without any regard for 'subdued calm.' If that doesn't happen, then I'll join you in extending subdued praise to Chavez.

posted by: ODB on 12.03.07 at 12:07 PM [permalink]



Coming from long residence in the former Soviet Union, I'm impressed that Chavez honored the results. I don't think anyone expects him to halt his efforts at grabbing more power, but it's interesting how the result was treated.

A larger continuing question: Why do Chavez's antics get so much attention? Is he genuinely relevant? My own answer is no, but I'm open to hearing why I should care.

Steve LeVine, author
The Oil and the Glory (Random House)
http://www.oilandglory.com

posted by: Steve LeVine on 12.03.07 at 12:07 PM [permalink]



Chavez' antics are only important if you think a comunist dictator with boatloads of money, abusing the rights of his citizens and influencing politics in neighboring countries is important. I guess it depends on your perspective.

posted by: OpenBorderMan on 12.03.07 at 12:07 PM [permalink]



Chavez' antics are only important if you think a comunist dictator with boatloads of money, abusing the rights of his citizens and influencing politics in neighboring countries is important. I guess it depends on your perspective.

And, of course, boatloads o' oil. If Venezuela's chief export were sardines, things would be a tad bit less interesting to us.

posted by: David Nieporent on 12.03.07 at 12:07 PM [permalink]






Post a Comment:

Name:


Email Address:


URL:




Comments:


Remember your info?