Sunday, December 9, 2007

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A retraction on Hugo Chavez

Last week I had some nice words for Hugo Chavez, because he had recogized that he had lost his constitutional referendum and yet respected the outcome.

According to Jorge Castañeda's Newsweek essay, however, Chavez didn't exactly make this decision on his own volition:

[B]y midweek enough information had emerged to conclude that Chávez did, in fact, try to overturn the results. As reported in El Nacional, and confirmed to me by an intelligence source, the Venezuelan military high command virtually threatened him with a coup d'état if he insisted on doing so. Finally, after a late-night phone call from Raúl Isaías Baduel, a budding opposition leader and former Chávez comrade in arms, the president conceded—but with one condition: he demanded his margin of defeat be reduced to a bare minimum in official tallies, so he could save face and appear as a magnanimous democrat in the eyes of the world. So after this purportedly narrow loss Chávez did not even request a recount, and nearly every Latin American colleague of Chávez's congratulated him for his "democratic" behavior.

posted by Dan on 12.09.07 at 10:24 PM


Jorge Castañeda is so partisan that listing to him is even less credible than listing to John Bolton on Iran. Neither you nor I have seen any evidence of what he says. and just because the Latin American right can't believe that they are losing power, they are going to the extremes to discredit or demonize their opposition (basically, the poor and indigenous people of the region). Until a reasonable and neutral source makes accusations like this, i will not believe it. it is just sad and pathetic that they have to go to such lengths to keep hold of power.

posted by: Joe M. on 12.09.07 at 10:24 PM [permalink]

By the way, I mean, just making accusations will not due. they have to produce evidence. Anyone can act like Bolton and say any stupidity. Let's see the evidence.

And too, I don't think Chavez has acted all that well. But he has acted 1000 times better than his opposition when they lose elections.

posted by: Joe M. on 12.09.07 at 10:24 PM [permalink]

Regardless of the veracity of Castañeda's claim, it's too early to congratulate Chavez for his democratic behavior. He still has 5 years to consolidate his hold on the other 2 branches of govt and the media. He WILL try again to rewrite the consitution. I think he'll succeed the next time.

By the way, Joe, is it your claim the Chavez is the best hope for the poor indigenous Venezuluelans? With all the oil money pouring in, any reasonably liberal govt should be able to improve their lives better than Chavez has. He devotes far too much money and effort enhancing his power and enriching his friends. Not the friend of the common man that he pretends to be.

Why is it that resource-rich countries always end up with autocratic leaders? (That's a retorical question.)

posted by: OpenBorderMan on 12.09.07 at 10:24 PM [permalink]

I tend to agree with Joe M's comment that the sourcing seems thin. We have a mysterios single source from an intelligence service, added to a citation to the Venezualan newspaer El Nacional. The commentary really does a poor job of citation, so in the interests of helpfulness, here is the article:

It's in Spanish, and online translation programs massacre the article. Note that this article is a Woodward-esque recreation of a scene at military headquarters, and is not sourced at all. The MSNBC article, it could be argued, serves as a jornalistic equivalent of money laundering.

Chavez, always a classy guy, has labled the author a US spy.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 12.09.07 at 10:24 PM [permalink]

I like many of the policies of Chavez, but he is not the "best hope" for the poor in my opinion. In real terms, i think he is doing more for the poor than any other leader in the world, probably. Also, when you say he "devotes far too much money and effort enhancing his power and enriching his friends...." i don't know what you mean. If you are referring to selling oil at low prices to countries even more poor than his own, I think that is a good thing. But personally, I would prefer hit to shut his mouth a lot more. Also, for example, I would like to see South America move to eliminate borders and integrate like the EU (with a single currency, university exchanges, standardized trade regimes, integrated regulatory institutions...). Also, I am glad that he is working for the poor, but i would like to see it a bit more targeted and effective. so yeah, overall, i think he is doing a lot of good, but i think he can do a lot better.

posted by: Joe M. on 12.09.07 at 10:24 PM [permalink]

In the interest of helping my anglophone friends understand the controversy, I translated the news account of Chavez' confontation with the generals. I guess there might have been a veiled threat implied, but I think Castañeda overstates it quite a bit.

At 7:30pm, Hugo Chávez meets with the military high command y informed them of his decision to wait for 100% of the ballots before recogniziong the defeat. At his side is Jesse Chacón, Diosdado Cabello, José Albornoz, Miguel Pérez Abad y four officials. Vice President Jorge Rodríguez is absent. His mission was to maintain the Natl Election Counsel in stand-by.

The tension grows in Fuente Tiuna; Quartering of the troops was ordered. A general gets up and, after expressing his respect for the commander in chief, advised him that the armed forces would not be brought to repress the population. It had been indicated that to total all the ballots would require four days of anxiety, and resulting protests. "This country will not these days of agitation, he advised.

Chávez looked at them and fell silent. "They lied to me, they cheated me," he complained to Cabello, because the Zamora Command reported constantly the (impending) triumph of YES, while the reports of D.I.M. said the opposite. It was an irate Chávez, incredulous before the first political loss in 9 years after his military disaster in 1992, disclosed those who saw him in the palace and knew the details of history. The blame, he said, is with the national assembly. The governor of Miranda only ventured to express: "When they leave you alone, you will find me at your side." Cabello is the unconditional man from (the state of) Barinas, which has validated his appointment as Secretary Minister, director of Conatel, vice president of the republic, and the candidate that defeated Enrique Mendoza.

The announcement of the offical, as well as the messages from Maracay, in Aragua, caused them to call for the solders indentified with the top retired general Raúl Isaías Baduel. It was those who convinced the president that it was improper to ignore the agony. After an hour of discussion, Chávez was convinced that the result, no matter how well argued technically favored NO. They even called an expert from CNE to come to Fuerte Tiuna to explain it.

The official made a presentation that argued that the results in the most populous states made the result irreversible. "We are prepared to recognize it, but we want to see the results," said Cabello.

Chávez only listen. He didn't speak.

Finally, he rose and retied to his asigned room at the miliray base.

posted by: OpenBorderMan on 12.09.07 at 10:24 PM [permalink]

I'm no fan of Chávez, but Castañeda is reporting double hearsay. He should have a higher standard of proof.

posted by: Randy Paul on 12.09.07 at 10:24 PM [permalink]

For the record, Vicente Diaz denies the story

posted by: Kenneth Almquist on 12.09.07 at 10:24 PM [permalink]

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