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December 6, 2005

The Politics of Venezuela

The Politics of Venezuela

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

A poster for the candidate Andres Velasquez on a wall in Puerto la Cruz, circa 2000 [JRO /Flickr]

More to come tomorrow. Right now — in the control room preparing for tonight’s show, with only 30 minutes before Brendan’s fly-in mentions this post — I’m going to have to be content with a few lines cribbed from this show’s hastily written promo:

The ex-military leftie Hugo Chavez won big in Sunday’s elections… not having any opponents certainly helped. So: with an embarassing 75% voter abstention, is this the beginning or the end for Chavez? What about Venezuelan democracy?

There’s a lot more to cover, obviously, like oil policy and foreign policy and the freedom of the press. And another one: U.S.-Venezuela relations (remember Pat Robertson?). We’d also like to throw Venezuela’s evolving role within Latin America into the mix.

The hope is that — starting from the lessons and reverberations of Sunday’s elections — we can get to all of this. But, like I said, more tomorrow.

Update, 12/07 at 4:22pm

I forgot to mention in the orginal post that this show is partly a response to Flow, who asked, “What’s brewing in Latin America? What’s the scoop on Hugo Chavez?” We can’t promise any scoops, but it should be feisty:

Daniel Hellinger

Professor of Political Science, Webster University

Co-editor, Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era

Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez

Venezuealan Ambassador to the United States

Miguel Octavio

Blogger, The Devil’s Excrement

Daniel Duquenal

Blogger, Venezuela News And Views

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  • http://www.cuentosintrascendentes.blogspot.com/ bruni

    I just read in a vzlan blog (The Devil’s) that you are going to be discussing this subject. Great! Venezuela is heading towards a totalitarian regime, there are no institutions left that are not Chavez dominated and now a 100% Chavez dominated Congress means that Chavez has the green light to change his own Constitution, change any law and become a formal dictator.

    Venezuelan Constitution used to state that the President could only last 5 years, no inmediate reelection. Then, in 1999, after being elected, Chavez pushed for a change in the Constitution. One of the new clauses was that the Presidential term would last 6 years, inmediately renewable. He is up for re-election next december. But he is now talking about staying until 2030 and today, taking advantage of their 100% win and just one day after the election, the president of the national Assembly, Nicolas Maduro, already stated that he is starting the movement to change the Constitution so that Chavez can stay in power until 2030….With only 25% of the people going to vote and a large number of null votes.

    Note that the goverment wanted badly to get people to vote yesterday, so much that they used all the goverment means and even said on TV that the public servants that did not vote would be fired. And yet, only 25% of the people answered the call…Venezuelans do not trust their voting system and decided to stay home.

    So this is a very tricky situation for Venezuela: a supposedly democratic country that is dangerously heading towards a dictatorship.

  • nother

    Just one more indirect ripple effect from the failed Iraq policy. Chavez has given himself a high profile by “standing up” to the “bully” Bush. I’m sure Muammar al-Qaddafi is kicking himself right now.

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  • http://www.bicyclemark.org bicyclemark

    I’d like to hear more information and developments regarding the Venezuelan government’s program of deeply discounted heating oil for poor communities in the US. DN reported that its happening in the Bronx.. I want to see if places like Miami, Newark, Detroit, etc will also participate in this. And perhaps other oil corporations will also be shamed into offering the same to match the spirit of Citgo.

  • pjt1

    Before dwelling on the low turnout in the Venezualan elections, it is important to note that 70% of U.S. citizens did not vote for the current U.S. president.

  • http://www.sdelmont.com/ sdelmont

    The poster in the photo is not of Chavez.

    It’s Andres Velasquez, candidate in 2000 for La Causa R.

  • Recent Move

    The tone of subtle admiration and endorsement of Chavez being shown by the host and his guests tonight is pathetic. Chavez, after trying to overthrow the government by violence a decade or so ago, has managed to co-opt and pervert the mechanisms of democracy, as when he orchestrated a rigged election a couple of years ago and also took over the oil industry, to develop a fascist state on the doorsteps of the United States. He has proved himself to be a thug, a bully, and a vulgar windbag. Without oil, the economy of Venezuela is a farce, and the plight of Venezuela’s poor has not improved one bit. There are increasing limits on free enterprise and free speech. Count “Open Source” among the groups of obsequious fans of Chavez — keeping company wiht Fidel Castro and that good old quisling Jimmy Carter.

  • A little yellow bird

    Some day in a galaxy far, far away, politics and government will cease to exist; or will exist as artifacts, documents, and historical presentations for educational and cautionary purposes. Thanks to the people who caused a less than thrilling turnout at the polls in Venezuela, or anywhere. Disappointing the desire of people to enforce their own enslavement is a worthy endeavor, even if some of the (non-)participants really don’t understand what they’ve done, but are only reacting instinctually to a dim perception of the events. Hooray for voluntary cooperation. Hooray for the WWW.

  • charliewelch

    When is the US government going to stop trying to overthrow elected governments? For details of the last attempt to overthrow Chavez see http://www.venezuelafoia.info/english.html

    Would we tolerate any other country medaling in our internal affairs, the way we are funding “democracy� in Venezuela.

  • A little yellow bird

    No one is standing up to anybody–Bush and Chavez support each other; states everywhere are friends: they all prop each other up, like in “1984″ by George Orwell. “War is the health of the State.” (–Randolph Bourne) And Eastasia, Oceania, and Eurasia have all, and will all, always be at war with each other; each pretending to be enemies, while the “different” people in all of those places “clamor to be led to safety” (–H L Mencken?) by their respective governments/eternal parents.

  • cheesechowmain

    “When is the US government going to stop trying to overthrow elected governments?”

    I imagine it will be helpful and probably to end this kind of geo-political behavior when we’ve sated ourselves on our appetite for petroleum.

  • leejjudt

    I have been listening to the show and for some people because Chavez is a man of the left he can do no wrong.

    This is pathetic. If Chavez were a supporter of Bush he would be excoriated here by almost everyone.

  • A little yellow bird

    Oh, brother. Goodnight, y’all.

  • venezolano

    How naive are the Americans & specially the academic pseud-opolititians. A measure of democracy is how the government respects it’s citizens. How many times has the government of Venezuela found anyone inocent because guilt could not be proven?

    No person in Venezuela trust their government to protect him/ her from dissent. Dissent, specially now that Cubans with their example give the tone where Venezuela is moving to.

    Also, don’t say that Venezuela is conciously planing to put their $ in health, social program, etc. That is a smoke screen to buy votes, to hide the real intentions of Chavez standing against the US. Look at what he has done, who are his allies & friends: democrats?, open minded, leaders accepting dissent?.

    How naive can you be?.

  • phraluang

    I think we miss a few simple abstract models that could be applied as a clarifier in this subject. Taking the comments from the radio show we can discuss the relationships between “buying votes”, “oil money” and the production of a popular health and education system. This system will then further stimulate the growth model that will slowly replace oil as its lifeline.

    The US must then decide whether this model is something they would support or dissemble.

  • A little yellow bird

    venezolano: How naive can WE be? No more naive than someone who believes government is ever for the people, by the people, etc.: for no truly free people ever really “consent” to being “governed”. Peace.

  • leejjudt

    “No person in Venezuela trust their government to protect him/ her from dissent. Dissent, specially now that Cubans with their example give the tone where Venezuela is moving to.”

    Venezolano, estoy de acuerdo contigo. La gente aqui, especialmente los izquerdistas son bobos. No tienen ningun idea lo que es vivir an un pais sin politica, sin derechos.

  • venezolano

    Little yellow Bird,

    Haev you ever lived in fear of your governement?.Have you feared for your children or family’s safety?. If you think that in Venezuela you can dial 911 & you get a police car in 5 minutes at your doorstep to protect you, you are very naive.

    I like your phylosophical statement. I subscrivbe to it but you need a Justice department that will enforce the liberties stated in EVERY country’s constitution. This is NOT Venezuela. Wake up. Irakies, Libians, Russians, etc, etc, etc. were not free. Venezuela is heading to become the new totalitarian country of 2006.

  • phraluang

    Why is it that arguements are either combative in retreat or communicative in its embrace.

  • A little yellow bird

    venezolano: IDO live in fear of my government! Have you been reading the news?!

  • leejjudt

    “venezolano: IDO live in fear of my government! Have you been reading the news?!”

    If I were little bird all yellow I would move to Venezuela right away. The fact that he doesn’t means that he knows he is lying.

  • venezolano

    OK, Little Yellow bird. I would suggest you go to Venezuela & after you get yourself settled for about 2-4 weeks, start speaking against the government.

    You may learn what fear is….

  • http://paspalum.blogspot.com/ Edgar Brown

    I think that the program missed the mark. The promo blurb indicated some of the current electoral situation and the future of Chávez. But this topic was not even addressed, so no mention was done of the reports from the international observers which confirmed _ALL_ of what the opposition has been complaining about elections in Venezuela for more than a year before the election (even though you would not get that impression by reading the headlines of the press reports).

    Though I get that with a topic as complicated as Chávez it will take quite a bit to get up to speed with.

  • phraluang

    Are we not trying to help the venezualans, as they have shown they are helping us as in Oil to poor in new england.

    It seems that there is something more primitive here…fear on all sides, of a change that will affect one adversly. If the venezualans are headed in any direction, than we should give them the benefit of the doubt that this is a good direction, who are we to decide it is or it is not. espeically if our decisions usually appear to be detrimnental .

  • venezolano

    Edgar Brown,

    I agree with you. One of the most wonderful traits of the US is how kind we are with strangers. We give them the benefit of the doubt.(don’t need to list it here). I would ask though, need we be kind with someone that insults our president, that call us imperialist, oppresors, etc.

    Chavez (Castro), says we are terrorists, etc. Meanwhile, he is the first to go to Iran, Libia, Russia. The one that buys rifles, planes, finances rebels in colombia. Is trying to destabilize governmmets openly (with petro-donor-dollars), etc.

    Please, do not be naive. Did we forget how we tolerated Hitler?. Where did that take the world?. Chavez is no longer a little fish

  • phraluang

    are we any differernt in how we influence the world, our foreign policy is about de-stablizing regions and then blaming it on them, we have secured our wealth off the backs of the rest of the world and are now unwilling to help out these same people.

  • leejjudt

    venezolano

    “OK, Little Yellow bird. I would suggest you go to Venezuela & after you get yourself settled for about 2-4 weeks, start speaking against the government.”

    Oh, but Venezolano, you forget, al pajaro amarillo no le gusta la politica.

    The guy does’t like politics. He would love to live in a country that’s like a behive without politics.

    To me political life is part of civic life. Is what makes civil society, civil.

  • venezolano

    Maybe all human beings are the same. I refuse to accept that people like Chavez are tolerated. I saw many like him growing up. They don’t deserve the same priviledges because they don’t respect you the same way you do others.

  • leejjudt

    “are we any differernt in how we influence the world, our foreign policy is about de-stablizing regions and then blaming it on them, we have secured our wealth off the backs of the rest of the world and are now unwilling to help out these same people.”

    How does one answer such nonsense?

    I’ll start by asking for proof. Got any proof phraluang?

  • phraluang

    well proof is happening everyday one should begin with how wealth is created and then who has all this wealth.

    Wealth is created by human labor and for some to have more than others they will have had to take a little of everyone elses labor. simple as this is people don’t ever realize that we are always paying up a ladder to a few at the top. The US has been doing this since it took over the post colonial world through a means of military might and destabilizing techniques made possible by a historical thread most recently known as colonialization.

  • venezolano

    I’d say that is not enough to commit the kind of Hara-kiri we are doing within us….Let’s lear, let’s modify our laws. But to praise a person like Chavez? to forgive him for his demening attitude is plain stupid.

    If America falls apart )like most our enemies want as to), because of internal disent, we will deserve it…

  • http://paspalum.blogspot.com/ Edgar Brown

    Actually I don’t think that the U.S. is just ‘tolerating’ Chavismo, if you see the actions and declarations coming from the U.S. government you’ll notice that the right things are being said, and the right things are being done, while at the same time not giving too much fodder to Chávez’s verbiage (The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela’s declaration before the election was priceless). The White House is very much aware that any more than that would just increase Chavez’s influence.

    Venezuela’s future is for Venezuelans to fix, but some international pressure is needed to ‘grease’ change, and international media seems to just want to be part of the problem. Just read the reports at PMB’s site ( http://pmbcomments.blogspot.com/2005/12/dec0605-oas-not-impressed-with-regimes.html and http://pmbcomments.blogspot.com/2005/12/dec-0605-eu-has-more-concerns-than.html ), and then do a search for ‘Venezuela’ in Google news to see what I mean.

  • leejjudt

    phraluang Says:

    “wealth is created by human labor and for some to have more than others they will have had to take a little of everyone elses labor. simple as this is people don’t ever realize that we are always paying up a ladder to a few at the top. The US has been doing this since it took over the post colonial world through a means of military might and destabilizing techniques made possible by a historical thread most recently known as colonialization.”

    This is just Marxist dogma. I want specifics not predictable but false comments about US imperialism.

    The US was a wealthy country long before “it took over” the so called “post colonial” world.

    In fact ever since the 1990′s when the US had become a superpower the wealth of the average American has gone down. This means that our taking over the “world” hasn’t made us wealth.

    What creates wealth, my friend, is labor along with intellectual know how, along with superior organization, etc. The idea that because we are richer than Venezuela is no proof that we have been robbing that country.

    South America has always been a basket case.

    Blame it on your colonial past and on the socio-economic and culture you inherited from that period which you still haven’t been able to shed.

    It’s not our fault that you are poor and Chavez will make things worse because he is still trapped in the old South American socio cultural paradigm which would rather blame others than look at itself in the mirror.

  • http://www.cuentosintrascendentes.blogspot.com/ bruni

    I actually enjoyed the program very much. I thought that Mr. Lydon was well prepared and so were the other guests.

    I found, however, that Professor Hellinger was presenting the tipical bias towards Chavism and repeating some classical stereotypes and cliches that the Chavistas have inculcated in naif foreigners.

    Even though he rightly stated that Venezuelans were of mixed races and that Chavez’s face represented all the races of the Venezuelan people, he tried to imply that somehow race was a factor in political success in Venezuela. He wrongly stated that until Chavez came to power, all the presidents of PDVSA were European looking.

    Well, professor Hellinger should have a look at Rafael Ramirez, the 6’5″ blond blue eyed current president of PDVSA and minister of oil .He should have also a look at the current (before January) composition of the National Assembly and try to figure out, from the photos, who is a chavista and who is not.

    He will then realize that, in Venezuela, it is impossible to equate political beliefs with race because that is a “faux debat” introduced by the Chavistas. That is a cliche invented by Chavez to divide and conquer and to gain simpathy abroad because that sounds and looks well in countries were real racism existed in the past. It is simply untrue in Venezuela where siblings in the same family are very often of different races. A real melting pot society.

    I personally think that perpetuating the chavista message that there has been racism in Venezuela prior to Chavez’s arrival is offensive for the people that really had to live in a racist society, like the Indians or the African Americans in the US. It banalizes racism while playing Chavez’s game.

  • caracasbbq

    I am a foreign national who has lived in Venezuela for more than 20 years, and has shaken hands with 3 presidents, including Chavez. I have witnessed corruption and progress within 6 governments, but I have never seen less progress or more corruption than in the present administration. I have seen ministry oficials carry the equivalent of thousands of dollars for social outings, I have had venezuelan citizenship offered to me in an off handed way just to be “nice”. I have seen documents that show a crass ignorance of public finance involving million dollar investments, I have seen unrefutable evidence of ilegal personal gain far beyond any prior mark. I have listened to praise of Hugo Chavez in offices bestowed with his portrait only to hear the same individual admit his complete incompatability with the entire country later out of ear shot of subordinates. I have seen a struggling country, grasping for developement lose all hope. the recent elections held in Venezuela are a graphic sample of the lack of hope most Venezuelans feel. This is tragic. I must admit I have never understand the tendency of some to adhere to failure. This is a phenomenae that occurs in families, in the workplace, and apparently in government. And it seems to be more prevalent on the left than anywhere else. Hugo Chavez will be displaced by forces that he cannot escape, some of his own invention, it will most likely be a tragic and violent fall from grace, violent because he has shut all doors behind him, and tragic because he could have done much good, despite himself.

  • hellindc

    From Dan Hellinger

    Well, lot’s to digest here. First, thanks to everyone who listened and commented, espcecially those who disagree but remain civil about it. I was impressed by Daniel’s comments, giving his perspective from Yaracuy. He struck me as someone who would like to see some of Chavez’s iniatives succeed, but has seen too many of the shortcomings to be optimistic. Hhis opposition to Chavez is based upon a desire to see changes come in a better way. His critique is based on experience. When I raised an example of a positive experience in building cooperatives, he did not just dismiss it. I’ve been in that part of Venezuela, and I would like to meet him someday. I met and talked to Venezuelans who have had different experiences, but I can’t say that makes his less valid than theirs. (Also, from what I’ve read, Yaracuy may be governed by a particularly opportunistic governor.)

    I didn’t have enough time to respond to many of the critiques of the recent election. I know this will catch flak from people like venezolano here, but I think the Election Council, at least Jorge Rodriguez, the chair, tried excpetionally hard to ensure fairness. The OAS and European observers agree. However, there is evidence to back the claim that mistrust is growing anyway. I’ve looked at survey data from before the Aug. 2004 recall and data taken by the same pollster just before this recent election. The comparison shows pretty convincingly that mistrust has spread to neutral and even to some of the Chavez supporters. I think the black list of those who signed petitions (it is not a list of anti-Chavez voters) is partly responsible for this. So also is a relentless, and in my view, unreasonable opposition campaign.

    Remember, this is a country where the opposition has tried to take down Chavez by coup and by a “strike” that was at least as much based on sabotage of the oil industry. Only after those methods failed did they try the legal method of the recall (wouldn’t we like to have a chance to vote on a recall of Bush!).

    I you want a fair-minded perspective on rights in Venezuela, I recommend you visit the web site of PROVEA, the most important human rights group (but you’ll need Spanish to read its reports). You’ll see a complex rights picture in Venezuela. In my view, given the polarization and the violent and illegal attempts to overthrow Chavez, its amazing that the rigths situation isn’t much worse. Aslo, you see that many supporters of Chavez have been victimized as well.

    The low turnout shows the chavistas they must do better, but this was a legitimate election, as the international observors stated. Miguel, in my view, selectively cites and interprets the OAS and EU report on his blog. Read his view of the OAS report, then read the entire report and see if you think his summary is fair.

    I wish I could have responded to the caller who tried to paint Chavez as aligned with terrorism. Chavez supporters have sympathy for FARC (Colombian guerrillas), but no independent evidence of Venezuela harboring FARC guerrillas has surfaced. There are problems with right wing death squads coming across. Right now, Chavez has a good relationship with Colombian President Uribe, a conservative, and he has little to gain by disturbing that. Chavez did meet with Saddam Hussein, but that was on a general trip through the Mideast (Rumsfeld, of course, met with Hussein under much worse conditions for much less valid reasons of state). It’s true that he refuses to allow U.S. military flights, flights intended to persecute the drug war in Colombia. More power to Chavez on that one.

    Chavez did work to strengthen OPEC and bring down oil production when prices were on the floor near the end of 1998. Is that anti-American? Only if you think we have the right to blow cheap hydrocarbons out our automobile butts as long as we want.

    Finally, I pointed to the last two presidents of the oil company, before Chavez, not all of them. Bruni is, however, right about Ramirez, the current president and minister. There is a vigorous debate and re-examination of racism in Latin America. Most serious students of Latin American culture acknowledge that in many ways racism has been less virulent there. But we also can see now that it has been hidden by a national culture of mestizaje. In Venezuela, it takes the form of “cafe con leche” myth. Are pro-chavista whites? Yes. Are their anti-chavista afro or “pardo” Venezuelans? Yes. But is their a “faux debate” about race in Venezuela? Am I “banalizing racism” and perpetuating a myth. No. Bruni says this is “offensive forthe peole that really had to live in a racist society.” OK, I’ll leave it to you folks to look up the report of a TransAfrica team that visited Venezuela and corroborates my perspective. These are people that know racism and help fight apartheid. See if they think I’m banalizing or perpetrating a myth.

    I will read responses, but if I respond again, it probably won’t be for a few days.

  • Potter

    Several thank you’s:

    To the OS team, Chris for opening the door to examining Latin America in more depth.

    To Dan Helliger for participating in this comments section after the show. Excellent!

    To Caracasbbq for an excellent and helpful comment.

    To phraluang for this :

    “Wealth is created by human labor and for some to have more than others they will have had to take a little of everyone elses labor. simple as this is people don’t ever realize that we are always paying up a ladder to a few at the top.”

    If the few at the top could only recognize what hold them up ( beyond the occasional lip service) we all would be better off everywhere.

    Also, I agree with Professor Hellliger’s remark above:

    “Chavez did work to strengthen OPEC and bring down oil production when prices were on the floor near the end of 1998. Is that anti-American? Only if you think we have the right to blow cheap hydrocarbons out our automobile butts as long as we want.”

    Nicely put.

  • http://daniel-venezuela.blogspot.com daniel duquenal

    It would be unbecoming of me to use this space for advancing my ideas as I have a whole blog to that effect. But I wanted to thank the listners of the show, the many comments received and the skill of Christopher in managing the round table of sorts. Just a little comment for Dan Hellinger as he addressed me.

    Actually, there are many people that would like to see “some” chavistas intitiatives work out. You would be surprised, even if we oppose him with all our heart. A country cannot be based on permanent confrontation. Look at what is happening to the US. Multiply this 20 times and it is pretty much what we experience here.

    In fact, a neutral CNE would do wonders to restore confidence in Venezuelan politics. As soon as Venezuelan will sense that whenever they want to get rid of Chavez they will be abel to do so, I can assure that we will much more civil to each other. In the US YOU KNOW that it will not last more than 4 years. Or perhaps 8. But that is that. It does give you a great psychological advantage.

    But look at what happened yesterday! With barely 25% folks voting chavismo is already announcing a constitutional change to ensure that Chavez can stay in office until 2030. Do you expect the country to grow serene? He is making it every day harder and harder for us to even consider a collaboration with him.

  • http://paspalum.blogspot.com/ Edgar Brown

    I have to back Bruni’s comment regarding racism, and let me point you to a rebuttal (of many) of the TransAfrica Forum conclusions: http://paspalum.blogspot.com/2005/08/racism-in-venezuela.html You cannot watch another culture through the glasses of your own culture and expect it to be a ‘fair assessment’ and TransAfrica’s was very, but very far from the mark.

    On the OAS and EU reports, they repeated _all_ of what the opposition has been complaining about for the last few elections, how much worse can it be?. They said in no uncertain terms that the use of ‘morochas’ was unconstitutional (though the Venezuelan supreme court ruled otherwise) though it might seem ‘legal’. And they also said, in no uncertain terms, that the CNE directive has to be changed to people that can gain Venezuelan’s trust. Among many other things, the positive points in which the press seems to concentrate is that the machines seem accurate (in this election), and that the CNE was _technically_ and _administratively_ well prepared (though it violated a couple of laws in the way…)

    And on links to the FARC I have to point out the political incident of a few months past in which a FARC commander was captured inside Venezuela by Colombian intelligence (after multiple denials of his presence by Venezuelan officials) and he was not only comfortably living there and had a Venezuelan ID card, but was also registered to vote in the RR. Just a simple example…

  • Miguel-O-Matic

    With regards to the linkage to Castro. Some pro-Chavez people would have us believe that this is all part of an “imperialist” propaganda campaign against their leader. I must have missed the headline about somebody putting a gun to Chavez’s head and forcing him to jump in bed with Castro. But, then again, I haven’t yet tuned in to Telesur, so maybe I missed it…

  • Holly

    I find it so interesting how the left has won the propaganda battle (and I am a liberal democrat). If anyone (for example Bush) on the right were to carry out the things that Chavez has done (take over the entire judicial system, try to gain control of the country by coup d’etats–which most people seem to have forgotten–put the opposition on a “black list” and deny them basic human rights, try to change the constitution so that he can be in the presidency for longer, etc.), people would be up in arms over this and calling him–rightly so–a fascist dictator. Well, where is this criticism towards Chavez? Many people are dismissing these VERY important points. The same people who say our freedoms are eroding in the U.S. refuse to admit that Chavez/Castro and MANY others are truly eroding their citizens’ freedoms.

  • Grumpy

    > “If anyone (for example Bush) on the right were to carry out the things that Chavez has done (take over the entire judicial system, try to gain control of the country by coup d’etats–which most people seem to have forgotten–put the opposition on a “black listâ€? and deny them basic human rights, try to change the constitution so that he can be in the presidency for longer, etc.), people would be up in arms over this and calling him–rightly so–a fascist dictator.”

    Nope. Just look at Russia – and Putin is a personal friend of Bush.

  • http://www.cuentosintrascendentes.blogspot.com/ bruni

    “Remember, this is a country where the opposition has tried to take down Chavez by coup and by a “strikeâ€? that was at least as much based on sabotage of the oil industry. Only after those methods failed did they try the legal method of the recall (wouldn’t we like to have a chance to vote on a recall of Bush!).”

    Professor Hellinger, you accuse Miguel of being selective while you are extremely selective yourself. The sentence on the coup above could also be applied to Chavez. Remember, Chavez was the FIRST coupster of the democratic era and only after his coup failed he decided to have a try at democracy. This guy is no democrat, he is a military man with military instincts. It is only because he declares himself anti-Bush and uses the cliches that appeal to liberal americans that people like you have a sympathy for this regime.

    Chavez’s IS a totalitarian regime. He is the classical populist that uses a bandaid politics, handing out goodies to gain votes. He has been extremely lucky. He says that “Maisanta” (a colorful ancestor) gives him luck, and we must believe it. Never in the history of Venezuela oil revenues have been so high.

    Concerning fairness in reporting the OAS and EU report, I recommend that readers visit the page of Alex Beech

    http://www.alexbeech.blogspot.com/

    With respect to your knowledge of racism in Venezuela, let me tell you that I find your approach a little bit arrogant. How many years have you lived in Venezuela? Do you have Venezuelan ancestors of mixed race like I do? Chavez was extremely clever, he appealed to the anglo-saxon politically correctness to sell you a picture that corresponds to the North American reality but has nothing to do with the Venezuelan reality.

    Venezuelan society is, by nature, unpolitically correct. Men whisper to pretty women in the streets and women dress seductively and do not pay attention to them, fat people are called fat, and thin people are called “flaco”, the blackest sibling in the family is usually called “negro” or “negra” and the fairest one “catire” or “catira”, foreigners are called “musius” and americans are called “gringos”, people with one eye are called “tuertos” and people with one hand are called “mancos”…and you know what? Nobody gets offended because that is the basic fabric of what it means being Venezuelan.

    That is one of the most remarkable things that Venezuelans have. That ability of not taking themselves too seriously, in race matter, or in sex matters or even in handicap matters.

    Now, people like you come to Venezuela with the same attitude the Spanish priests had when they came to Venezuela : there was only one truth, one pattern to follow. The indians had to be converted!

    So, in the end, Professor Hellinger, yours is another form of american imperialism. Not the one that deals with money and oil, but one that is even more incisive and yet more subtle because it destroys the very fabric of the Venezuelan society.

    And Chavez knows it.

  • http://paspalum.blogspot.com/ Edgar Brown

    To link back to a previous though ‘incomplete’ show to take a look at the problems that Wikipedia has, you should try editing the Chávez or any of the related entries in Wikipedia. Just add a few easily verifiable facts that paint Chávez ‘in the wrong light’ or that in any way show some bright side to his opposition, and then watch it all vanish…

    That is the power of having organized groups (like the Venezuelan Information Office) re-writing history, and Wikipedia is specially susceptive to that.

  • http://www.inafoto.com shedderich

    I would like to congratulate Chris, the moderator, for helping to bring a less distorted media view of a society that has been polarized. How so? By the incessant need of its leader to verbally destabilize a nation’s social fabric in order to amass power – for himself and for the left. Need one proof? Just listen to the forced broadcasting, for hours, of the televised performances of “Aló Presidente” – president Chavez frequent personal soapbox. So thank you, Chris, for including the viewpoints of two Venezuelans from two different regions of the country, who have lived the reality they discuss, outside diplomatic discourse or the non-involved lens from afar.

    Having said that, I would suggest that all non-diplomatic guests be asked for their political stance. Professor Hellinger’s was omitted.

    Speaking of whom.. Using as his race card comparison two prior presidents of PDVSA (the national oil company), Professor Hellinger said that the face of Chavez was a racial map of Venezuela. Why didn’t the professor compare Chavez’ face to the darker Raúl Leoni (Vz president from 1964-69). I suppose that using the race card to compare apples to apples (national president to national president) would destroy a leftist theory.. To me, it smacked of intellectual dishonesty from someone who professes expertise on a country’s political fabric.

    Next… Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez soft-pedalled the Cuban link by stating that “Cubans btw are very appreciated by the Venezuelan population”. No, Ambassador Alvarez, the majority of Venezuelans are very uncomfortable with the lack of sovereignty, which has been force-fed in Venezuela by the regime you represent. In fact, the majority of Venezuelans are very uncomfortable with your regime, period. Part of that truth was revealed on December 4, 2005 at the polls with only 15% in favor of president Chávez and 10% of the votes nullified by those who were forced to vote (does the December 2, 2005 letter from CASA and the Ministerio de Alimentacion, exhorting employees to vote ring a bell?)

    When Chris asked Ambassador Alvarez twice what Americans should know about Venezuela, the ambassador declared that the Venezuelan government ‘wishes to be left alone’. That’s funny when the Vz government doesn’t waste a minute, trying to rub its nose into US government affairs. That is, while maintaining business as usual – just don’t tell the leftists whom you depend upon to continue destabilizing the country) . On this account, witness the Venezuelan ‘charitable act’ of delivering low-cost heating oil to housing projects in Boston and the Bronx. That is, when there has been a FIFTY PERCENT (50%) rise in poverty in Venezuela during the 7 years of Chavez’ rule in office. This fact emanates from the government’s own statistics. Oh, wait! Ambassador Alvarez wishes us to believe that social programs take a long time to implement. What – at an INCREASE in poverty levels? In SEVEN years?

    When Chris asked Ambassador Alvarez what have been the results in 6-8 years of these social projects, we were regaled to 3 accomplishments: (1) the Unesco ‘free of illiteracy’ designation. What ambassador Alvarez does not say is that Venezuela already had in 2002 – prior to the Mision Robinson illiteracy campaign, which was spearheaded by Cuban educators – a 97% literacy rate, as per UNDP statistics; (2) the Barrio Adentro clinics. What ambassador Alvarez won’t mention is that while public hospitals with operating facilities, which Barrio Adentro clinics cannot provide, are a model of abandonment – a disgrace; (3) an increase in enrollment in education. I guess that must mean the 12 new grade schools, zero new high schools, and a very poorly administrated public university of unreliable operations. All this in SEVEN years. Finally, Ambassador Alvarez wishes to have listeners believe that “the problem is that people look at Venezuela through the lens of the Cold War.” I have no idea what Ambassador Alvarez meant by that, but I would love to have some explanation of that analogy. Besides its use as a distracting mechanism.

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