Thursday, February 10, 2005

A younger Castro with oil...

Babble on.

Bruce Gottfred is one of the few folks in the Canadian blogosphere who continues to follow the decline of Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.

According to Miami's El Nuevo Herald, Chavez has granted Cuban judicial and security forces extensive police powers within Venezuela. Cubans are already running the intelligence services and indoctrinating and training the military. They will effectively bypass what is left of Venezuela's judicial system when they exercise new powers to investigate, seize, detain, and interrogate Venezuelans and Cubans living in Venezuela, with the right to extradite them to Cuba and try them there. This threatens the safety of some 30,000 Cubans in Venezuela.
Chavez, in turn, provides Castro with 80,000 barrels a day of essential oil. Venezuela's rich flow of oil revenues has enabled Chavez to buy the support of sectors of Venezuelan society and assert himself as the leader of what he calls a "jihad" against American imperialism. Chavez's sense of moral justice is manifest in his alliance with the worst criminal organizations in Latin America, especially the narcoterrorists in Colombia. Just recently, he denounced Colombian authorities because they arrested a senior member of the narcoterrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who had been given sanctuary in Venezuela.

To get a sense of the degree to which Chavez is intimidating his opponents and harassing dissidents, just read the language of a new criminal law that he pushed through the legislature: "Any individual who creates panic in the community or makes it restless by disseminating false information via print media, radio, TV, phone, electronic mail, or pamphlets will be punished with two to five years in prison." Even the most popular form of political protest, banging pots and pans, done in the presence of members of his government, now carries with it up to a three-month jail sentence.

When the recall election was held in August of last year, I was one of those simple, trusting souls who swallowed Jimmy Carter's endorsement of the process as a fair and democratic one. I should have known better.

Carter's people counted fewer than 1 percent of the polling stations, which, instead of being selected at random, as originally anticipated, were selected by Venezuelan officials. Even then, only 76 of the previously agreed 192 ballot boxes were counted, with either opposition witnesses or international observers present at only 26 out of the 76 boxes reviewed. The Chavez-controlled National Electoral Council (CNE) forbade access to the tallying centers, not only to Carter's people but to the representatives of the opposition, and even to the two members of the CNE who opposed Chavez. Two professors from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology issued a report concluding that there was at least a 99 percent chance the election was a fraud. The audited sample (Carter's) was simply not a random sample, the professors concluded. Various independent exit polls showed that Chavez had lost the vote by 59 percent to 41 percent, instead of Chavez's contention that he had won by that margin.

Now before I start attracting the ire of friends to the left of me who supported this latest incarnation of the Tin-Hat Latin Strongman with reflexive anti-American solidarity, let me say that the government of Venezuela should be free to peacefully disagree with the government of any other nation on any matter they choose - including the mighty Yanquis.

But when an autocratic cabal seeks to oppress its own people under a flaking veneer of populism and democracy, I think that ruling clique should get called out by the international community. Incidentally, I'd include the collection of stiffs who ran Venezuela prior to the Chavez thugs among those who should be on the wrong end of worldwide censure.

Venezuelans deserve better than this. To those on the right I say: actively support true liberal democratic efforts in Venezuela, even if it results in a government that you don't like. A spanish-speaking Chirac is preferable by far to a younger Castro with oil, people. And to those on the left I say: stop shacking up with autocratic tyrants just because they hate America as much as you do (y'all look as dopey as Rummy shaking hands with Hussein - or Bush shaking hands with Crown Prince Abdullah for that matter).

Babble off.


At 5:30 p.m., Blogger Timmy the G said...

"But when an autocratic cabal seeks to oppress its own people under a flaking veneer of populism and democracy, I think that ruling clique should get called out by the international community."

I agree, the Bush administration does have it coming to them.

Wait a minute...your not talking about Bush?

At 6:11 p.m., Blogger The Hack said...


Okay, THAT was funny.

At 9:49 p.m., Blogger Robert McClelland said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:02 a.m., Blogger Shamrocks! said...

One person on the left who should really be called out on this issue is Naomi Klein. She and her 'man' (if you can call Avi Lewis a man) have been advocating socialist revolutions all over S.A. In fact, "Fences and Windows" paid for their little trips to the WSF, etc.

Meanwhile, she's attempting to push the left to adopt the pro-democracy stance (but Anti-Bush) on the Iraq occupation.

I commiserate, though, Damian: I thought that the OAS' and Carter's okay on the election were bona fide assurances. What a joke.

At 11:37 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Ha, ha, Timmy. Oh wait. "Reflexive anti-American solidarity" - you're kind of making my point. Maybe the funny part is how you're caricaturing yourself here.

What do you have to say about Venezuela, other than "yeah, but look at Bushitler!"?

At 4:00 p.m., Blogger Declan said...

c'mon Damian, surely you have a sense of humour.

As for the situation in Venezuela it's complicated and there isn't a lot of trustworthy (IMO) information available. As always, I side with the long-term interests of the people of Venezuela, but it's not all that clear to me where they lie right now.

It does seem pretty clear that previous attempted interventions by the U.S. have made things worse not better so far, but of course that doesn't mean that Chavez establishing what is effectively a dictatorship will be a good thing either.

And it's a quibble, but "actively support true *liberal* democratic efforts in Venezuela"? So the right should oppose un-liberal democratic efforts? That leaves a lot of wiggle room to define what liberal means.

At 10:06 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

I'm pretty sure I still have a sense of humour, Declan, but I'm afraid I tire of jokes equating the worsening situation regarding civil liberties in the U.S. with absolutely abyssmal situations in other countries. Call it a numb spot on my funny bone.

As fare as the long-term interests of Venezuelans are concerned, I'm not sure where they lie either. But I'm pretty certain it's not with Cuban totalitarianism.

You're right about interpreting the word 'liberal', of course - it's a tricky business. I'm trying to distinguish between things like an independent judiciary, property rights, free market economics, civil liberties, etc. on one side, and the ability to vote on the other. I believe both will eventually be required if Venezuelans are to prosper.

At 9:32 p.m., Blogger Declan said...

Fair enough Damian, I've encountered the same funny bone numbness phenomenon myself but usually in regard to tv commercials.

At any rate, I think we're generally in agreement about what Venezuela needs, even if we're not sure how they can get there.


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