2006/12/03

Kvatch Kvestions - Hugo Chavez' Legacy

Let me start by saying that my feelings about Venezuela's leader are complex. On the one hand, I think that he is doing more to help Venezuela's poor than any leader in that country's history. On the other hand, his bluster on the international stage does his country no favors...in OPEC, at the UN, or anywhere else.

Today is Venezuela's general election and Chavez will almost certainly win another term as President, but when that country's opposition threatened a boycott--and who really wants to waste time running against a man that is essentially unbeatable--Chavez threatened to call a referendum that would make him President until 2031, or 'President for Life' if you prefer that term.

So my question is this, how will history judge Hugo Chavez, a man who would freely make himself into a tyrant--a benevolent tyrant perhaps, but a tyrant nonetheless--when there is no need?

(Thanks to the Atlantic Monthly (subscription only) for the information on the Venezuelan general election and the opposition's stand.)

19 Comments:

His referedum was to end term limits, not allow him to be "president for life." He would have to be elected.

Chavez is popular with the poor, who make up most of the voters-therefore he wins elections. The person running against Chavez was involved in the coup, he is an anti-democratic wanna be dictator. This point is hardly, if ever brought up by reporters (especially the Atlantic Monthly, which i subscribe to, and has been embarassingly bad)
This video
is a good source of info
I too, am ambivalent about the man. First, let me say I'm only "passingly" familiar with his programs, and the person themselves. He's taken on Bush many times; certainly that can't make him too bad, but at the same time, as I watched and read his attacks, I thought many times, "Bush with a different angle." I think that oil pile he sits atop of allows his much of his bluster, but he's far from alone in that regard. An interesting man who bears watching.
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I meant "referendum" and I do have concerns about Chavez's ego. But given the history of the area and the history of the ruling class forcefully removing him, I think his commitment to democracy is quite remarkable.

As far as the opposition boycotting elections, this is what they did in Haiti as well. When they know they can't win, they boycott to make the elections look rigged. This is encouraged by the White House
Chavez has his faults but Latin America needs more leaders like him. They need leaders who care about their citizens and who aren't afraid to stand up to Halliburton/Bechtel and the World Bank. Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile are all tilting to the Left now. South America is less likely to be just a big pile of chattel for global corporations.
I know what you mean about your feelings on the topic; I feel the same way. How Chavez is perceived in history will depend upon his development over the next few years. He's still got the opportunity to leave a good lasting impression (or an irretrievably bad one?). One thing is for certain: he will be interesting to watch.
His referedum was to end term limits, not allow him to be "president for life." He would have to be elected.

Then I'd observe that the blurb in Atlantic Monthly wasn't just inaccurate, but downright misleading. I'll accept 50 lashes with the wet noodle for not doing further research.

But that said, even threatening the opposition in that matter serves no purpose. With a man in as secure in his position as Chavez, why not be magnanimous?
Chavez has his faults but Latin America needs more leaders like him.

Tom...I'm not so sure about that. Evo Morales of Bolivia is trying to act like a Chavez, but doesn't have the Venezuelan's strength of personality. Consequently, Morales has made some serious missteps that, if he's not careful, are gonna get his country invaded by Brazil and set up as a vassal state.

Do I want to see countries like Bolivia or Venezuela return to the days of rightest dictators. Not at all. I give credit where credit is due (see my intro to this post), but neither do I want to see leftists become so drunk with power that they end up becoming the Salvador Allendes of our generation.
TFWY, Julien...if Chavez can get Venezuela's heavy crude designated as "reserves" officially under OPEC regulations (and he's on the cusp of doing just that), then his country will instantly become the most powerful member of OPEC. It will be a coup of epic proportions. And what it will do to Chavez' ego...I hesitate to even guess at.
Sorry Kvatch, I didn't mean to sound defensive. I am just sick of shit reporting by the likes of the Atlantic. My buddy at Latin American News Review clears up the misunderstanding about the leader for life bit here href="http://lanr.blogspot.com/2006/05/associated-press-falsely-portrays.html>
my html sucks. here is the link


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Also, I agree stuff like Chavez's ego need to be brought up. He is hardly above valid criticism, so your question is definitely worth raising.
I kind of like Chavez, especially his recent speech at the UN, (which was well received by the general assembly). I think he may have his problems, but I think he's trying to stop his country from being taken over by the multinationals who are eyeballing the oil reserves and cheap labor as resources they can exploit to their advantage, if it weren't for Chavez standing in their way.
Hard to argue against a major oil-producing nation that disagrees with BushCo. . .
If the question is "how will history judge Hugo Chavez," well that is hard to say.

It all depends on how things work out and where we go from here. So long as he allows opposition to demonstrate, and keeps holding elections that hold up to international scrutiny and most importantly he keeps the oil pumping, he might get half of a fair shake.

I'm torn as well, but generally I like the guy. Still, he is a politician so.......
Graeme, no apologies necessary. I think that Chavez has been a tireless advocate for Venezuela's poor, and Lew makes a very good point about Chavez serving as a bulwerk against the multinationals.

John, OPEC is learning that lesson as well.

Praguetwin, very true. I'm not up on this, but I wonder how exactly the elections have been judged? Fair? Chavez has got solid support, but a dodge international reputation.
I think that Chavez blusters more than he normally would just to raise people's awareness of his feud with Bush.

Chavez seems kinda crazy like a fox, so I'm thinking he goes to the UN and OPEC and says these outlandish things so that Bush can't have him whacked without a lot of scrutiny.

Bush already tried once.
He is portrayed as evil by the "liberal drive-by media" simple because he is setting a good example, and the Cheney Menstruation can't have any of that. Funnelling oil profits to help the poor? Absurdly socialism, and evil. He must be destroyed.
The line "So my question is this, how will history judge Hugo Chavez, a man who would freely make himself into a tyrant--a benevolent tyrant perhaps, but a tyrant nonetheless--when there is no need?" could well read:

"So my question is this, how will history judge George W. Bush, a man who would freely make himself into a tyrant--a benevolent tyrant perhaps, but a tyrant nonetheless--when there is no need?"

But since the post is about Chavez, I would have to agree there are both good and bad things about him. He may be a dictator in principle, and that's bad... but if Pat Robertson is advocating or praying for a particular person's demise, it makes me think that person might not really be so bad, and in fact may have some good qualities.

I agree with what Station Agent says, that Chavez may be making wild statements not only to egg Bush on, but also to make it look like Bush would be behind anything devised to bring Chavez down. I think Chavez is drunk with power, and he is anxious to do the OPEC thing so he can become even more powerful. If that happens and if we still have neocons running the country, I shudder to think of what might happen. Hopefully the U.S. would choose to leave Venezuela alone, and Chavez would choose to share the oil wealth with his people. I'm not sure he is that nice a guy, though...

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