Press Release: A Suggestion to President Hugo Chávez–Reevaluate Your Alliances

As strife heated up in Libya by the end of February, rumors surfaced that long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela. While this development later proved to be inaccurate, it is worth mentioning that one of Gaddafi’s former cabinet ministers (now part of the opposition) suggested that the Libyan head of state should leave the country for Caracas in search of asylum. As the situation in Libya deteriorates and the opposition’s military deployment seems to be foundering, Latin American scholars have openly wondered whether Hugo Chávez will offer asylum to his close Saharan ally, and if so, whether the latter will accept.

Although Caracas was unusually quiet during the early phases of Libya’s rapidly growing anti-Gaddafi manifestations, Chávez eventually declared his full support for his embattled ally. Chávez’ loyalty to Gaddafi and his rejection of calls for intervention against the Libyan leader by the U.S. may be commendable. However, the Venezuelan leader would be wise to reevaluate the basis and quality of his friendships given the recent bloodshed visited upon Libyan civilians, Gaddafi’s poor human rights record, and his bleak long-term prospects of survival.

On March 3, Chávez made a minor departure from his earlier support for Gaddafi when he expressed interest in helping mediate the conflict between the Libyan government and the insurgent regions of the country. Chávez’ vacillation between a hard and soft stance on the justice of Gaddafi’s cause can be interpreted as a turn from a pragmatic to an ideological position. However, the offer to mediate has been rejected by the Libyan opposition as well as members of NATO. The Arab League is still considering the proposal. On March 5, Venezuela’s allies in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) expressed support for a peace mission, which Chávez now suggests might be led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter or former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Brazil, while not explicitly endorsing the ALBA proposal, has said that it favors a “negotiated solution” over the prospective military action under consideration by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

The diplomatic and military situation regarding Libya is becoming more complex by the day. But regardless of the outcome, Chávez’ early comments in support of Gaddafi served to remind the international community that—while he is the author of social visions and some beneficial programs that have served his people well—the Venezuelan leader has a history of joining up with unsavory allies who do not share his humanitarian concerns.

Chávez and Gaddafi

Chávez has maintained a strong relationship with Gaddafi both personally and at the inter-governmental level for over a decade, and has made numerous diplomatic visits to his counterpart in Tripoli. In 2004, Libya awarded Chávez with its annual Gaddafi International Human Rights Prize for “resisting imperialism.” In addition, Gaddafi named a new soccer stadium near the city of Benghazi after Chávez in 2006. In return, the Venezuelan leader presented Gaddafi with a replica of the sword of South American independence hero Simón Bolivar following the 2009 Africa-South America Summit.

Analysts have compared both Chávez and Gaddafi’s attempts to exert greater influence over their respective continents. In December 2004, Christian Science Monitor journalist Mike Ceaser argued that “Chávez’ regional push is similar to an effort by Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in the late 1990s in Africa. The Libyan leader had visions of creating a sort of United States of Africa and spent billions of dollars in oil money to garner the support of African nations. But while the governments gladly received his cash infusions and cheap oil, his vision was never realized.” There is an undeniable parallel between the two leaders’ use of oil profits to achieve greater regional authority.

During this period of great popular upheaval throughout North Africa, Chávez is one of few heads of state, joined by Cuba’s Raúl Castro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, to take the controversial position of backing Gaddafi. The Venezuelan leader has been quoted in the Latin News as stating “[W]e do support the government of Libya, the independence of Libya…we want peace in Libya and we are against the possibility of [foreign] intervention.” Rather than addressing the mounting bloodshed inflicted by pro-Gaddafi forces, Chávez has resorted to his usual rhetoric of criticizing “Yankee hegemony” and its ongoing military involvement in foreign states’ domestic affairs.

Chávez’s offer to assemble a so-called “Committee of Peace” to mediate the Libyan crisis has been declined by the Arab League, the international community, and the opposition forces in Libya. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, former Libyan justice minister and head of the opposition based in Benghazi, argued that he had not been consulted regarding the initiative. Both the U.S. and France rejected the proposal due to their unwillingness to accept any diplomatic accord that leaves Gaddafi in power. It seems Gaddafi may grow more inclined to engage in negations as the looming threat of civil war eats further into oil revenues.

Chávez’ Other Controversial Friends

Gaddafi is one among several controversial heads of state who enjoys friendly ties with Chávez—Iran, Syria, and Belarus are all close Venezuelan allies. Chávez’ avowed support for these nations is often couched in language declaring a right to political self-determination, and a desire to stand together in resistance to Western dominance. The Venezuelan president opposes any and all economic sanctions levied against Iran to curb its nuclear aspirations.

Statements made on all sides show an overall air of bonhomie and Western defiance among the heads of these nations—all which have questionable human rights records. In an October 2010 visit to Venezuela, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his admiration for Chávez known when he noted that “there are few politicians who are courageous to speak out when it’s necessary…Chávez has projected the image of a resistant Venezuela.” Chávez reinforced the mutual goodwill, stating that the “Arab civilization and our [Latin American] civilization…are being summoned in this new century to play the fundamental role of liberating the world, saving the world from the imperialism and capitalist hegemony that threaten the human species…Syria and Venezuela are at the vanguard of this struggle.”

In addition, Chávez enjoys a vibrant friendship with Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president popularly known as “Europe’s last dictator.” Over the years, Lukashenko has succeeded in crushing opposition groups and remained in power through questionable landslide reelections. In a 2006 visit to Belarus, Chávez clearly liked what he saw in Lukashenko’s government, proclaiming that “we see here a model social state like the one we are beginning to create.” After the heavily disputed December 2010 Belarusian presidential election where Lukashenko won with a dubious 79% of the vote, protests broke out and resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of over 580 individuals. Chávez declared his support for the reelected Lukashenko, describing the electoral victory as “[an] extraordinary day for democracy…Lukashenko knows how to lead the glorious motherland to independence, putting the sacred interests of his people ahead of the narrow-minded intentions of the world powers.” Aside of shared political support, Venezuela and Belarus have joined forces in a number of joint oil-related ventures, including the Petrolera BeloVenezolana partnership under which the two nations will develop two new oilfields in Venezuela.

Having Friends in Low Places—Not the Change that Chávez Foreign Policy Needs

Chávez has made a career of critiquing Washington, which he defines as “imperialistic and interventionist.” While Chávez’ critiques are often unwelcome in the international community, the targets of his comments are not entirely beyond reproach when it comes to supporting foreign nations with poor human rights records. The U.S. and the EU maintain close ties with several states that can be labeled as repressive—enormous trade exists with China despite the country’s repressive internal policies. Another example would be Washington’s decades-old friendship with the recently-deposed Hosni Mubarak, an alliance based on mutual interests despite a sad history of repression in Egypt.

Yet, in the end Washington often makes good on its avowed commitment to human rights throughout the world—the U.S. ultimately changed its policy toward Egypt and called for Mubarak to step down. While a certain level of hypocrisy can undeniably be attached to the U.S. or Venezuela in lauding democracy while maintaining unsavory friendships, Chávez seems to be particularly bold in his support of nations that have been brutally repressive with their populaces—Libya, Iran, and Belarus serving as prime examples. Friends of the Bolivarian revolution have tirelessly urged Chávez to focus more on domestic affairs and tone down his attempts to play a greater role on the world stage. Such requests seem to go unheard as the Venezuelan leader continues to exert greater influence in international affairs and foster alliances against the perceived Western hegemony.

It is hard to believe that Chávez could be so blind as to truly believe that an individual like Belarus’ Lukashenko could possibly win with 79% of the popular vote, despite the ensuing nationwide protests. Perhaps Chávez is comparing other such heads of state to himself; the Venezuelan leader remains very popular in his country and may be naïve enough to believe Lukashenko enjoys such a wide margin of political support. Perhaps it could be argued that Chavez is turning a blind eye to the grave human rights concerns in his allies’ countries in order to pursue important geopolitical influence. The U.S. has certainly done the same throughout history by propping up despotic leaders who were sympathetic to U.S. interests.

Currently, an opposition in Venezuela is mobilizing to protest Chávez’ support for Gaddafi despite the brutal repression in Libya. Factions of the Venezuelan opposition have cautioned that Chávez is putting Venezuela in the uncomfortable position of being an apologist for governments repudiated by the international community.

Foreign Policy and Domestic Politics

The suggestion that Gaddafi might choose to flee to Venezuela to seek asylum is not particularly far-fetched, considering Venezuela’s history of harboring ousted politicians. Vladimiro Montesinos, former Peruvian intelligence chief under the Alberto Fujimori dictatorship, fled to Venezuela when Fujimori’s government was crumbling. Chávez publicly claimed ignorance to Montesinos’ whereabouts until international pressure forced the Venezuelan leader to extradite him after hiding for eight months in that country.

Although extending asylum to his international brothers-in-arms may sound like a good idea, Chávez’ government will find itself progressively more isolated if it continues down this path. Venezuela’s oil reserves will guarantee business ties with a multitude of nations in need of oil, but Chávez may end up in a scenario of dwindling political allies. Chávez’ offer to play mediator is an interesting sidestep after his initial comments of seemingly unconditional support for Gaddafi. Nevertheless, his diplomatic capital seems to be low considering the rejection of his offer.

For a leader like Chávez, whose political career has featured a valid emphasis on South-South cooperation, his choice of allies, and his willingness to defend even those currently committing human rights violations like Libya’s Gaddafi, show a dubious commitment to basic human rights standards. Despite some episodes of blatant authoritarianism in Venezuela, such as censorship of independent TV stations, Chávez has not become the full-scale, oppressive dictator that his foes often characterize him to be. Nevertheless, continued ties with the likes of Belarus’ Lukashenko and Libya’s Gaddafi will inevitably curtail any expansion of Venezuelan diplomatic influence.

41 thoughts on “Press Release: A Suggestion to President Hugo Chávez–Reevaluate Your Alliances

  • March 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm
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    This is a breath of fresh air from the typical COHA pieces on Chavez.

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  • March 7, 2011 at 7:03 pm
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    Some valid critcism of Chavez on foreign policy but a few outrageous remarks:
    For example

    "Yet, in the end Washington often makes good on its avowed commitment to human rights throughout the world—the U.S. ultimately changed its policy toward Egypt and called for Mubarak to step down"

    The US has often made a show of turning on dictators whom it staunchly – and decisively -backed for decades when people rise up and make keeping them in power impossible. Duvalier, Ferdinand Marcos, Somoza are among numerous examples. Ditching dictators when they've outlived their usefulness does not demonstrate commitment to human rights – especially when the US then works to enure that the former dictator's allies retain power – often at a tremendous cost in human life as in Haiti and Nicaragua.

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  • March 7, 2011 at 7:17 pm
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    Another outrageous remark

    " Chávez has not become the full-scale, oppressive dictator that his foes often characterize him to be."

    Chavez is not a dictator. Perhaps the author did not mean this statement literally but as written it is absurd as saying Obama is not a "full scale, oppressive dictator" some make him out to be.

    Worth adding that if you read some of the harshest criticism of Chavez (put out by Human Rights Watch or Inter- American Commission of Human Rights) it is impossible not to conclude that the Chavez governmnet’s human rights record is far superior to Obama’s. Bradley Manning's brutal detention, to say nothing of the wars in Iarq and Afghanistan or US bombings in Pakistan and Yemen should prove that to any reasonable person.

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    • March 23, 2011 at 11:13 am
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      Last year, Transparency International scored Venezuela 136 out of 159 on transparency and corruption. This report no doubt upset many of Chavez"s apologists.

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  • March 8, 2011 at 5:22 am
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    It is sad that so many so called researchers/analysts have never learned to escape the imposed ideological straightjaket of dominant, hegemonig public opinion formation.
    This “analysis” is tarnished from start to finish with such recieved value assesments of the honrable motives of the USA, Europe, Nato etc. Instead of a usefull ivestigation of the geopolitical manouverings of superpowers to get the best possible result out of an unstable situation in the Middle East (as though the USA is more concerened with the wellbeing and human rights of the Libyan people than they are of maintining access to Libyas enormouse oil resources) and role of minor players like Venezuela, we get instead a reinforcement of the dominant US world view: undemocratic rouge states motivated by irrational (US) antiamericanism.

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  • March 8, 2011 at 5:23 am
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    The USA has rejected the Chávez initiative, not because it sends a lifeline to a dictator, but because they do not see it as beneficial to their own interests in the region. Not to mention a small developing country that the USA has been attemting to undermine for over 12 years being allowed to usurp the USA diplomatic and military leadership in the Middle East.
    A costly civil war and weakend Lybian state, relaint upon the West for reconstruction and reinserted into the hegemonic world order, would appear to be much more preferable.

    Note the relief of the first comment to the article, how satisfying it is for BRs recieved prejudices to be confirmed (a breath of fresh air) by an organisation that he apparently gives little credence to anayway. Rather than a breath of fresh air this piece resembles a stale drought from the cellars of US public opinion formation.

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  • March 8, 2011 at 5:23 am
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    Yes, many of us are frustrated and sometimes demobilised by the geopolitical manouverings and unsavory alliances of leaders like Hugo Chávez. But we capable of understanding why such tactical alliances are made without condoning them, whilst continuing to support the efforts being made at creating a sustainable alternative political, economic and social model to neo-colonial domination.

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  • March 8, 2011 at 6:25 am
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    Also worth recalling the unsavoury alliances for which Chavez will never be critizized outside progressive circles. Consider his current warm relations with former Uribe henchman Santos, or his warm relations with Uribe (which eventually went very sour) – both major human rights abusers. Only the support of Washington, and US based PR firms, enables Colombian officials to bask in respectability despite their crimes. Chavez also enjoys warm relations with Berlusconi, a big time thief who (unlike Chavez) armed Gadaffi and was directly complicit wih Gadaffi's crimes. Of course, if Chavez's relationship with Obama ever became cordial, few would question that "unsavoury alliance" with one of the world's leading human rights abusers if human life in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guantanamo has any value to us at all.

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  • March 9, 2011 at 11:16 am
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    Howard,
    None of those countries are arming Gadaffi – as the UK, Italy and other western powers did. Throwing out the word "genocide" in this case is simply hysterical. According to the UK Independent (a report by Robert Fisk), Obama is considering having Saudi Arabia – perhaps the most brutal and backward regime on earth – arm Gadaffi's opponents who include some of his long time henchmen. SA has of course been armed to the teeth by the USA for years. None of the countries you rail against is guilty of anything remotely similar. If you ar going to throw the "thug" label at these countries for positive statements about Gadaffi, you're going to have use much stronger language for every US president – including Obama.

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    • March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm
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      You've proven Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are human rights violators, but you've hardly answered the article's central question: Why does Chavez continue to express support for Gaddafi despite the fact that the man has ordered aerial bombardments of Libya's civilian population? Chavez's support for Gaddafi is about the most politically unpopular thing a world leader can do right now. So, I ask again, why all the support for a man who has squandered all of his political legitimacy over four decades of brutal rule? What does Chavez stand to gain from dragging himself through the mud? As to the thug label, praising a thug doesn't necessarily make you a thug as well, but it does make Castro, Ortega and Chavez look like fools internationally.

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      • March 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm
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        First of all, Gadaffi suddenly enjoyed "political legitmacy" in the eyes of Wetern powers – especailly the UK and Italy but also the US, about ten years. He didn't suddenly become brutal. That was a constant. He has suddenly become weak and that has cost him his Western supporters, and some of his former henchmen at home, as a result. Chavez has probably gone overboard in his rejection of mainstream sources because of how repeatedly they have lied about him. He also recognizes the rank hypocrisy and opportunism of the west's stance on Libya. Chavez and Catro's warnings about US led designs on the Libya look more reasonable by the day – not at all foolish. Stategically, any harm done to Chavez in the eyes of the international left will likely be undone with Israel's next criminal outrage – likely much worse than Gadaffi's – which will be receive western support,as usual. None of that excuse Chavez's failure to condemn Gadaffi's crimes.

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        • March 11, 2011 at 11:24 am
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          Joe Consistency is Character. Raging agains"t the worlds democracies while supporting dictatorships like Cuba- you do know that Cuba is a dictatorship dont you?- and anti-democratic regimes like Nicaragua and Venezuela goes well beyond a double standard. Blaming the U.S.for the murderous actions of Gadafi shows both your bias and your intellectuall dishonesty.We get it, Joe. All of the problems of the world are the fault of the Empie. Revolution or Death, huh? Get a life.

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  • March 11, 2011 at 1:26 pm
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    Yes Howard, I’m aware that Cuba is a dictatorship. Your point?

    Nicaragua and Venezuela are not dictatorships.

    As for the US supporting Gadaffi. Were you not aware of Condoleza Rice’s “historic” visit to Libya in 2008?
    http://www.mg.co.za/article/2008-09-06-gadaffi-ge

    Rice stated

    “"After many, many years, it's a very good thing that the United States and Libya are establishing a way forward," she said. "The US, I've said many times, doesn't have any permanent enemies."

    In fact, Rice, Obama, Bush etc.. have no real principles either – only a few overriding goals – like stuffing the pockets of the rich friends and expanding the power abroad – typically through “friendships” with gangsters like Gadaffi. Occasionally they’ll cut a gangster friend loose – like Saddam Hussein – when he is no longer useful or becomes disobedient. You have to be deep in denial (i.e. lacking intellectual honesty) not to notice this cynical pattern.

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  • March 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm
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    Well Howard, you are obviously one of those that still believes that the Emperor has exeedingly nice clothes.

    Those of us who are a little more perceptive see the nakednes of self interesset in geopolitical relationships.

    It would apear that Gadaffi is no longer “Our son of a bitch”

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    • March 12, 2011 at 10:03 am
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      Hatred of the U.S. is not a not a starting point – or a replacement- to arrive at an even handed assesment of world politics. Supporting people like Castro, Chavez, Putin, Gadhafi, Ortega and Amadinajad, pretty much says it all. Apparently Gadaffi is now Chavez"s "son of a bitch."

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  • March 12, 2011 at 2:49 pm
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    Howard, grouping together Chavez with leaders who were not democratically elected says it all too. US hatred is a good starting point – it shows someone appreciates history rather than official state narratives..

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    • March 13, 2011 at 11:00 am
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      " U.S. hatred is a good starting point". You have just devalued any political opinions you might have. Being a Zealot- and admitting it- dismisses your post out of hand. Thanks for being honest.

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  • March 13, 2011 at 2:46 pm
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    Howard, you sound like someone who is looking for an easy way out of a debate, to be able to avoid having to justify your total lack of understanding of how a superpower like the USA acts internationaly solely in its own interests.

    As HBe has pointed out, Hugo Chávez is a democraticly ellected president. He has won three presidential ellections and a recall referendum. All have been observed by recognised international bodies; OAS, EU, Carter Foundation, and judged to be free and fair. Venezuela uses a vote counting system similar to that used by the USA, with the exeption that it is even better. The irregularities that occured in Florida could not have happened in Venezuela.

    80% of the media (TV, radio, newspapers) is privately owned and most of it alligned with the opposition.

    And yet you insist on placing Chávez as a dictator. Is it not a little sad? Don’t you feel just the slightest bit offended by being so missled? Doesn’t it affect yor self esteem that your “free” press is manipulating you? I myself would have been rabid.

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  • March 13, 2011 at 2:46 pm
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    I think you will find what Hbe is trying to get across to you when he writes that US hatred is a good starting point, is a critiscsm of allowing partiotism to steer your political beliefs and judgements.

    If you are in love with a woman you will ignore all that is negative in her actions, likewise with love for your country. Stand back and take a good look at what is really going on.
    Get wise and don’t let the biased capitalist media take the piss out of you Howard!

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    • March 14, 2011 at 10:42 am
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      First, I have no intention of debating someone who announces his hate as a starting point for discussion. Kinda defeats the point of the debate-debating Hbe would be like arguing with a stop sign. As far as your support of Chavez goes, it is clear you have never been to Venezuala. I would be more than happy to debate you on what Chavez is, and has done. Like aruging with a zealot(Hbe) I try to avoid personal attacks and stick with facts. Taking the position that I have been mislead by the biased capitilist media and have been corrupted by my simple minded patriotism is more than a little patronizing.But then, I have never met an American-hater that did not take this approach towards anyone that did not accept the Progressive view of the world. You are clearly an articulate guy, Dave. It"s a shame you cannot be more even-handed and open to different views.

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  • March 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm
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    Well Howard, you are wrong on that count. I have experienced Venezuela first hand on several occasions. Firstly in 1989 a couple of weeks after the “Caracazo” massacre.
    I witnessed a shell shocked population who were unfortunate enough to be the first to rebel against the neoliberal scourge, that is the economic model, later known as the Washington consensus (That is a consensus between the US the international banking comunity and the wealthy elite in the developing world, not the suffering, poor populations).

    My last vissit to Venezuela was as an international electoral observer in the December 2006 presidential elections. I have also been an observer at four presidential elections in El Salvador and a referendum in Mexico, so I have good experience to be able to judge that the elections in Venezuela in 2006 were the most efficient, clean and fair that I have witnessed in that continent.

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  • March 14, 2011 at 2:58 pm
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    I am not a US-american but an ex-pat. Brit, the country that dominated the world before yours took over. I do not hate my country, just as Hbe probably does not hate yours, but I am shamed by what my countrys rullers have done (often in the name of its people). Whether it was Blairs jingoistic support of George Bush’s illegal wars, it’s colonial rape of vast areas of Asia and Africa, or the wars off retribution against your fedgling nation when it dared to defiy the British empire and seek independence.

    Empires, Howard, are nasty things. It is up to us, the people, to temper their rage and channel our energies into constructive and peacefull endeavours. But to do that we need honest information and a real understanding of how the world realy works.

    I am sorry if I sound patronising or condesending, but my allegiance is with the poor of Caracas, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa……. Not with the scheming power elite in Washington, London, Moscow…..
    When flags become more than just pretty patches of coloured cloth they should be unceremoniously burned!

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  • March 15, 2011 at 10:48 am
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    " Democracy is certainly the worst forn of Government- except for all the rest." Winston Churchill. Lets take a look at Chavez"s version of democracy. In the last elections for Alcade in Venezuela, the opposition candidates won in Maricaibo and Caracas. Chavez"s"democratic"
    response was to charge the opposition mayor in Maricaibo with crines and had an arrest warrant issued. The "criminal" wisely fled the country- apparantly doubting a fair shake from Venezuelas Chavez controlled justice system.
    In Caracas, the opposition candidate, Antonio Ledezma, won the election. As soon as he was installed Chavez neutralized Ledezna by strippimg the mayors office of all funding and setting up a parallel authority of Chavez cronies to govern Caracas. Ledezma, the freely elected mayor, was barred from his office by the Venezulean police. Is this your understanding of democracy, Dave? your " allegiance with the poor in Caracas"? Have you forgotten that in the recent election for the National Assembly the opposition won 52% of the popular vote- but with the gerrymanding and rigging by Chavez"s cronies, the opposition candidates were awarded only one third of the seats? And that the outgoing deputies voted to give Chavez a law to rule by decreto, giving him dictatorial powers for 18 months. Of course, he will be governing in the name of " el Pueblo" Why dont we take a look at what 11 yrs. of Chavez rule has done to the Venezulean economy. When Chavez came to power over a decade ago, Venezuala had the higest per capita income in Latin America, imported less than 20% of it"s food, pumped 3 million barrels of oil a day,and it"s currency was one of the strongest in South America.
    Today, Venezuleas economy has contracted by 12%, Inflation has been running at 30% since the end of 2007, oil production has dropped from 3 barrels a day to 2, the Bolivar has been devalued by 50%, and Venezulea has to import 70% of it"s food. In the past 3 yrs, Venezuela has had the worst economic performance in South Anerica. Total foreign investment in Latin America in 2009was 126 billion, with 8 billion going to Colombia and 15 billion going to Chile. In Venezuela, dirsct foreign investment totaled NEGATIVE 3.1 billion dollaes. This means business"s are taking money out of the country at an alarming rate. Most outside investors do not want to participate in a country whose President can decide to take over their business on a whim.
    Crime is growing at the fastest rate in Latin America. Last year, Venezuala had 25,000 murders-your chances of being murdered are now higher in Caracas than in Baghdad.
    These facts represent the real Bolivarian Revolution. The most recent poll in Venezuela showed that 65% of the people do not support Chavez"s re-election. Call him what you will-dictator, caudillon, peoples president, or buffoon- his Bolivarian Revolution has failed.

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  • March 15, 2011 at 5:15 pm
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    Howard, Your figures are somewhat disturbing, and very, very selective. No matter whos statistics we use, UN, World Bank we come up with results which show that Venezuela under Chávez has made enormouse acomplishments (dare we say revolutionary) in healt, education, and living standards of the majority of its people.
    It is the only developing nation that is fullfilling, and exceeding the Milenium targets set by the UN.
    They have eradicated analphebetism, have the highest minimum wage in the continent and better access to health care and education (at all levels) than nearly all the Latin American countries. And although crime rates have not been reduced, they are no higher than under the previous governments.
    Your corrrelation of foreign investment with welfare for the majority of Venezuelans is way off the mark. High foreign investment means that speculative investors see the possibilty of acheiving high returns for their investments, their money goes where wages and conditions are low and workers rights are not respected, as your example of Colombia bears witness to. Another country with high foreign investment, Mexico has an expanding and export sector; poor migrant workers (legal and illegal) to your country.

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  • March 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm
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    Your willingness to accept the innocence of opposition polititians and write off the Venezuelan legal system is speculative. There are no angels, either in the opposition or the government ranks, the country is rife with corruption and together with crime it is crippling a lot of the initiatives for a radical and genuine alternative. We should be supportive of those efforts for change, though not uncritical. But to support a minority elite oppositions attemts to destroy the enormouse gains of the poor majority and win back power (through coups if they cannot achieve it through the ballot box) to be able to squander the countrys wealth on themselves.
    This is all about class Howard. When the rulling class lose their power in ellections, democracy does not seem so atractive. We saw it in Chile and most of the southern cone in the 70s and 80s (with a great deal of help from your country), and we see it today in Honduras (succesfully) and Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador (unsuccessfuly, thanks to the resolute action of the poor majority).

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    • March 16, 2011 at 9:41 am
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      Dave I really expexted more from you. I gave you fact after fact and you have failed to respond to any of them.Just more yada yada from the Fantasy Left. This is your idea of debate? Vaya con Dios

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    • March 16, 2011 at 11:24 am
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      Your non-response to all of the facts I presented was completely unserious. Real debate works like this, Dave. I present facts and you respond to those facts by disproving my statements with specific facts of your own. Not very complicated, really. Making general- and unsupported- statements of your personal beliefs is not serious debate. Offering up platitudes instead of rebuttle amounts to nothing more than blah-blah. I am looking forward to your thoughtfull and persuasive responsive to the issues I have raised.

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  • March 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm
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    Howard, you are not presenting me with facts, you are regurigtating the fabrications of the Venezuelan oppositions propaganda machine. Surfing the oppositions blog sites (lavishly funded with US tax payers funds via USAID and Endownment for Democracy) that mix false statements with selective data that emphesises the negative and completly ignore all the positive indicators, is not presenting facts. It is propagating propaganda.

    As I have stated before, go instead to the recognised sources of information (the various UN organisations such as UNESCO or the World Bank) and take a good look at the social indicators. The qualitative increase in living standards, health care, education, purchasing power, child mortality, minimum wages etc, these last twelve years under the Chávez govement.

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  • March 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm
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    You seem more occupied with the plight of the foreign investors (the same speculative investors who have brought your country to the sorry state it is in today).This elite oppostion that you have so much confidence in is not, and I?ll repeat, IS NOT concerned with the plight of the nations poor. They are not looking for change that will benifit the vast majority of Venezuelans, they are aiming to regain their lost political and economic power, that, inevitably, means a bad deal for the majority and a good deal for themselves and your benevolent foreign investors.

    This is not about scoring points in a debate, who can find the most damaging or the most fruitious statistics to back up their arguments. It?s about really understanding the class interests at work in these conflicts in Latin America that have produced regimes like those of Chávez, Morales and Correa.

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  • March 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm
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    The USA together with their elite allies on the continent are not using enormous amounts of resources to destabilize these regimes because they think the current rulers are dictators (there is absolutely no evidence to back this up, except for the deluded illusions of people like yourself). It is because the USAs economic and political interests are being threatened (and in their ?backyard?!).

    These efforts at a more just redistribution of these nations resources are bad news for the multinationl business sector, their investments and capital flow generally. As can be seen clearly from what happend in the period prior to the arrival of these alternative governments in Latin America, the so called ?Lost Decade? of neoliberalism. Whilst investors (who you are so concerned for) profits increased by over 15%, workers earnings decreased by 25%.

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  • March 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm
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    In that same period 32 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean transfered nett assets to the developed world, mostly the USA. One of the initial objectives of the Bolivarian process was to reverse this trend and redirect resources to its own people. This later evolved to regional attempts at integration that place the welfare of the population above profit.

    Chávez has done things which it is right to critise, but don?t throw the baby out with the bathwater by aiding the rectionary forces that want to reverse all the benifits that the Venezuelan people have won these last 12 years. Even the left is capable of constructive critism. These are not my ?personal beliefs?, I have followed closely the developments in Venezuela and witnessed first hand the enormouse benifits that the people have gained in several of the poorests comunities in Caracas.

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    • March 17, 2011 at 8:27 am
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      I dont know if this post will be printed. My last 2 posts have been blocked. So much for open debate on this site.

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  • March 17, 2011 at 8:33 am
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    You have given no response to Chavez blocking the the free and fair elections for mayor in Caracas and Maracaibo. These two people were not elected by the elite/ they were elected by the people of these cities. This is my last attempt to respond. Clearly, the people who run this site have the same disdain for democratic bebate that Chavez has.

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  • March 17, 2011 at 8:41 am
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    A message to COHA. Congratulations on your Political Correctness. I had a professor who said many times, Above all, rigorous intellectual honesty. This is clearly not a view you share.

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  • March 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm
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    As to the naming of a governor for the greater Caracas region and the limiting of the opposition mayors powers, though not neccesarily a very democratic move, it was perfectly legal and constitutional. The OAS were asked by the opposition to look into the matter two years ago and as of now I have seen no evidence that they have found the legislation illegal.
    One of the reasons for the organisative reform was to more effectively coridnate the seperate local police forces in the capital to better combat crime (another matter we are agreed on the need to take effective measures against).

    Margaret Thatcher dissolved the democratically elected Greater London Council when she was Prime Minister (together with other opposition rulled city councils) as she could not tolerate the politics of the left wing local goverment in the nations most populous city.
    I do not recall any international media led campaign to present her as an undemocratic dictator.

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  • March 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm
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    As to your comments on COHAs political correctness, and disdain for democratic debate, I must admit I am totally at a loss to understand. Am I to presume that you hold COHA responsible for the views of an british citizen living in Norway and commenting on their webb site to your biggoted assumptions? Or do you mean that they should grip inn and censor my comments? Now that would be really democratic!

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    • March 18, 2011 at 10:05 am
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      . Your posts constantly talk about the " minority elite opposition." It was not the minority elite opposition that voted in the opposition mayors in Caracas and Maricaibo. It was the majority of the Venezulean people. In your disengenious support of the " organisational reform" that stripped power from the freely elected mayors, you yourself said " though not a very democratic move" it was similar to what Maggie Thatcher with the Greater London Council. This is pure nonsense and you know it. What this act shows is that Chavez and his apologists support free elections- unless the opposition wins.You have stated the oposition will resort to coups for that which they cannot achieve through the ballot box. This is exactly what Chavez did. Your defense of Chavez on this issue is dishonest. Perhaps it was simply projection on your part- or cognitive dissonence. As to my "bigoted assumptions" my original post listed 20 specific facts that you failed to directly address. Many of the economic information came diredtly from the Venezulean Government and the Central Bank of Venezulea. All of your posts are chock full of straw men, misdirection, denial, and just plain propaganda. As we speak, Chavez is ruling by decree. But he is not a dictator, right? You have clearly failed to make your case. It would seem that on this issue, you are in way over head.

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    • March 18, 2011 at 10:19 am
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      . Your posts constantly talk about the " minority elite opposition." It was not the minority elite opposition that voted in the opposition mayors in Caracas and Maricaibo. It was the majority of the Venezulean people. In your disengenious support of the " organisational reform" that stripped power from the freely elected mayors, you yourself said " though not a very democratic move" it was similar to what Maggie Thatcher with the Greater London Council. This is pure nonsense and you know it. What this act shows is that Chavez and his apologists support free elections- unless the opposition wins.You have stated the oposition will resort to coups for that which they cannot achieve through the ballot box. This is exactly what Chavez did. Your defense of Chavez on this issue is dishonest. Perhaps it was simply projection on your part- or cognitive dissonence. As to my "bigoted assumptions" my original post listed 20 specific facts that you failed to directly address. Many of the economic information came diredtly from the Venezulean Government and the Central Bank of Venezulea. All of your posts are chock full of straw men, misdirection, denial, and just plain propaganda. As we speak, Chavez is ruling by decree. But he is not a dictator, right? You have clearly failed to make your case. It would seem that on this issue, you are in way over head.

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  • March 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm
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    To COHA. Why do you continue to censor me?

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  • March 21, 2011 at 10:37 am
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    Dave You have said " ruling by decree is something that many Latin American governments do rather often" Name one democratic country in Latin America where the president has been given the absolute power to rule by decree. Just one.
    You have compared Chavez"s power to rule by decree to a U.S. presidents Fasttrack process for certain legiststion. Quite a spin- even for you.
    As to accusing me of " bigoted assumptions ", I have always believed that name calling and personal attacks are the last refuge of the intellectually bankrupt. Perhaps you could identify my bigoted assumptions?
    I can only imagine your outrage if President Santos had overturned free elections in Bogota and Medein and had a rubber stamp assembly give him absolute power to rule by decree.
    You are a relentless critic of the U.S. for interfering in the affars of soverign affairs of another country. I agree with you. How do you feel about Chavez giving Daniel Ortega( a Castro Wannabe like Chavez) over a billion dollars to help Daniel build Socialismo in Nicaragua? All of that money was laundered through ALBA, and Ortega is the only one that can write a check since ALBA is a private company controlled by Ortega. Also, Chavez has bought channel 8 in Nicaragua to advance the Bolivarian Revolution. Imagine if the U.S. had given one billion dollars to President Santos to spend as he saw fit and then bought a T.V. station in Bogota. Your howls of protest would be heard around the world.
    You bring new meaning to the words " double standard"
    This debate is over, Dave. You- and Hugo- have lost. Time to move on.

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  • March 22, 2011 at 4:26 pm
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    Dave You say "Rulong by decree is something many Latin American governments do, rather often." Name one democratic country in Latin America whose President has absolute power and rules by decree. You say Chavez" rule by decree is similar to the fastrack power given to the American President. Both lies., No American President has ever overturned a free election of a governor or mayor in the U.S. If he did, that would make the U.S. a dictatorship- like Venezuela.

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