Fingers Crossed

Daniel has voted, and is posting periodically through the day as to what’s going on in Caracas, on the day that the country votes in a constitutional referendum.  If approved, it would essentially give Hugo Chavez unlimited power for the rest of his life.

I understand Joel’s point (see comments from the previous post) about the US’ history of sometimes propping up less than favorable regimes, but to me, this has nothing to do with Bush.  This is about a country and people that I still have great fondness for, in hopes that the anti-socialist forces will overwhelmingly prevail.  By most accounts, it will take an overwhelming denial to yield even a marginal victory for the NO votes.

El Excremento del Diablo has a great photo essay on the day’s activities.  Yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece by RAÚL ISAÍAS BADUEL, Chavez’ former Defense Minister, on why he parted ways with Chavez.  Obviously, many Venezuelans feel that he’s far from blameless — actually, that he’s posturing to position himself as a transition leader in the event that Chavez’ reforms are rejected.  Still, it’s worth reading.

Yet another good source of timely insight is PMBComments; a couple of days ago, he did a point-by-point commentary on Reuters News’ "Five Facts about Venezuela."  He’s dead on, and his remarks are worth considering.  Number 3 corrects some significant misconceptions held by those of us watching from afar through the eyes of the media (Reuters in bold):

“Chavez has won the backing of the poor majority with massive social spending that has expanded health and education programs. He has also cultivated support by openly confronting the …”

This is a dangerous “truth”. Chavez has not engaged in structural health and education programs. He has spent billions of dollars in massive handouts, not to be confused with plans to attack the structural roots of poverty, illness and ignorance. He distributes fish but does not teach the people to fish. As a result poor Venezuelans are more dependent than ever on the paternalistic, populist and vindictive leader. The entire health, educational and commerce infrastructure has been decimated due to incompetence and corruption. The state of the most major hospitals is deplorable and thousands of patients are flown every year to be operated in Venezuelan funded hospitals in . Chavez’ support domestically has not been increased by his attacks on the In fact, most Venezuelans reject those attacks, as shown by all credible polls.

Polls closed 15 minutes ago, at 4 p.m. in Venezuela (they’re an hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time).  We should know by tonight, but I’m not holding my breath.

4 Responses to “Fingers Crossed”

  1. on 02 Dec 2007 at 5:36 pm Joel

    Chavez is a demagogue, just like Lenin, Hitler, and Mao, but less dangerous. More like Castro with oil. The Bush Administration has given him ammo with its foolish invasion and occupation of Iraq–Chavez can hold up the Bush Administration as being even worse than him (has Venezuela invaded anyone?).

    If the Bush Administration takes the same stupid route with Venezuela that it (and eight administrations before it) has taken with Castro, it will simply prolong the agony. If the Bush administration wises up and realizes that capitalism is the greatest political tool for Democracy, it will forgo the embargo route, continue to trade with Venezuela, and let the Venezuelan people tire of this clown and throw him out.

    The wrinkle is that Venezuela is our 4th largest provider of oil (behind Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico), so Chavez has us by the short hairs. Also, Chavez is one of the OPEC leaders pushing to take OPEC oil off the dollar peg, which would make the already weak dollar even weaker. He may be a bad person, but we have handed him some of his weapons by our failure to reduce oil dependence and the government borrowing that has weakened the dollar worldwide.

  2. on 02 Dec 2007 at 5:40 pm Netmom

    “The wrinkle is that Venezuela is our 4th largest provider of oil (behind Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico), so Chavez has us by the short hairs.”

    But the only refineries capable of processing Venezuela’s heavy, sulfer-laden crude are in the US. So there is a bit of a symbiotic relationship.

    Today Joel, this isn’t about Bush. It’s about Venezuela. International politics will once again enter into the mix, but today is their day, and I’m cheering them on.

  3. on 02 Dec 2007 at 9:24 pm Joel

    “Today Joel, this isn’t about Bush. It’s about Venezuela. International politics will once again enter into the mix, but today is their day, and I’m cheering them on.”

    Ever the Polyanna, eh, Netmom? That’s what I find so endearing about you. Reality never intrudes where wishful thinking prevails. Sweet.

  4. on 03 Dec 2007 at 7:46 am Joel

    Woot! Chavez isn’t gonna be king after all:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071203/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/venezuela_constitution

    It was very narrow, and I have a feeling Chavez isn’t giving up. But maybe there is room for hope here.

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