Wednesday, January 10, 2007

An incipient dictator spends his political capital

His victory was determined by electronic voting machines that are indirectly under his control, he's consolidating the Media and the now virtually one-party state under his command, and he's planning to assume special legislative powers - powers previously outside the domain of the executive branch. For those of us who've criticized the GOP's determination to govern without Democratic input the past five+ years and their tendency to ignore or support the President's legally-dubious domestic spying, it's tempting to say he's George Bush's Liberal mirror image. But here's one major distinction (among several): Bush and his party never tried to eliminate Presidential term limits. I think it's necessary to say now that what we have in Venezuela is an incipient dictator.

From Yahoo News:

A leading anti-U.S. voice in the world and in the vanguard of a shift to the left in Latin America, Chavez now wants to scrap presidential term limits and lead the OPEC nation for decades.

Many of us agree with most of Chavez's stated goals; chief among them the novel idea that Venezuelans should benefit more than foreign investors do from their own natural resources, and that the United States' Monroe Doctrine (used by Presidents to justify numerous invasions and subversions of Latin American governments) is an anachronism. We agree with Chavez that the nations of Latin America have a right to self determination, they have a right to deny foreign exploitation of their own resources and to insist that the United States stay out of their political affairs. But we cannot turn a blind eye to the very real prospect that an even more fundamental right - the right of people to govern themselves - looks like it may be endangered in Venezuela.

If Hugo Chavez grows a long beard, we'll know it's game over in Caracas.

***EDIT: As a reader points out in the comments to this thread, the leaders of Chile and Brazil - whose acceptance has been credited in no small part to the popularit of Hugo Chavez - have so far demonstrated that socialist values are not incompatible with Democracy. Perhaps the teacher should start taking notes.


Tiffany said...

They don't really need to repeal term limits in America, we've basically got one Corporate Party running everything anyway. I know it sounds cliche, but I think it's true.

Hugo said...

Let's remind people that Chavez is not in the vanguard of the left in Latin America. Brazil and Chile have socialistic presidents, and neither one of them is a power-hungry man like Chavez.

Darrin Bell said...

That's a good point, Hugo, thanks.

Tyrone Rockhold said...

I am a huuuge supporter of Hugo Chavez and one fact you forgot to mention Darrin is although he is asking to scrap term limits the people still have to vote for him every 6 years. So whats the problem? They change the constitution and Chavez screws up they vote him out in 6 years plain and simple. So calling him an incepit dictator is a bit harsh. I would say leave that label on the backburner until he decides to scrap elections. Then I will agree with your label. Peace & Love
Tyrone Rockhold

Tyrone Rockhold said...

Sorry guys, that would be incipient dictator.

Darrin Bell said...

I want to agree with you Tyrone, but the man's promising to strip the opposition TV station of its license. If Bush tried to revoke the license of every network but Fox News, we'd call him an incipient dictator. If Bush tried to eliminate term limits, we'd point out that the power of incumbency combined with the possibility of rigged voting machines would make it abnormally hard to remove him from power.

I agree with most of what I've heard Chavez say and most of what he's done. You could probably say I've been a fan as well. But these latest threatened actions aren't the actions of a democratic head of state, they're the actions of a dictator. If he doesn't follow through with them, I'll happily revise my opinion -- but at this point I'm taking him at his word.

Tyrone Rockhold said...

Point taken Darrin and I will most certainly do a 180 if Chavez starts to eliminate the democracy his people enjoy today. As for rigged elections, unlike in America, Venezuela had organizations from around the world monitoring their elections. The Carter Center(U.S.)and The Organization of American States(Latin America) both ratified the elections there as free and fair. That would never happen here in the U.S. so although I understand your concern about rigged elections here I can't share your concerns in the case of Venezuela. , . As for RCTV's license not being renewed, are you aware that they were involved in the failed coup against Chavez back in 2002? "It was the first to broadcast the false claim that Chavez supporters were shooting at opposition demonstrators, which then served as a justification for high level generals to declare their disobedience to the government, also on RCTV.
RCTV then had exclusive interviews with coup plotters and the talk show host Napoleon Bravo read Chavez’s supposed resignation letter on RCTV. Later it turned out that the letter was never signed by Chavez and that he had actually not resigned at all, but had been taken into custody."

This is all verifiable information Darrin because it was all on television so I ask you, if this were to happen to a U.S. president don't you think he would have the people in charge of that station jailed? Yet not one of RCTV's employees has been jailed for their involvement. Of course, you won't see any information like this coming from yahoo or any other american news operation because they are just as biased in the case of Chavez as Fox or CNN. I suggest getting your information about Chavez from more than just american sources and here is a great start

Peace & Love

Darrin Bell said...

Yes, I'm aware of all of that, Tyrone. But the fact that none of RCTV's employees were arrested is a pretty clear indication that they didn't actually break any laws. They're despicable, in my opinion, but not much different than Fox News, which broadcast blatantly false accusations (rape, murder) against Bill Clinton during his presidency, regularly ignores anti-Bush demonstrations and continues to employ known liars, such as Bill O'Reilly.

I admit part of me is glad to see reactionary propagandists lose their license and that part of me wishes the same would happen to Fox, Limbaugh, etc. here in America. But the part of me that finds government repression of dissent to be dangerous realizes that's unjust, and that in Venezuela, where opposition media is vastly outnumbered, stamping out even the irresponsible ones goes a long way toward silencing dissent. And that's a precursor for dictatorship.

Yes, Venezuela's election was monitored and I would like to believe Chavez won. In all likelihood he did win. But the fact remains these are electronic voting machines controlled by the virtually one-party government. Even if the 2006 election were fair, that's a formula for disaster.

I think you're misunderstanding my post, by the way. There's a difference between calling him a "dictator" and calling him an "incipient dictator." The latter means he's not a yet a dictator, but his recent actions are paving the way for what may turn out to be a dictatorship. If he were to eliminate democracy, as you mention, he would be an actual dictator. Hence the conclusion: "IF he grows a long beard, we'll know it's game-over in Caracas."

I hope you're right, and that Chavez declines to travel down the path to dictatorship that I believe is being paved today. Only time will tell.

Tyrone Rockhold said...

Hi Darrin,
One piece of information you got wrong in your last post. The opposition actually controls the bulk of media in Venezuela so their voice in no way is in danger of being silenced. Yes I do understand the difference between a wannabe dictator and an actual dictator and I apologize if my words came across in a way that I didn't know the difference. I do agree with you that some of his latest actions would make people think he is a wanna be but I feel from his actions up till now he's not a wannabe. I think from his speeches and interviews with people that he really enjoys the fact he brought real participatory democracy to his country. So obviously we disagree on his intentions but I certainly respect your right to have concerns cause afterall living here can do that to a person. I appreciate all your correspondence with me and I love your strip to death. Still waiting for the Lemont Susan hookup though:-) Peace & Love