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    A Christmas Backcarol..., 2005-12-23 14:39:29 | Main | Since the Dec. 15 parliamenta..., 2005-12-28 15:15:47

    how chavez appears to be doing something but we're still not sure what:

    Eidelson flags and Weisbrot examines "a must-read" report gracing the cover of the next issue of "Foreign Policy", from the looks of it based off of this recent article. Weisbrot:

    Corrales' attempt to raise doubts about the referendum result is particularly disturbing in light of recent events in Venezuela. Most of the opposition parties boycotted the Venezuelan Congressional elections three weeks ago, on December 4. "We had a problem with the Venezuelan opposition, which assured us that they would not withdraw from the [electoral] process if certain conditions were met. These were met and despite this, they withdrew," said Jose Miguel Insulza, head of the OAS, just this week.

    ...

    with [the opposition's] own polls showing that they would win about 30 percent of the Congress, they opted for a long-term strategy of destabilization - to try to de-legitimize the government rather than participate in an open and transparent, democratic electoral process that was once again certified as such by international observers, this time including a 160-member team representing the European Union. Such has been the problem for several years: with the brief exception of the August 2004 referendum, wherein the opposition leadership temporarily agreed to play by the rules of democracy - until they lost the vote -- they had previously tried to overthrow the government by means of several oil strikes (one particularly economically devastating in 2002-2003) and a military coup in April 2002, which was supported by the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration also appears to be at least tacitly supportive of the opposition leaders' decision this month to withdraw from electoral politics altogether. In its zeal to create an imaginary "dictatorship" in Venezuela, the Foreign Policy article ignores this anti-democratic role of the opposition, supported by Washington. It is also worth noting that the opposition can pursue such tactics that would have no chance of success in most other democracies because it still controls most of the Venezuelan media.

    The editors of Foreign Policy chimed in with a box [p.38] about Chavez accusing him of "meddling in the internal politics of his neighbors" - Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua, and even Mexico. They neglect to mention that no evidence has yet surfaced for the allegations listed. Also, if Chavez is "meddling" inside Brazil and Colombia, it seems odd that he has such good relations with both of their presidents, who are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Perhaps they do not appreciate the "threat" that this "dictator" poses to their countries and the region.

    There is little evidence that Venezuela today is less democratic than it has ever been, and in fact by most standard political science measures it is more democratic. Venezuela's main governance problem is not a weakening of democracy but a failure to improve the rule of law, a problem that it shares with the region. Contrary to the images conveyed by the Bush Administration and Foreign Policy magazine, the Venezuelan state is not an authoritarian or autocratic state but a weak state, including the executive branch. That is why the main victims of political repression in Venezuela in recent years have not been from the opposition - even the leaders of the April 2002 coup against Chavez, who would have been convicted, imprisoned, and possibly executed in the United States, are almost all still at large. The real victims of political repression are pro-Chavez peasants organizing for land reform in the countryside. Many have been killed, often by hired assassins, sometimes for simply asserting their rights under the law. Impunity is rampant in Venezuela: the state at many levels does not have the capacity to enforce the law, often even against murderers.

    Corrales does tell us what he really doesn't like outside a number of things that don't appear to be particularly true, nevermind the opposition's US-supported efforts to marginalize if not erradicate itself:

    Rather than mending the country’s catastrophic health care system, he opens a few military hospitals for selected patients and brings Cuban doctors to run ad hoc clinics. Rather than addressing the economy’s lack of competitiveness, he offers subsidies and protection to economic agents in trouble. Rather than killing inflation, which is crucial to alleviating poverty, Chavez sets price controls and creates local grocery stores with subsidized prices. Rather than promoting stable property rights to boost investment and employment, he expands state employment.

    That is: Chavez attempted to mend the healthcare system, and so should be condemned; he emulated USG intervention in its ag and energy sectors and so should be condemned; he apparently has controlled the CPI that is crucial not to alleviating poverty but controlling it and so should be condemned; created some programs to alleviate poverty and so should be condemned; and you, dear reader, are to automatically assume that FDI is always a Good Thing and that state employment is always Evil Bad, just like Chavez.

    I'm not sure how any of that is any of our or Corrales' business to condemn so much as it is Venezuela's, but none of it, certainly, has any bearing on the state of Venezuelan democracy, which has been repeatedly and crucially undermined by the opposition's repeated abandonment of it. There remain matters of Chavez's record that aren't clear to me - e.g. state influence in union elections, the nature and enforcement of the post-coup media laws, the prosecution of the organizers of the constitutional recall instead of the NED under Article 132, nevermind "Venezuela’s intractable human rights problems, especially the ingrained abuses that have long been a feature of law enforcement work", or for that matter Corrales' unexplained rants about a "leftist-military regime" - but with an anti-Chavez incoherence like this and pro-Chavez incoherence like that we'll probably never see any. None of it amounts to a hill of beans where (ongoing) foreign intervention is concerned, let alone justifying past or future coups.

    In any case the US, were it interested in promoting democracy, wouldn't continue giving the "opposition" reason to believe that it can regain power through anti-democratic means. For all we know, and we don't appear to know much of anything about it, the US is the one advising them to abandon representative politics, handing Chavez's coallition the means to abuse whatever power they may have otherwise acquired legally. US complicity in the self-destruction of political opposition in Venezuela is something of an open question.

    update: And he dare offer cheap fuel for my struggling neighbors! Rotten work is indeed afoot.


:: posted by buermann @ 2005-12-28 13:07:04 CST | link





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