Monday, February 16, 2009

Chavez wins, socialism loses

I can't say it any better than my journalist/blogger pal/colleague Marc Cooper, an expert on things south of the (U.S.) border. Just as in Cuba, where after 50 years of "revolution" and two generations of creating the "socialist man" and the "socialist woman" the only person who can replace an ailing Castro is... another Castro... some Venezuelans (and American leftist fans of their demagogue-in-chief) have fallen for the temptations of one-man rule. Sez Marc:

In that respect, if Hugo Chavez wants to call himself a socialist and pretend that the armed forces that currently hold the levers of power in his country and who swear an oath to defend the fatherland, revolution and socialism are the armed representatives of the working class, I suppose that's his right. After all, if Dick Cheney can call himself a defender of democracy, why can't Hugo claim to be a tribune of socialism?

And he adds:

In broad terms, the vote can be called democratic. More or less the same as what passes for democracy in many places of the world. And Chavez was democratically re-elected president last time out. And, in case, anyone attempts to put some unsanitary words in my mouth, Chavez is the legal and constitutional ruler of Venezuela. Duly elected, lawfully elected.... and so on.

But he is the ruler. As none of the above negates or contradicts the rather obvious fact that Chavez intends to never leave office -- at least, not alive. His usurpation of any pluralism, of any semblance of debate and consensus in the most important levels of government is something that merits no celebrations and certainly bodes nothing very uplifting about the Venezuelan future.

Legal or not, democratic or not, Chavez is bent on and has effectively already achieved one-man rule. And that, brother, ain't got nothing to do with socialism.

Photo: Chavez looks ahead to a long tenure.


Anne Gilbert said...

I have become increasingly skeptical(and squeamish about) people like Hugo Chavez. In his particular case, he appears to be suffering from a badly swelled head, among other things. Yet, in certain circles I'm acquainted with, he is very much admired. Now mind you, I think there is a lot to be done in various countries south of our border. But I've come more and more to the view that whatever Chavez's politics, it isn't socialism, whatever else it may be. If it was real socialism, he'd accept the two term limit, bide his time, run again for election if he felt he should, and work for real change where it was needed.
Anne G

Andrew Hunt said...

Hugo Chavez has turned into a populist demagogue, and you get the good with the bad. He has done some very good things -- beefing up infrastructure, strengthening the safety net, reversed some privatization, overhauled the tax code in ways that benefited ordinary people. He's made education more accessible to the poor. He's funded doctors to go into the poorest of poor areas. But there's a major drawback: He's not very democratic. And he works hard to keep the cult of personality that surrounds him. I've read Marc Cooper's criticisms of him and think they're a bit harsh. But Chavez has presided over very real and troubling human rights violations, developed ties with scary regimes overseas (Iran), and within Venezuela, free elections and free speech have suffered under him. Ultimately, I think history's verdict on Chavez will be mixed, as it will with Fidel Castro. Neither will go down in history as champions of meaningful, grassroots participatory democracy, in my opinion.