02 November 2007

So Much For Hugo Chavez

To the annoyance of some people, I used to defend Hugo Chavez's actions as President of Venezuela. To people who accused him of suppressing dissent, I noted that most media in the country remained critical toward Chavez. When others worried about his economic and social policies, I opined that the existence of an entrenched oligarchy in Venezuela required measures that might seem extreme in North American eyes for the sake of genuine democratization. But now that I read the latest from that country, courtesy of the BBC, I have to give up on the man. Amid all the social reforms he proposes, many of which are probably not unreasonable, is a provision granting himself, the President, unlimited powers in times of emergency. In other words, this man who so often blasts George W. Bush in his speeches is adopting Bush's concept of executive power. If Bush is wrong to claim such powers in his commander-in-chief mode, then so is Chavez. Circumstances may differ from country to country but certain principles are the same everywhere.

I've also seen footage of college students rioting against the Venezuelan reforms. I haven't yet looked into this business in -depth, so I can't say whether this is an outburst of spoiled rich kids (sad to say, but cries of "Freedom!" make me suspicious these days) or a genuine people-power movement. We'll know more as the days pass, both about the demonstrations and about Chavez's ultimate intentions.

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