Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What's The Big Deal With Hugo Chavez...Anyway?

Fellow Okie Blogger Otter commented in one of my posts below wondering why conservatives don't like Hugo Chavez as much as "progressives" do.

After laughing out loud, I thought this deserved a fair answer.

Hugo Chavez El Presidente of Venezuela is an authoritarian or a totalitarian communist, militarist and demagogue who has failed to deliver on his promises, violated fundamental rights, meddled in the affairs of other Latin American countries, threatened Venezuela's economy and democracy, illegally silenced opponents, and destabilized global oil prices.

The largest oil company in the country, PDVSA is depositing about $100 million a week into a discretionary presidential spending fund. The government says this oil windfall is "transforming the lives of the poor".[6]

Allegations of electoral fraud and abuse
Following the changes made to Venezuela's Constitution and electoral processes in 1999, Súmate, a Venezuelan, not-for-profit civil association, was founded in 2002. The group is funded in large part by private Venezuelan interests, but also reportedly received up to 6% of their funds via a grant from the US backed National Endowment for Democracy.[7]
[8] Súmate began work towards a constitutional referendum to recall Chávez. During a 2004 visit to Washington to meet U.S. government officials including President George W. Bush, Súmate's Vice-President María Corina Machado alleged that Chávez had "profoundly damaged Venezuela's democratic institutions".[9] She stated that she was motivated to campaign for the referendum "to dissipate tensions before they built up", believing that it was "a choice of ballots over bullets."[10]
The recall vote was held on August 15, 2004. A record number of voters turned out to defeat the recall attempt with a 59% "no" vote.[11] The Carter Center "concluded the results were accurate",[12] and the Organization of American States certified that their observers had not found any element of fraud in the process.[13] European Union observers did not oversee the elections, saying too many restrictions were put on their participation by the Chávez administration.[14]

Authoritarian rule and power consolidation
In spite of a presidential term limit of 6 years, Chávez has suggested that he would like to remain in power for 25 years,[33] a claim he denies as a misinterpretation of his intent.[34] However he recently proposed a constitutionally binding referendum to allow for a third term.[35] According to an article in The Washington Post, a program called "Mission Identity" to fast track voter registration of immigrants to Venezuela—including Chávez supporters benefiting from his subsidies—has been put in place prior to the 2006 presidential elections.[36] A constitutional referendum was called for the December 2nd to amend 69 articles of the Venezuelan constitution. Among these controversial changes included an amendment to abolish presidential term limits. The referendum failed to pass by a narrow margin.
According to the US State Department, Chávez has abandoned democratic traditions, and placed democracy in peril with unchecked concentration of power, political persecution, and intimidation.[4] Foreign Affairs Magazine says that, to his critics, Chávez is a power-hungry dictator whose authoritarian vision and policies are a formidable menace to his people, with autocratic and megalomaniacal tendencies.[5] The Center for Security Policy calls Chávez a "self-absorbed, unstable strongman" who has found "common cause with terrorists and the regimes that support them."[17]
Foreign Policy Magazine says that Chávez has "updated tyranny for today" and "is practicing a new style of authoritarianism".[37] The article adds that Chávez has achieved absolute control of all state institutions that might check his power, and unrivaled political control. They also note that, more importantly, "Chávez commands the institute that supervises elections, the National Electoral Council" and say, "If democracy requires checks on the power of incumbents, Venezuela doesn't come close."

Human Rights
Human Rights Watch expressed concern in a personal letter to Chávez over the safety of human rights defenders in Venezuela.[44] Human rights organization Amnesty International has catalogued a number of human rights violations under Chávez's administration.[45] As of December 2004, Amnesty International had documented at least 14 deaths and at least 200 wounded during confrontations between anti-Chávez demonstrators and National Guard, police, and other security personnel in February and March 2004.
In 2003, family members of some people involved in the events of April 11, 2002, represented by a team of lawyers from Venezuela and Spain, filed a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against Chávez and several of his government officials for crimes against humanity. The lawsuit was first filed in Spain on January 28, 2003, but it was decided by Judge Fernando Andreu of the National Audience that the Spanish courts would not be able to try Chávez because of his position as an acting President. However, the Spanish State's Attorney and the magistrates of the Penal Court of Appeals stated that the lawsuit was well founded and the case was consequently forwarded to the ICC (The International Criminal Court June 2003, Victims Compensation; Vol. 19, No. 6).

Freedom of Speech
The freedom of the press is seriously threatened in Venezuela according to various journalism organizations and NGOs. According to the International Press Institute, the Inter-American Press Association and Human Rights Watch, the administration of President Hugo Chávez tightened its grip on the press in 2005, while groups close to the government, including the Bolivarian Circles, hampered journalists’ ability to report. President Chávez’s government introduced harsher penalties for libel, defamation and insult, which resulted in a growing number of journalists appearing before the courts. The National Assembly approved by a simple majority the controversial Law on the Social Responsibility of Radio and Television, or gag law, which, in effect, makes the private radio and television system part of the state, which controls its schedules, programs and content.[56][57][58][59]
President Chávez announced that the operating license for RCTV—Venezuela's second largest TV channel which has been broadcasting for 53 years—will not be renewed.[60] The licence expired on 27 May 2007.[61] He publicly stated: "It runs out in March[sic]. So it's better that you go and prepare your suitcase and look around for what you're going to do in March... There will be no new operating license for this coupist TV channel called RCTV. The operating license is over... So go and turn off the equipment,"[62]
In 2006, Reporters Without Borders ranked Venezuela 115th out of 168 countries in its global press freedom listing, sharply down from the last year's rating of 90th.[64]

Corruption and nepotism
ISN Security Watch says that, as long as Venezuela's military leaders remain loyal to Chávez, they will "receive no oversight from Caracas", resulting in impunity and corruption. Gustavo Coronel, a former member of PDVSA's board of directors, claimed that social programs are "run by military officers who have little to no oversight".[90][unreliable source?] Members of the Venezuelan Armed Forces are alleged to be involved in supplying arms to Colombia's FARC,[90][unreliable source?] and U.S. anti-drug officials allege that corruption within the Chávez administration is converting Venezuela into a trafficking route for Colombian drugs.[91] Critics also allege widespread corruption in the police force.[92]
In Gallup Poll's Corruption Index, Venezuela ranks 31st out of 101 countries, where the population perceive corruption as widespread in the government and/or business. The index lists Venezuela as third least corrupt nation in Latin America.[93]
The Economist reports that "Mr. Chávez has grasped all the powers of state into his own hands, and eliminated all independent oversight of his government. The opposition argues that the inevitable result of this is graft on an increased scale." Berlin-based Transparency International, in its annual survey Corruption Perceptions Index, ranked Venezuela as one of only a dozen countries where perceived corruption had "greatly increased" in 2005, resulting in a ranking of 130th out of the 150 countries surveyed,[94][95] to become the nation perceived as the third most corrupt in Latin America, above Paraguay and Haiti. Critics claim that rampant corruption reaches the highest levels of Venezuelan airport and security officials, that billions of dollars have been siphoned away from social programs by corrupt officials, and that leaders of the military have limited oversight, creating an environment in which impunity and corruption develop.[94][90][unreliable source?][92][91] Currently Venezuela ranks 138th out of 163 countries with a rating of 2.3.[96]
At the end of May 2007 Asdrubal Chávez, Hugo Chávez's cousin has been chosen as public company Petroleos de Venezuela's vice president. His elder brother Adan has been appointed education minister and his father Hugo de los Reyes Chávez is governor of the state of Barinas. Barinas' secretary of state is another brother of Hugo Chávez. Furthermore, Anibal Chávez is mayor of Sabaneta de Barinas and Narciso Chavez candidate for the mayorship in Bolivar.[97]

Crime
Since Chávez took office, The Economist reports that the murder rate has almost tripled, and that Venezuela's capital – Caracas – has become South America's most violent, with police implicated in some of the crimes.[74][39] The United Nations reported in 2005 that Venezuela had the highest number of deaths by gunfire per capita in the world,[98] garnering for Venezuela a claim to the title of the world's most violent crime capital.[92] Critics claim that Chávez's policies are largely responsible for these declines.[37][92] The U.S. State Department says there is a "politicization of the judiciary, the electoral authorities, and the legal system" and a "reported 13% increase in politically motivated detentions".[4]

MISC
The New York Times has represented Chávez as "thriving on the atmosphere of confrontation" between Venezuela and the U.S.[107] The Washington Post has described him as an "ideologue".[108] A PBS discussion panel has said that Chávez's actions are "hurtful to Venezuela's democracy" and that he is "making all types of unfounded allegations about what the U.S. is up to in Venezuela."[109]
Chávez's foreign policy conduct and anti-Bush rhetoric has occasionally reached the level of personal attacks. In response to the ousting of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, Chávez referred to U.S. President George W. Bush as a pendejo. In a later speech, he made personal remarks regarding Condoleezza Rice, referring to her as a "complete illiterate" with regard to comprehending Latin America.[110][111][112]
The United States administration of George W. Bush,[4] described the State of Democracy in Venezuela as "in grave peril," with "unchecked concentration of power in the executive," saying Chávez has "turned his back on the Venezuelan electorate," "suffocated the democratic debate," "resisted external efforts to support democratic political activity," and committed an "assault on Venezuela's democratic institutions."
Chávez's trips abroad have also caused some criticism within his own coalition. For example, in July 2006 the National Assembly refused to ratify a trip to North Korea.[113] The BBC reports that Chávez has spent 365 days abroad since taking office.[113]
Alfredo Rangel says that Chávez's new civil reserve defense force, claimed to consist of approximately two million members, may be intended to intimidate domestic opponents and suppress internal dissent, dismissing the possibility of a U.S. invasion.

Venezuelan-Israeli relations
Further information: Israel-Venezuela relations
On August 3, 2006 Chávez ordered the Venezuelan charge d'affaires to Israel, to return from Tel Aviv to Caracas, protesting the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. The Israeli government responded by recalling the Israeli ambassador to Venezuela.[114][115]
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded, "As an act of protest against the one-sided policy of the president of Venezuela and in light of his wild slurs against the state of Israel and in response to the recall of the Venezuelan charge d'affaires to his country, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni decided to bring our ambassador in Venezuela back temporarily for consultations."[116]
In an interview with the news agency Al Jazeera in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Chávez made the first of his statements regarding Israel and the conflict, saying, "They are doing what Hitler did against the Jews."[117]
Chávez has been accused of antisemitism several times by organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, which wrote to Chávez asking him to consider how his statements might affect Venezuela. The southern area director of the ADL accused Chávez of "distorting history and torturing the truth, as he has done in this case, (comparing Israel's actions to that of Hitler) it is a dangerous exercise which echoes classic antisemitic themes."[117]
The Federation of Israeli Associations of Venezuela condemned "attempts to trivialize the Holocaust, the premeditated and systematic extermination of millions of human beings solely because they were Jews ... by comparing it with the current war actions."[117]

Arabs Love Hugo
The Syrian communist party urged Arab governments to "follow the example of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez”.[130]
According to CNSNews, the vice-chairman of Hezbollah's political council, Mahmoud Komati, called Chávez's actions an example for "revolutionaries" The high profile anti-war protester and UK Member of Parliament, George Galloway described Chávez as a "real leader of the Arab people."[128]
President Chávez's has made a number of trips to Libya in his role as OPEC representative to discuss the international situation, declining oil prices, and OPEC production.[131] The first occurred in 2001 after a personal invitation he received in 1999 by Muammar al-Gaddafi.[132] Some members of the National Assembly of Venezuela accused Chávez of not reporting his trip to Libya and hiding it under a tour of Europe and Africa.[133] Venezuela's former ambassador to Libya Julio César Pineda said in 2003 that Chávez was coordinating an anti-American strategy with terrorist states following his visit to Libya,[134] but today, Libya is moving closer to alignment with the United States at a time that Chávez is setting himself up as South America's leading anti-American.[135][136]

Hugo Loves Ahmadinejad
He has visited Iran on several occasions, the first time in 2001,[138] when he declared that he came to Iran to "prepare the road for peace, justice, stability and progress for the 21st century".[137] Mohamed Khatami also has visited Venezuela on three occasions. During his 2005 visit, Chávez awarded him the Orden del Libertador and called him a "tireless fighter for all the right causes in the world".[139] In May of 2006, Chávez expressed his favorable view of the production of nuclear energy in Iran announced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and denied that they had plans to develop nuclear weapons.[140] His relationship with the government of Iran and his support for their nuclear program has elicited the concern of the U.S. government. Condoleezza Rice commented that, given the political strategy of President Chávez in relation to Iran, "Venezuela has become a negative force in the region".[141]
Chávez paid a two-day visit to Iran when the government faced international criticism for continuing its nuclear program and backing Hezbollah guerrillas.[142] On Chávez's birthday, July 28, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented Chávez with Iran's highest honor for "supporting Tehran in its nuclear standoff with the international community".[143]
Chávez pledged that Venezuela would "stay by Iran at any time and under any condition." Ahmedinejad called Chávez a kindred spirit. "I feel I have met a brother and trench mate after meeting Chávez.

Personal Lows
During his first marriage, Chávez also had a nine-year affair with Herma Marksman,[151][152] a Venezuelan historian. She wrote the book "Chávez me utilizó" (Chávez used me, ISBN 980-6598-05-9) with her views and opinions about Hugo Chávez. Her beliefs are that Chávez is a person without values, ambitious, disloyal and who uses others to later "discard" them: "... (he) has turned into an assassin".

So.. i dunno Otter, he sounds like a pretty nice dictator to me... what say you?

4 Comments:

Blogger Otter said...

Not to argue trivial details here but I don't live in Oklahoma anymore. I wasn't sure if you knew that I had moved back home to Washington state a few months ago or not.

I will respond later to the actual content of the blog though after reading it a little more thoroughly.

And uhm, there was no need to laugh at my question. It was an honest, I honestly don't know why, question. I wasn't trying to be a jerk.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Otter said...

Okay, let me answer this bit on Chavez piece by piece.

"[Chavez] has failed to deliver on his promises..." Much like most of our leaders..hmm...

"[he has] meddled in the affairs of other Latin American countries..." Hmm...much like our leaders.

"[he has] illegally silenced opponents.." Hmmm.....again, much like our leaders.

"[he has] destabilized global oil prices.." Hmmm......sounds like what our "allies" have done as well.

Electoral Fraud and Abuse:

You should read some books about the 2000 U.S. Presidential election. That was stolen election if I ever heard about one.

More comments to come later.........

4:52 PM  
Blogger Red S Tater said...

hey... sounds like you might support Chavez for President of the US?

10:54 AM  
Blogger Otter said...

Wouldn't work. He wasn't born in this country.

2:52 PM  

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