Chavez: no example for the Caribbean

This is old (from 2007 before the elections he lost), but it shows a clear picture of the black mailing going on from sadim.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez has urged Caribbean countries to join his “sea of resistance” agains the US

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President, is a recent friend of Caribbean countries and a number of Latin American nations.

He has urged them to join his government in “a sea of resistance” against the United States and its President George W Bush whom he calls “the devil”.

So far, he has not succeeded in persuading Caribbean countries to join him in this campaign.

These countries recognise that for years their bread has been buttered by the US, and, while they may feel that the butter was not enough and they may vehemently disagree with US policies on Iraq and the middle-east, many of them see no reason to side with Chavez against Bush.

The carrot that Chavez has used to try to lure Caribbean countries into his sphere of influence is a deferred payment scheme for some of the oil which Venezuelan state-owned oil company, PDVSA, supplies to them under an agreement called Petro Caribe.

Bolivarian revolution

Not every Caribbean country signed up to Petro Caribe; some rejected it on the basis that not only would the arrangement increase their national debt, it would also give Chavez undue influence over their policies.

Chavez has also actively tried to induce them to join his “Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas” as a substitute to the US-proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. Some joined, the majority didn’t.

Underpinning all of Chavez’s policies is what he calls his “Bolivarian Socialist Revolution” – a concept that is difficult to define, but which seems to be a mixture of increasing state ownership, seizing private property, reducing foreign investment, curbing press freedom, restricting dissent and forcibly redistributing wealth.

The Venezuelan President can pursue these policies because, for the time being, his country has great oil wealth and he has accumulated to himself the power to decide how that wealth should be used.

Name calling

US President George Bush
Hugo Chavez has called President Bush a “donkey”

In the case of the name calling in which he has indulged – particularly of President Bush, whom he has also called a ‘donkey’ – he has gotten away with it only because the US needs Venezuelan oil at the present time and the US government has been preoccupied over the last five years with the quagmire of Iraq.

The power of money has also allowed Chavez to show off himself by calling many other people by uncharitable names.

For instance, he used a colourful Spanish word in referring to the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States Jose Miguel Insulza.

Insulza’s sin was to be critical of Chavez’s closure of a privately owned television station that opposed his policies.

Chavez’s policies have never been an example for Caribbean countries to follow. His most recent acts give greater strength to that statement if such strength were needed.

Constitutional change

The Venezuelan President is forcing the rewriting of the country’s constitution to suit himself.

Under the 69 changes to the constitution passed in the legislature on November 2nd by Chavez’s supporters, term limits on his Presidency will disappear and he can continue to offer himself for election as long as he lives.

The proposals would also give Chavez full authority over Venezuela’s central bank robbing it of any semblance of independence; privately-owned property can be expropriated without court approval; and the authorities would be given sweeping powers if a national emergency is declared, including detention without charges and controls on the news media.

Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States
Jose Miguel Insulza was critical of Hugo Chavez’s closure of a TV station

These are proposals to which every Caribbean country should look askance, and which they should condemn.

They are the thin edge of the wedge, and they lay the way open not only to authoritarian rule in Venezuela but also to eventual instability of the region.

Without doubt, authoritarianism in Venezuela will eventually face resistance.

And, if that resistance is met with oppression, calamity will be the consequence.

Already, a grim story is unfolding.

Constitutional changes condemned by opposition parties

Chavez’s constitutional changes have to be approved by voters in a December 2nd referendum. And some of these voters have already shown their disagreement.

The changes have been condemned by Venezuela’s opposition parties, human rights groups and the Roman Catholic Church.

Large numbers of students also marched throughout the country protesting the violation of civil liberties which the constitutional changes portend.

Chavez’s answer to the demonstrations was to call the students “clowns” and more sinisterly to deploy soldiers using tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannon to disperse them.

This showed beyond any doubt that while Chavez is willing to use any forum that affords him free speech to denigrate anyone with whom he disagrees, he is equally ready to crush all within his own country who disagree with him.

Former ally

“Traitor” is the word Chavez used to describe his former defence minister and one-time ally, Raul Isaias Baduel, who denounced the plan to rewrite the constitution.

The measure of the importance of this denunciation by Baduel is that he is the man who led the force that returned Chavez to power in 2002 following a short-lived coup which, it was widely believed, the US government supported.

In response to the students march, Chavez himself led a counter demonstration of thousands of his supporters.

This demonstration encountered no resistance from soldiers or any law enforcement agency.

And, as reports indicate, it is difficult to measure the extent of his support when some public employees say they feel they have to attend rallies or risk losing their jobs.

Informed reports from Venezuela suggest that “only a fraction of Venezuelan voters understand the changes to the constitution”.

Chavez has presented it as a means of deepening his socialist revolution and helping the poor.

Six-hour work day

Included in the changes is an initiative to reduce the working day to only six hours.

It may very well be that, come December 2nd, it is the six-hour work day for which most voters will cast their ballot, and the constitutional amendments will be adopted.

In that case, Venezuela will have dropped still further down the slippery slope to an erosion of democracy, human rights and civil liberties.

Whether these developments will be contained within Venezuela or help to encourage the spread of Chavez’s ambitions in the Hemisphere is left to be seen.

In any event, they run counter to the democratic traditions and values of the Caribbean, and Caribbean countries would be right to show their displeasure.

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