2006 09 25
What’s the Deal with Chavez?

OK, dear Readers, my lazy ass could use some assistance. I don’t have the time or patience to do the research myself, so I thought I’d ask the best educated readership around. So, here goes, What’s the deal with Hugo Chavez? Specifically, has he in fact violated civil liberties? Jon Stewart and the folks at the Daily Show seem to operate on that belief, which is producing an unsettling amount of cognitive dissonance up in my hizzy.

Thank you.

Howls of outrage (17)

2006 09 21
Reports of his death blah, blah, blah, you know the rest

I don’t know why I found this so funny, but the part in bold just made me howl:

President Bush ended many New Yorkers’ gridlock nightmares by leaving the city yesterday, but he – and the rest of the U.S. delgation to the United Nations – missed Venezulan President Hugo Chavez’s speech. And what a speech it was: Chavez called Bush “the devil,” said it smelled of sulfur (since Bush had stood there), and showed said Americans should be reading Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance instead of “watching Superman and Batman movies.” Yeah, a big F-U to Bush and Hollywood! The NY Times reported laughs and gasps during his speech, because the General Assembly is normally a staid crowd. (The NY Times also reported how Chavez’s regret was that he never met Chomsky before he died, pointing out that Chomsky is actually alive.)

Howls of outrage (4)

2004 06 18
Human Rights Watch on Venezuela

Recently, I complained about an editorial in the WaPo about Venezuela. The editorial seemed to me to embody the sort of bias that afflicts so much reporting on the region, and makes it difficult to get a fair sense of what is actually going on there. Human Rights Watch, on the other hand, has quite a bit more credibility with me. And what they have to report about Venezuela, and Chavez, is not encouraging:
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2004 06 12
Editorial on Venezuela

As I’ve complained before, the gulf between different accounts of what is going on in Venezuela is so vast that it’s difficult to figure out exactly what is going on. (One solution is simply to assume that U.S. policy – and reporting – on Venezuela is part of the same historical pattern that brought you wretched policy – and reporting – on Central America throughout the 1980s. But the world changes; and Chavez might be awful even if the U.S. hates him.)

It’s surely telling, though, that so many accounts of Venezuela in U.S. newspapers seem to feel obliged to leave out information that is crucial to any responsible assessment of Chavez, his motivation, and the situation in the country. Here is an editorial from the WaPo, interspersed with a few remarks:
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Howls of outrage (3)

2004 06 12
I sez pardon?

David Adesnik writes:

THREE CHEERS FOR JIMMY CARTER: I’m sure Ronald Reagan would be proud of his predecessor’s efforts to monitor elections and promote democracy around the globe. In fact, Carter even played a critical role in monitoring the 1990 elections in Nicaragua which did so much to vindicate Reagan’s struggle against the Sandinistas.

Carter’s most recent effort involves Venezuela. Hugo Chavez is still trying to rig the vote, but Jimmy and the OAS are on him every step of the way. Let’s hope that the Bush administration gives Carter and the OAS all the support they need.

I’m not sure what to say about that, except that at least one of us is seriously confused about a lot of things. Among them: What Reagan really cared about; what the nature of Reagan’s struggle against the Sandinistas was; what a vindication of that struggle would actually look like; and what exactly Chavez is up to in Venezuela (in particular, whether it can be fairly summed up as “still trying to rig the vote”).

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2004 06 05

Read this and then this, for two very different takes on what’s going on in Venezuela. My own prejudices incline me towards the former account. But that’s more a prejudice than well-founded judgment. I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out what’s going on there.

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2004 05 11

The International Crisis Group has a report on Venezuela. Read the summary here. I don’t know enough about Venezuela to say whether it is a reasonable report or not. The summary struck me as an awfully selective account of recent events. Any comments or suggestions for further reading are much appreciated.

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2004 02 12
[The Times on Haiti]

This story in the Times on Haiti is offensively bad. The first paragraph gets things off to a rocky start:

As the Haitian crisis deepens, with violence flaring and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide locked in an impasse with his opponents, the Bush administration has placed itself in the unusual position of saying it may accept the ouster of a democratic government.

Alas, it’s not unusual at all. This is the writer’s way of expressing disapproval (and it speaks volumes that it is) for the policy. After I read this, I had a sinking feeling about where the story was going to end up. And yes, the sinking feeling was right. The author was setting us up for a Venezuela comparison.

The stance recalls the administration’s initial response to the April 2002 coup attempt against another elected, populist leader in the hemisphere, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. American officials touched off an outcry by appearing to blame Mr. Chávez for the uprising and consulting with his would-be successors.

Oh jeez. I suppose a foolish but ambitious reporter might get it into his head that if the admin took it on the nose for monkey business on Venezuela, why not be the first to hit it again for failing to support democracy in Haiti? Except, of course, that the two cases are very different. I don’t have a very high opinion of Chavez: The guy seemed to genuinely enjoy hanging out with Saddam Hussein and Castro, and his former prediliction for coups isn’t exactly endearing. Still, my understanding is that he was elected in a real election, and that the coup attempt against him was an extremely rotten business. The U.S. richly deserved taking it on the nose for supporting it after the fact, and deserved rather more than that if – as may have been the case – it supported it before the fact.

Haiti by contrast is just absolutely fucked. Aristide has simply no legitimacy and has – against the odds – run Haiti into even worse shape than Venezuela is in the minds of the most ardent anti-Chavez crowd. The 2000 elections in Haiti were a sham, and to say that Aristide isn’t a populist anymore would be putting it mildly.

If the US government wants to signal that it is no friend of Aristide it has my full blessing.

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