Monday, December 10, 2007

The magnanimous Chavez . . . or not

The new meme among the left-wing blogosphere is that Chavez is more of a democrat than Pres. Bush because Chavez "accepted" defeat in the recent constitutional election in Venezuela (yes, this ignores the Bush victory in Florida that every recount has confirmed).

Jorge Castaneda, the former foreign minister of Mexico, discusses why Chavez went so quietly to his defeat -- Chavez wanted to overturn the election results but would have been deposed by his own military. Castaneda (sorry, can't do the tilde over the n on Blogger) also notes the problems that Chavez causes in Latin America. Read the whole piece, but here are some choice bits:

. . . by midweek enough information had emerged to conclude that Chávez did, in fact, try to overturn the results. As reported in El Nacional, and confirmed to me by an intelligence source, the Venezuelan military high command virtually threatened him with a coup d'état if he insisted on doing so. Finally, after a late-night phone call from Raúl Isaías Baduel, a budding opposition leader and former Chávez comrade in arms, the president conceded—but with one condition: he demanded his margin of defeat be reduced to a bare minimum in official tallies, so he could save face and appear as a magnanimous democrat in the eyes of the world. So after this purportedly narrow loss Chávez did not even request a recount, and nearly every Latin American colleague of Chávez's congratulated him for his "democratic" behavior. Why did these leaders not speak out? . . .

The reason for the silence: these leaders know Chávez can count on a fifth column in nearly every country in the region. Even while he denounces the policies of his opponents and throws vitriol in every direction, he also uses his nation's resources to befriend their constituencies. These acolytes are devoted to his ideals and, more important, to his funding. They are boisterous, or powerful, or both, and they can make life miserable for governments ranging from the emblematic left (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil) to the liberal right (Mexico's Felipe Calderón or Colombia's Alvaro Uribe).

Over the years Chávez has picked fights, from north to south, with virtually every leader in the region. He called Calderón caballerito, "tin soldier," early this year and questioned his electoral victory last year. . . He accused the Brazilian senate of being a "Bush lapdog" and heaped scorn on anything Spanish under the sun, including the king, the government, the opposition and the banks. He warned two weeks ago that if the right-of-center opposition won next spring's election in Spain he would nationalize every Spanish corporation in Venezuela. He has meddled incessantly in his neighbors' affairs. With varying degrees of proof, stridency and significance, he is said to have interfered in the domestic politics of Mexico in last year's election, in El Salvador by funding the left-wing FMLN, and in Nicaragua by financing public works for Managua's Sandinista mayor, which led to Ortega's victory in the presidential vote. In Peru he openly backed radical nationalist Ollanta Humala in 2006. In Argentina he funded the Kirchners and the so-called piqueteros, or street fighters. He has meddled as well in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia and, of course, Colombia, where his intervention led to a breakdown in the international mediation efforts to free a number of hostages.

And Pres. Bush has done nothing but enable Chavez for seven years.

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