Friday, January 14, 2005

Venezuela Again

The Washington Post online today has an editorial rightly criticizing Venezuelan tin-pot dictator Hugo Chavez’s “revolution.” The Post’s little demarche seems to have been provoked by Mr. Chavez’s just-declared “war against the estates.” Earlier this week, the tin-pot signed decrees purporting to seize large agricultural and ranching properties, and sent Venezuelan soldiers and various of his thug-supporters to invade these places.

This seems reasonably intelligent from Mr. Chavez’s point of view, the rich landowners don’t like him anyway, and it is high time to use the state to impoverish his enemies, acquiring their property to give to loyal supporters, and encouraging his opponents to leave the country. The dummies too stupid, stubborn or poor to flee can be arrested or have accidents at leisure. The show trials of rich oligarchs and other opponents that are certainly coming will be such good TV entertainment for Chavez’s supporters.

The Post piece notes that new “legislation” criminalizes anti-government demonstrations: “…people who bang empty pots and pans in protest, as Venezuelans have been doing for several years, can be sentenced to jail.” Of course, there is no danger of legal challenges to these “laws” since Mr. Chavez has recently stacked the Supreme Court with pro-dictator hacks, including a supporter who has suggested amending the constitution to allow Mr. Chavez to be president for life. No doubt in the fullness of time, the amendment will be duly proposed and passed, with 99 percent of the population, whether it knows it or not, vowing its fanatical support.

The material in the Post editorial about Mr. Chavez is interesting, of course, but hardly news. Americans don’t particularly care about Venezuela, yet, because oil prices aren’t high enough, and because he doesn’t have sufficient weapons, or foreign backers to be troublesome, yet. All in good time.
Meanwhile, all the usual suspects among the lefty Washington players are doing their level best to silence the alarms, gag complainers and blame the victims. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), apologist for the El Salvador terrorists and the Sandinistas in the 1980’s, dismissed the land confiscations, the Post tells us, as an “internal matter.” Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida), clearly on drugs, opines that “[e]very indication is there will be better times ahead.” Sure, unless you’re a Venezuelan who own property, a dissident in Chavez's jails, somebody who wants free elections, or not a lefty.

The most interesting thing about the Post editorial is what it tells us about the mindset of the American moderate-left Washington establishment, which the Post editorial page so accurately represents. The Post piece deplores all of the above, including the attitude of the lefty Senators, but here’s the money quote “A generation ago, such developments in an important Latin American country might have inspired heavy-handed and counterproductive US intervention.”

“Heavy-handed and counterproductive” eh ? Mr. Chavez can barrel down the royal road towards dictatorship, jail his enemies, subvert elections, beat up dissidents, consort with Castro, buy all the Russian weapons he wants, and set the rhetorical stage for an eventual confrontation with the US, but oh no, any US attempt to interfere with Mr. Chavez would be “heavy-handed and counterproductive.” The Post and its smart opinion-makers clearly see what's coming, but have no suggestion beyond sitting and watching the monster get bigger and bigger...

Beg pardon, but heavy-handed US intervention is all that’s left. It’s too late to stop Mr. Chavez democratically. A thousand pities the coup attempt of 2002 failed – Chavez might have been stopped then relatively cheaply. Hugo Chavez means big, big trouble for the United States and for all Latin America. Chavez has to challenge the Americans eventually – his economy is collapsing and he will need a foreign threat to justify the dictatorship he is building.
The Washington Post’s and the US establishment’s position of “hands off” is the equivalent of ignoring an operable cancer – the Post objects to paying for surgery now, but we will all assuredly pay far more later. The Bush people, admittedly busy, have not done much here at all. They need to get on the stick.

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