Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chavez: President for Life

Martov: No wonder they call you Robespierre. Everyone's got to think like you, or they're out!
Trotsky: He thinks freedom is something you write on a wall, you don't actually practice it.

Lenin: That's not true. Of course, I agree you're free to say what you like. And you must agree I'm free to shoot you for saying it.

Nicholas and Alexandra
(1971) Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (Michael Bryant as Lenin, Brian Cox as Trotsky, Stephen Grief as Martov).

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has convoked his tame National Assembly to propose amendments to the constitution there to increase the six-year presidential term to seven years, and to scrap term limits.
But no, Chavez is not, not becoming a dictator. Don't even think that, or you'll be in a dungeon someplace. “It's not that I want to enthrone myself," the Los Angeles Times quotes Hugo as saying, "This shouldn't surprise anyone.” True, you’d have to be an idiot (such as any political opponents not already living in Miami) to be surprised. Why is this even news ? Chavez has been more patient than I would be, I’m surprised he didn’t do this sooner.
“It's done this way in any number of countries.” Yeah, Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Iran, to name a few.
Is your secret police going to be more like Cuba’s or Russia’s ? Personally, I’d suggest the Russians, they’ve been doing it more efficiently, for longer. Besides, take too much advice from the Cubans and you'll be up to your neck in Castro's spies, and make the creation of potential rivals in your own system easier. It's easier to game, and watch, foreign helpers with a language and culture barrier. But that's your worry, Chief. Hope you sleep well.
Have your police officials get the Gestapo, the SD and East German Stasi manuals too – certainly worth a look. Oh yeah, and you need a foreign intelligence service: the exiles are going to began to be a problem soon, as soon as the Americans pull their thumbs out of it. You could do worse than copy the GRU. Just remember to change your personal guards every so often; vary your schedule and routes; employ food testers; and, never, ever let important people travel abroad with their families.
I do wonder, though Hugo, if you're really up to this ? You're cold enough, no mistake; and you have the demagogue's flair, but how smart are you ? Those stupid politicians and generals almost got you in 2002: if they'd had the gumption to kill you, you'd have been just another wannabe caudillo. My bet is you've learned enough, but we'll see.
Meanwhile, as the new Maximum Leader tells us. "There are many lies circulating in the world, about a dictatorship in Venezuela, about a concentration of power in Venezuela." Right, and the object, Hugo, is to make sure your "truth" is the only one your people can hear, so they know that: "This is a transfer of power to the people."
Anyway, I’m sure, Boss, that you've got some secure places for any people who get ideas about being transferred too much power.


hank_F_M said...

El Jefe

Like Allende Castro and Ortega, a caudillo who figured out that leftist cant is better than horse back.

The tragedy was that Venseula was beginning to go places when he came to power. If he fatally overdosed on his cocain today it would take at least twenty years to recover.

The oil industry is starting to strangle for maintenance the army can’t defeat Columbian warlords who sometime cross the border.

The only people for whom he is a savior are the banks that hold his secret accounts.

OK. I’m off my soapbox you can your comments section back.

El Jefe Maximo said...

And that army will be even less useful once he starts shuffling the generals to prevent them from knowing their troops too well; planting spies in the officer corps to watch dissidents;and, purging possible troublemakers.

Yeah, the foreign banks will do well out of him: not only do they get his secret accounts, but those of all his hangers-on. And they can lend to the state at loan-shark rates, because the dictator and cronies who are making money with the bank will self-deal at the state's expense.

I'm sure the Chinese and Russians will help with the oil, but that kind of help comes with its own strings --"Uh, gee, all those "construction" people with military haircuts ?" Then they're always a few new regime majors and colonels who will go to all the right Russian, Cuban and Chinese service and spy schools, who think they might get a chance to out caudillo the caudillo. One of them might even be right.

But, if you're the Chief, what a yucko way to live. Is that fine young adjutant in the outer office whose Dad was your best pal in military school really loyal ? Or is there some girl someplace whispering seditious nonsense in his ears. Ditto the valet. Is he okay, or pissed because his cousin Fredo had to go live in Miami? Can you turn your back on him ?

How bout the loyal secretary you've known for years ? Is she really loyal, or is she taking bribes from the Cali cartel to report on your phone calls or helping her friends get access to the state funds ? Are the police adequately watching plotters ? What are the Americans up to this week ?

The Boss is driven to paranoia as self defense, because he really can't trust anybody. Longer it goes on, the worse it gets.

Anonymous said...

Typical of you neocons. You think just because he wants to help ordinary people he's a tyrant in waiting.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Not at all. My comments are more directed to Chavez’s methods. Think for a moment on what Mr. Chavez’s going to have to do to help your “ordinary people.”

Look, I don’t, in general, like the politics of left-wingers, and from what I know of him, I don’t like Chavez. I admit it. But don’t read too much into that at all.

Chavez is dangerous, from my point of view, not because I don’t like him – that is immaterial. But he’s primarily a problem for Venezuelans who will soon have more reasons to dislike him than I. I’m concerned about him because he is dangerous to American interests.

As for his politics, and what kind of man he is, does it matter ? It has been my experience that people (even evil ones, and great ones too) are not all of a piece. Now he seems to me like a demagogue on a mission – however much I disagree with him, he, for the moment, may be a decent person personally.

Assume Chavez is well-meaning: and wants to help the marginalized. Assume he's another Allende. So what ? He’s not going to be able to help the poor without upsetting a lot of apple carts. Rich people are not going to let themselves be expropriated or ruined without a struggle. Maybe you think they shouldn't be rich, but that doesn't mean they aren't going to fight to stay that way. Chavez knows all this -- and he's securing himself the power to carry through his programs.

But these methods make their own problems. There are rules and constraints that all political leaders must work within – even dictators – perhaps them most of all. Hugo Chavez is not going to be a tyrant because he necessarily wants to be – he’s going to have to be to survive. When you choose to use absolute power, you have to defend your ability to use it – look what happened to Allende when he forgot this. You cannot be a dictator or a successful radical leader without tyranny. And it requires successively larger doses.

If you want to be a dictator, or radical, and aren’t willing to be a tyrant indefinitely, or are incompetent at it, you wind up like Caesar – a pin-cushion at the base of Pompey’s statue; or a suicide in your own palace, like Allende; or like Mikhail Gorbachev, whose chief weakness as a leader was that he did not fully comprehend that he was a dictator.

hank_F_M said...


Well maybe the sarcasm is a little thick, but nothing said that I have not seen in regular news sources, spun a little differently perhaps..

Let us assume for argument that Chavez is acting with the intent to help the people of Venezuela, which is a safe assumption, this is probably so. Doesn’t mean much most political leaders believe they are working for a good cause, though it is sometimes hard to support on the facts. Never underestimate human myopia

But we will make the assumption.

As Lord Acton said power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It is an old story some one starts out with good intentions, works hard to get the power to accomplish them, and as they get the power the temptation to cut corners when they won’t get caught can be enticing. They may not even be acting for personal gain; the abuse for a good end is the first step. If there are not other sources of power to encourage prudence, challenge abuses, and even oppose it, the gradual abuse will grow and grow.

More importantly power attracts the corrupt.

He needs people to implement his program. Many are dedicated and honest. But some who are corrupt will see an opportunity with little chance of being caught so long as they are the loudest in shouting Chavez’s praises. If he keeps them out while he is in power they will follow in later like night after day.

What I call the revolution paradox.

If a revolution peaceful or not takes over, the people who know how to implement a policy are the ones that were thrown out. Of course they very from luke warm to totally hostile, often the fear that they would sabotage the revolution is not unfounded. But the people who come in with the revolution, while true believers, lack the background to implement the new program. Actually the hard won skill set of an effective revolutionary are counter productive for day to day administration of anything. This has hit Chavez with a vengeance, the people with educational and technical skills to do what he wants, Chavez says are opposed to him and have been leaving the country is a steady stream.(Closer to home and on a lesser scale this is what happened to Rumsefeld’s attempts to “transform” the Defense Department, I suspect you would give us an overstated summary of the results.)

So, Chavez is trying to help the people of Venezuela by concentrating power in his hands. It has nothing to do with his good intentions, or whether or not his programs would work in a different format, it is plain political process, his government will be come worse than what he wants to replace, and if he finds out he will be the one who is most surprised of all.

For additional reading: Dr. R.J. Rummel’s Death By Government which I reviewed here