Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 3, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

VENEZUELA UPDATE....Here's some good news:

Venezuelan voters narrowly rejected a constitutional referendum that would have bolstered President Hugo Chavez's embrace of socialism and granted an indefinite extension of his eligibility to serve as president, the National Electoral Council reported early Monday.

About 51 percent of voters opposed the amendments, while approximately 49 percent were in favor of them.

So the constitutional changes were rejected (good); Chavez didn't try — very hard, anyway — to rig the election (also good); and apparently he's willing to accept the negative results (yet more good). All in all, a satisfying result so far. We'll see what comes next.

Kevin Drum 1:22 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (58)

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Can't Chavez go to the Supreme Court to ask his friendly judges to issue a ruling that the election results, if accepted, would violate his right to equal protection under the law?

The court can always add the caveat that its ruling has specific applicability to this case and this case only, and can never be used in the future cases as a precedent?

Posted by: gregor on December 3, 2007 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

Why do you think the outcome of this election is "some good news"?

Posted by: Ty Lookwell on December 3, 2007 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

If a democratic vote results in something that we Americans do not like, does that mean the vote was rigged? It must be....how dare people choose something other than what we think is best for them.

Posted by: Chris on December 3, 2007 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

You need to elaborate on why this is good news. I doubt you've done any of the hard lifting, like, say, Wilpert has.

You blog about Venezuela about as much as you blog about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You need to clarify your points above, precisely because I don't recall you weighing in on this subject much previously.

Posted by: Tim on December 3, 2007 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

Venezuela held a free and fair election, in which proposals by the elected president were rejected. The elected president has said he will honor the results.

And yet many Americans will continue to call him a dictator.

Oh, and Kevin: since you have zero evidence for your "very hard, anyway" snark, please withdraw it.

49% voted in favor of a very complicated proposal. I won't be surprised if Chavez responds by paring it back a bit, re-submitting, and winning. If so, it will be a democratic result. It will concentrate more power in the president, but we're in no position to complain in George Bush's America.

If I were a Venezuelan, I would have voted "no", because I like checks and balances. But even a victory would have been a democratic result, and Chavez would still face an election challenge in a few years. People have been falsely saying that this was a referendum to make him president for life. It would have ended term limits, but many democracies don't have term limits.

Posted by: Joe Buck on December 3, 2007 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

In most democracies, the ruler doesn't run all the television stations, broadcasting his speeches for hours each day. And if you don't think Chavez's thugs didn't alter and add votes in the many districts where opposition parties had no poll watchers, you're dreaming.

Posted by: Dear Editor on December 3, 2007 at 2:57 AM | PERMALINK

Happy to see that thug Chavez get served at the polls.

Posted by: Old Hat on December 3, 2007 at 3:39 AM | PERMALINK

Um... Dear Editor: were you writing about Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004?

Posted by: natural cynic on December 3, 2007 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

According to Reuters through the Guardian, the actual vote was 49.29% for Chavez' changes and 51.7% to reject them.

Note that the difference is almost exactly 1%, so that a half percent change in the vote would have reversed the results.

CNN rounded the numbers, then reported them. That makes the difference between the winning side and the losing side appear to be 2%, or twice as large a difference as Venezuela's National Electoral Council reported. As in CNN's incompetent and biased handling of the Republican debate last week, CNN is biasing their reporting to make their favorites look better.

Once again, CNN proves how accurate the Los Angeles Times was when they called CNN the Corrupt News Network.

Posted by: Rick B on December 3, 2007 at 3:42 AM | PERMALINK

Washington Post has an op-ed by that lovable old war criminal Rumsfeld, entitled "The Smart Way to Beat Tyrants Like Chávez."


Posted by: Helena Montana on December 3, 2007 at 4:25 AM | PERMALINK

Less than dear editor: I am flabbergasted that you did not realize how ludicrous your statement is about democracies not owning all the TV stations and covering presidents’ speeches for hours each day. Let’s first tell the truth and then examine your hypocrisy. Venezuela has one state TV station, Channel 8, and the rest of the stations are privately-owned. These private stations operate so freely that a few actively collaborated with the 2002 coup plotters and then joked about it on air the next day. Generally the private TV stations, when they are not engaged in acts of treason, spend the rest of their time showing caricatures of Chavez as a monkey and presenting fictionalized reports about Chavez having sex with various world leaders. I think Chavez has plenty of right to talk as long as he wants on Channel 8. After all, he was democratically elected – several times.

Now for the hypocrisy. George Bush may not own all the TV stations but it controls many both private and public. The U.S. media took its orders from and paved the way for George Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq and continue to bang his drum for an invasion of Iran. Why would these stations collaborate in such heinous acts? Talk with Dan Rather, Phil Donahue, and Bill Moyers. And of course, there is Fox News – enough said. When the President speaks he gets coverage on all the networks plus C-SPAN.

I think you understand that the opposition folks are not worried about losing their democracy with Chavez. What they are worried about is losing their “upper hand” over the poor and people of color

Finally, your glee over the result of the referendum suggests that you never once thought about the millions of poor people Venezuelans who are in desperate need of benefits that were to be derived from the proposed reforms such as social security. No, I think what gets under your skin is watching a black Indian president control his own government’s airwaves.

Posted by: Magbana on December 3, 2007 at 4:51 AM | PERMALINK

And here is some very bad news - Observers cast doubts on Russian election.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 3, 2007 at 6:23 AM | PERMALINK

And here is some very bad news - Observers cast doubts on Russian election.

Sigh. The legacy of Boris Yeltsin and his drunken incompetence.

Posted by: phleabo on December 3, 2007 at 7:45 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: yvette on December 3, 2007 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

I don't care for Chavez that much but I care even less for his opposition. Too bad it takes a military strongman to spend oil revenues on poor people.

BTW, Venezuela has very large reserves of tar sands. The power struggle between corporate interests, power hungry dictators, and poor citizens isn't going to end in our lifetime.

Posted by: B on December 3, 2007 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Putin is one who will let the big dogs eat as long as he gets his own way. Thus he is a "strategic ally".

Chavez will not -- so he is a "tyrant".

Posted by: Tracer Hand on December 3, 2007 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

His term ends in 2012. A lot can happen between now and then. Look for some sort of manuever or shenanigan to extend his rule.

Posted by: steve duncan on December 3, 2007 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Rick B at 3.42AM. Your figures quoting Reuters are wrong. Opposition got 50.7%, the Chavez position 49.29. Your point is well made, just the numbers you misquoted didn't add up to the totals you gave.

Posted by: jim Bouman on December 3, 2007 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Every time I've seen media coverage of this referendum, the story focuses on Chavez's desire to end term limits as the big "power grab." I really don't understand this. We didn't have term limits in the US until the GOP decided that they couldn't handle another FDR. And frankly, we'd be better off without them.

It's my understanding that the referendum involved some other constitutional changes. Either (a) the media were too stupid to cover them or (b) they were even more innocuous than the end of term limits.

Posted by: keptsimple on December 3, 2007 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Why do you think the outcome of this election is "some good news"?

Seconded. Mister Drum seems to be merely parroting some all-too-familiar Beltway propaganda with this utterly unexplained "judgment" call implying that the opposite, equally democratically determined result would somehow have been "bad news"..

Regarding the referendum itself, what is REMOTELY "democratic" about presidential term limitations? When our own country -- EXTREMELY belatedly -- adopted them, the move was clearly an ANTI-democratic backlash fostered by Republican resentment of FDR's enormous popularity that had legitimately propelled him to four terms in office.

Kevin, you seemingly don't know Jack about Chavez or the situation in Venezuela. That being the case, "Shoemaker, stick to thy lath." Chavez has consistently exhibited FAR more fidelity to democratic principles than our own illicitly installed, Fascist Reich EVER has!

Posted by: Poilu on December 3, 2007 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Poilu wrote: "Mister Drum seems to be merely parroting some all-too-familiar Beltway propaganda ..."

I have found that to be the case with the majority of Kevin's articles, on any subject.

And then of course there are those articles that consist entirely of excerpts from someone else's work followed by Kevin's comment "I don't have much to say about this".

Blogging seems like a pretty easy job, much of it consisting of expressing opinions that one has received from others on subjects about which one knows little.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 3, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

What utter BS.

Washington does business with corrupt strongmen around the world, yet CNN never seems to show up with cameras. Funny how they somehow missed the voter fraud in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, but are supposedly crack journalists when it comes to a poor country few Americans visit except for cheap plastic surgery or to keep the oil pumping. Thank God the Venezuelan ballot box is safe. The world can breathe easy now. Thanks CNN, you're my hero!

The only sin of Chavez is and was not letting the US control Venezuelan resources for the sole benefit of Wall Street and their Caracas clients. Could it be the Washington consensus fears that the rest of Latin America might challenge their semi-feudal status as well? What an unprofitable mess that would be for Wall Street.

And, terror of terrors, the American people might finally wake up to reject the holy Reaganomics trinity of privatization and free trade and deregulation--which do nothing but concentrate wealth to the wealthy and multiply miseries for the toiling classes.

By contrast, Chavez actually thinks oil wealth should benefit the people. What a crazy man. Kind of like that royalty check every Alaskan gets every year from oil companies--$1600 last year alone, just for being an Alaskan. If that's socialism, sign me up. BTW, tell me again how much the US Treasury receives in royalties from all the mineral rights and natural resource giveaways that lobbyists obtain in Washington DC?

Didn't the coup attempt against a legitimately elected leader--all the while preaching to the world at gunpoint about Democracy--didn't that raise some questions for you about US hypocrisy, Kevin?

It's propaganda. And it comes straight from a White House with CNN playing the supporting role of Pravda. But keep focusing on Chavez, instead of how much cash you personally labored for this year and will be personally paying to the IRS for the privilege of "bringing democracy to the Middle East". And not just this year, but for years to come in VA, disability payments, pension costs and inflation. Have you done any charts or estimates on those figures yet?

Do you remember really wanting a war in Iraq and thinking it was a great idea? Me neither. Thanks for the democracy, Uncle $cam--and the wars and coups and oppressions being perpetrated in our name.

At least the next generation of Venezuelans might enjoy a better prosperity and quality-of-life than their parents did, and possibly feel proud of their country. That's more than many Americans can look forward to these days.

Posted by: Tim B. on December 3, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

I don't agree with Humdrum much but this is spot on.
Huge-ego Chaves was getting some very bad advice from some very bad authoritarian socialists. Rotten little creeps like Alan Woods, James Petras, Tariq Ali and etc. If Chaves does some due diligence on libertarian socialism he should get back on track for some true greatness. Murray Bookchin would be a good place to start or Noam Chomsky's classic - ' Objectivity and Liberal scholarship'.

Posted by: professor rat on December 3, 2007 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus! With all the bile posted on the comments section, there's going to be a pretty big shit.

Ok. Kevin doesn't follow Venezuelan politics. Not many of us have the time to. His snark about stealing elections was annoying. I would characterize Chavez as a benevolent dictator -- like a little Castro. So I can't tell which outcome of this election would be better. But that's a judgment based on the 2 bits of knowledge I have about the situation. Glad to read some of the information you all have shared, which will help me form more informed opinions.

Posted by: absent observer on December 3, 2007 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, can you please explain why its "good," or update with a source... THanks

Posted by: ddb on December 3, 2007 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Term limits are EXTREMELY democratic because they are the only mechanism by which an oligarchy that has a headlock on government positions can be removed.

Anytime there are not term limits the local power elites manuever to make sure candidates that are friendly to their interests are the only candidates that run.

Just as an example, look at the 60+ years of monopoly on power that the PRI had on the Mexican federal government. Or, for that matter, the fact that both the Republican and Democratic front runners are very friendly to corporate interests.

This is not to say that term limits guarentee that an oligarchy won't be established. But it's one more tool in the democratic arsenal to prevent such an occurance.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on December 3, 2007 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to get a response from him....

Posted by: MNPundit on December 3, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Those who refer to Chavez as a "dictator" are uninformed.

It also should be noted that recent Venezuelan elections have been declared clean and legit by observers from the EU, OAS, and individuals, such as Jimmy Carter.

And, yes, I thought Kevin's comments suggested otherwise.

I think a more appropriate comment would be something along the lines of: Congratulations to the Venezuelan people, their democratically elected leaders, and elections officials for their conduct of a peaceful, orderly, and democratic election to decide the proposed measures. And kudos to all parties for their acceptance of the results.

The ballot measure, by the way, contained quite a number of provisions, including reducing the work week from 8 to 6 hours. Ending term limits was but the one provision focused on by the lap dog USA media.

Posted by: Chris Brown on December 3, 2007 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Oh noes! Socialism! What could be worse than spending the nation's resources on the nation's people?! The effrontery of it!

Posted by: craigie on December 3, 2007 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

a constitutional referendum that would have bolstered President Hugo Chavez's embrace of socialism

Bolstering the wealth transfers of Venezuela's oil wealth to its people has been a good thing, which most people overlook while contemplating their views about the internal politics of another nation.

Until 1951, the US had no term limits for its president. Unfortunately for the Venezuelan people, their are no term limits for the wealth of the oligarchy that have buggered them for hundreds of years.

Posted by: Brojo on December 3, 2007 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Good Lord, have the loons taken over this comment section. If the change to the Venezuelan constitution did not apply to Chavez, that would have been one thing, but he clearly was trying to justify staying in power for life. Moreover, comments that he is a "benevolent" dictator and somehow implying that that isn't bad are shocking. Do we want a "benevolent" dictator here? Just because Chavez likes to poke Bush in the eye doesn't make him a good guy. We don't need another "little" Castro in this part of the world.

Posted by: Jim on December 3, 2007 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Whoa whoa whoa!!
Chavez is letting the vote results stand?
This is not cool.
We in the U.S. have spent a lot of money over the years and lots of Latin American blood making sure they don't get any ideas about self-determination.
And now Chavez has the temerity to recognize poll results as legitimate? We can't have them getting used to making their own decisions.

This aggression will not stand, man!

Posted by: kenga on December 3, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Well, from talking to people who have lived in Venezuela and visited there recently, it's not the paradise on earth some people here are describing. Disclosure: my friends are people who can afford to emigrate to America, so they aren't really Chavez's target audience.

The Venezuelan economy is pretty much dead. All they have is the payouts from the oil income. There's no other business activity, no middle class. If anything happens to their oil exports or the price of oil, the whole thing will collapse.

The best example I can think of is the Middle Eastern oil states. The smart ones like Dubai are trying desparately to diversify into shipping, tourism, whatever because they know the party can't last forever. Chavez is actively driving his country in the other direction. He's made it into a primitive single-commodity, resource-extraction economy.

Posted by: ArkPanda on December 3, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK
And here is some very bad news - Observers cast doubts on Russian election.

Sigh. The legacy of Boris Yeltsin and his drunken incompetence.

phleabo - how is this more due to Yeltsin, than Putin and his elite KGB background?
Seriously - WTF are you trying to say?

Posted by: kenga on December 3, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Jim wrote: "Do we want a 'benevolent' dictator here?"

It would be an improvement over the malevolent dictator that we have now.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 3, 2007 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

The corporations that own the media in the US have done a very good job spreading lies about Chavez and Venezuela. That anyone thinks the constitutinal changes in yesterday's referendum would make Chavez president for life is proof of American media's power to make lies believed. The constitutional change would have ended term limits, which means voters could continue to vote for Chavez if he ran again. Chavez is not a dictator. The media in the US dictates most Americans' opinion, though, and the US media prefers opinion in Venezuela be formed in the same way.

If term limits are good, they should be enforced on wealth ownership.

Venezuelans' lives have improved more under Chavez than after centuries of rule by the wealthy elites. American corporate owned media hates that message and will do everything it can to prevent it from being understood in America. Most Americans could care less about the self-determination and welfare of the majority of Venezuelans anyway, and are more interested in continuing their oil slave subsidized over-consumption regardless of the expense, political or economic, others have to bear.

Posted by: Brojo on December 3, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

This is very good news. I expected Chavez to steal the election regardless of the actual vote. As Steve Duncan has pointed out, Chavez has until 2012 to finagle a way to retain power ppermanently, so Venezuela isn't out of the woods. Still, this election turned out a lot better than it might have.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 3, 2007 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Well, ArkPanda, those treasonous punk asses at the CIA seem to think that Venezuela's economy isn't doing terribly:

Fueled by higher oil prices, record government spending helped to boost GDP growth in 2004 and 2005 to approximately 18% and 11%, respectively. Economic growth in 2006 reached about 9%. This spending, combined with recent minimum wage hikes and improved access to domestic credit, has fueled a consumption boom - car sales in 2006 increased by around 70% - but has come at the cost of higher inflation. Despite government attempts to withdraw liquidity from the economy, Venezuela's money supply set a record in June 2006, approximately 70% higher than the previous year. Imports have also jumped significantly.

Sooo, car sales jumped 70% last year, but apparently there is no middle class buying any of these cars? That seems, oh, I don't know, unlikely. Also, since the Venezuela's real rate of GDP growth (according to the CIA again) is 10.3% and the USA's is 2.9%, I think I'd point to one of these nation's economy as decidedly "not dead."

Yes, I can see the point about how Venezuela being stuck on one income revenue stream is a recipe for disaster. Right now, it's a good bet to keep the bucks rolling and if education reforms take hold there and more of the nation's poor become educated (perhaps filling that middle class vacuum you describe) then there'll be a stabler basis for the future.

Posted by: The Critic on December 3, 2007 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Chavez may seem appealing at first blush. And it's very true that he's taken less seriously than he should be because he won't roll over and die for U.S. oil interests. But he's not really interested in the welfare of his people. Those of you looking for a leftist champion with integrity had better look elsewhere.

If he were really interested in building a new kind of state rather than on a short-term, self-enriching power grab, he would feed the goose that lays the golden eggs by investing in his national oil company. Instead he's starving it. He's not funding exploration, maintenance, or marketing, so the income stream is temporary. Instead of using oil income to build something sustainable, Chavze is using it to buy poor voters off long enough to cement his hold on power permanently.

If he were serious, he'd protect his national oil company instead of breaking its back. His failure to invest for the long term shows what he really is.

Posted by: dal20402 on December 3, 2007 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Happy to see that thug Chavez get served at the polls. Posted by: Old Hat

Ya. Too bad American voters weren't as smart in 2004.

Posted by: JeffII on December 3, 2007 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

The New York Times supports ArkPanda's observations that the Venezuelan economy is in trouble:

Uncertainty over Mr. Chávez’s reforms, meanwhile, has led to accelerating capital flight as rich Venezuelans and private companies rush to buy assets abroad denominated in dollars or euros. The currency, the bolívar, currently trades at about 6,100 to the dollar in street trading, compared with an official rate of 2,150.

Venezuela’s state-controlled oil industry is also showing signs of strain, grappling with a purge of opposition management by Mr. Chávez and a retooling of the state oil company to focus on social welfare projects while aging oil fields need maintenance.

Petróleos de Venezuela, the state oil company, says it produces 3.3 million barrels a day, but OPEC places its output at just 2.4 million barrels. And private economists estimate that a third of oil production goes to meet domestic consumption, which is surging because of a subsidy that keeps gasoline prices at about seven cents a gallon.


Posted by: ex-liberal on December 3, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

W. Bush Americans hate it that a majority of Venezuelans are now learning to read, receiving healthcare and having enough to eat. Soon Venezuelans will have lower infant mortality rates than Americans, and that could be embarrasing. The oil wealth transfers Chavez initiated are being spent on public tangible goods and services that are going to increase the welfare of all Venezualans in the long run, if the US does not kill Chavez and re-install an oil puppet to skim that wealth for Exxon.

Most likely Chavez will not surive 2008, and when he is dead, many Americans will consider his US directed assassination 'some good news.'

Posted by: Brojo on December 3, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Well, from talking to people who have lived in Venezuela and visited there recently, it's not the paradise on earth some people here are describing.
Posted by: ArkPanda

I've never read a thing anywhere that describes Venezuela as "paradise on earth." It, like most of Latin America, is still pretty fucked up outside of pockets of urban prosperity. Otherwise, corruption and incompetence dominate as they always have.

Posted by: JeffII on December 3, 2007 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Oh noes! Socialism! What could be worse than spending the nation's resources on the nation's people?! The effrontery of it! Posted by: craigie

Get a grip, craigie. Caracas ain't actually Stockholm.

Like Africa, I never expect to see a time before I die when most of Latin America is lifted much above Third World status. You may have pockets of prosperity in the cities. Otherwise . . .

Posted by: JeffII on December 3, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Americans' idea of paradise in Latin America is having Argentine generals dropping tortured progressives out of helicopters into the Atlantic ocean. Then they adopt their orphaned children.

Mass murder is what Exxon and the CIA have planned for the newly literate in Venezuela.

Posted by: Brojo on December 3, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I think Venezuela is a mixed bag, over all. That said, thanks to Tim especially for his link to that Wilpert post.

And, I'm not a loon, but I think Kevin did indeed post an "inside the Beltway" take on this issue.

Sorry, Kevin, but it doesn't sound like the changes themselves would have been all bad.

That said, is Chavez becoming almost a caricature at times? Yes. And, win or lose the election, as Venezuela's oil reserves become more and more heavy, high-sulfur oil, he's going to have to find money from somewhere to continue oil development.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 3, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK
The New York Times supports ArkPanda's observations that the Venezuelan economy is in trouble.... ex-lax at 11:42 AM
Too bad for you that your, and the Time's, propaganda is typical bullshit

...Venezuela continues to see an economic boom, thanks to its growing oil revenues. The country's GDP is expected to expand by 8.0 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. That's the second-highest growth rate anywhere in Latin America.
"Venezuelan consumers are in a frenzy [and] banks, retailers and many private firms are posting record profits," Walter Molano, chief of research at BCP Securities, said in a recent commentary. "Gasoline prices are only a few cents per gallon, and Venezuelans are buying the largest imported cars that they can get their hands on. The backlog for automobiles is growing, and consumers are taking whatever they can get. "
Retail sales grew by 43.8 percent in July compared to a year earlier, while automobile sales jumped 44.5 percent in August, he points out.
The boom is helping push Venezuela to replace Chile as the richest country in Latin America, according to a Latin Business Chronicle analysis of new IMF. Venezuela's GDP per capita will likely reach $10,169 next year. By comparison, Chile's will be $7,310, the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook database....

Posted by: Mike on December 3, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

The oil burners have no faith in the power of education and wellness to drive economies. Someday all of the oil will be gone. The countries that have invested in education and healthcare will find ways to grow prosperity. That is why Chavez is so threatening to W. Bush Americans. W. Bush Americans would prefer Venezuela adopt the violence of its neighbor Columbia, and become a narco state. Drug lords are so much easier to deal with, as they could care less about the welfare of the majority of their people.

Posted by: Brojo on December 3, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

If the U.S. didn’t have term limits, there is a good chance a senile Ronald Reagan would have won reelection in 1988. He wanted to run and his pole numbers were strong.

The financial oligarchies have been a disaster for Central and South America (makes you wonder why the Repubs want the U.S. economy run along similar lines), but this doesn’t necessarily make Chavez the source of all things good and wonderful. He goes out of his way to project the image of being a loose cannon, then all the love struck Chavistas complain when the rest of us express the thought that he makes us just a bit nervous. I hope his revolution works out for the good of Venezuela, but I worry it will slowly degenerate into a cult of personality like Castro’s Cuba. I know some of you will argue this will still be an improvement, and you might well be right.

Posted by: fafner1 on December 3, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Venezuela is actually not far off from consuming more petroleum than it exports since it's production is almost certainly going to decline going forward due to the lack of capital investment, while it's own consumption is being subsidized by the government. As long as it's revenues from oil export continue to grow, Chavez can paper over the problems the country has (and not all of those problems appeared since he first became president). However, unless production can be increased in the future, the country will stagnate and decline. Like all socialists, Chavez is ignorant of the true source of sustainable wealth creation, and nearly every policy he has implemented destroys businesses unrelated to oil production, and his policies are destroying that business as well.

It is a good sign that he did not try to rig yesterday's vote, but he may have decided that it was better to keep his powder dry since he still has 4 + years to get the outcome he desires. I suspect he will eventually get what he wants. For all his bombasity, the man is a cunning politician.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on December 3, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Absent Observer 10:03 AM,

You're right - few of us follow Venezuelan politics. Nor do I. Doesn't stop me from opining, however.

From what I see, the wealthy oligarchs have teamed up with the foreign oil companies to keep the oligarchs wealthy while giving Venezuelas oil to the oil companies at a low price, leaving out half the population of Venezuela. But Venezuela apparently has an effective democracy, and so Chavez organized the have-nots who are getting screwed over by the international-oil-company-free-market-to-rob-and-plunder system and took control of the Venezuelan government.

The thing about small countries that get their international revenue from oil is that oil production does not create much of a middle class. The revenue coming into the country is all in one, easy-to-centrally-control stream. Whoever controls that stream becomes the government and very wealthy. So much for 'Money is speech' as our conservatives would have it. Money is also power, and creates and controls governments.

When a few people in the nation are very wealthy and the rest of the nation is dirt poor, It's a recipe for revolutions. That's why Kadaffy overthrew King Idris in Libya in 1969, and it was a major contributing factor to the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. It is also why the King of Saudi Arabia has bought off the Wahabi religious leaders. I suspect that the political problems in Nigeria have a similar basis, but I haven't looked into them.

The election of Chavez as President in 1998 was a peaceful revolution, of the type that should be expected in any oil country with a powerful wealthy class, a large poor population, a small middle class and a democratic tradition. Remember, Chavez led a failed coup in 1992. The social pressures for change were there, Chavez has simply ridden them.

But Venezuela will have a centralized government. Because is an oil exporting country with few other exports, whoever controls the oil will control the government, and it will be a centralized government because they have the power of the oil money flowing into the country and don't have to buy off numerous small power centers to maintain the control of the government. You might call it 'the TAO of OPEC.' It is 'the way.'

The wealthy elite of Venezuela are shrieking just like the wealthy Americans did after FDR was elected in 1932 to repair the damage the free marketers had done to America, and they are shrieking for the same reasons. They are going to find their next Lexus harder to pay for, and the worthless poor who do nothing useful and breed themselves into future poverty are taking away some of their wealth and too much of their power. Wealthy people, especially those who have inherited their wealth, hate to share.

The wealthy elite of Venezuela may feel abandoned by the international oil companies, who, in the past, would have stepped in and stopped the populist upstart. But I suspect the smart oil company managers have realized that they need to avoid revolutions if they are to get their oil, and they have learned to deal with the governments of OPEC nations that have to placate their populations. Esentially the international oil companies have learned to outsource the problems of controlling and governing the natives to local governments. It raises the price of oil out of the ground, but the oil companies have learned also that every time the price of oil goes up, they make bigger profits. [Bush and Cheney are not representative of the intelligent oil company managers - both failed utterly when they tried.]

Here in America we are living under a government that represents the conservative backlash against FDR and the reforms he had to put into place to keep the free markets from destroying the American economy. The conservatives are the econo-Republicans, allied with the southern Racist and evangelical Republicans. They identify with the Venezuelan oligarchs (hope I am using that word correctly) and consider any side-payments from the stream of oil revenue to placate those who are not in the stream of big money to be 'Socialism' or even (Horrors) 'Communism.' As if letting international oil companies explore, drill and pump out the oil from under the nation's ground involves any entrepreneurial skills at all. The Venezuelan oligarchs are bribed by the international oil companies to control the natives, nothing else. The rise of Chavez to power shows that the Venezuelan oligarchs have failed in their job for the oil companies. The oil companies will deal with whoever controls the government and maintains peace and stability that lets the oil flow.

It is interesting the Chavez failed in his coup attempt in 1992 (was pardoned), and that the coup of 2002 (immediately recognized by George Bush) also failed. I'd be interested to know why those coup attempts failed, but whatever the reason, I suspect it is why Chavez is such a democrat. While the nature of an oil exporting small nation is to have a centrally controlled government, it does not look like Venezuela cannot become a dictatorship. They've tried and it failed.

I think a similar analysis can apply to Batista's Cuba, with the government supported by external external revenue from Sugar, tourist and gambling operations and controlled by a combination of the dictator Batista, the Mayer Lansky of the American Mafia and the sugar plantation owners. The Cuban people were left out, much as the Venezuelan poor have been left out of the benefits from selling the oil they sit on. Batista's government was one that exploited the few assets of the Cuban island, and gave nothing to the people of Cuba. Without a democracy, the Cuban revolution was inevitable.

The American right-wingers immediately tried to reverse Castro's revolution, driving him to find support and defense from the only other large national power that could help then fight off the American behemoth, the USSR. To get that support, Castro had to declare himself a Communist.

You'll perhaps recall that Castro denied he was a Communist for several years AFTER the revolution. I think that the American government drove him to become a Communist, and they are trying to do the same thing to Chavez. It's all about the free market philosophy that the stream of revenue belongs totally to the wealthy owners, and they don't have to share ownership of the nation's resources with the general population of the nation, no matter how poor those people are.

Chavez has a choice. He can act the way the American free market conservatives want and give everything to the wealthy of Venezuela (but he was elected to fight that position), or he can implement large elements of the philosophies that the American conservatives detest, so that our conservatives and the Venezuelan oligarchs label him a Socialist because he actually tries to do something for the poorer people of Venezuela. If he doesn't give the oil companies and the oligarchal upper crust everything from the oil revenue and ignore Venezuelan's useless poor, the American government will drive him into some extreme form of authoritarian Marxism. It's a case of do it the American way or face the might of the behemoth. Other ideas and traditions need not apply.

Extremists on one side who attempt to force their ideas on everyone breed extremists on the other side to resist them, as many of us American moderates have learned from the American movement conservative Bush/Cheney authoritarian warmongering government.

Anyway, that is some of the ideas I am playing around with.

[Chavez could also get ideas from Europe, the lands of mixed economies, but who is going to fight for the glory of mixed economies? That doesn't make good political bumper stickers or placards. Politically the choices are stark - capitalism where everything is someone's personal property, or Socialism where the government controls all property in behalf of The People. Middle ground is not permitted.]


Someone above mentioned my innumerancy. You are correct. I glanced at the numbers, failed to check my guess on the actual difference, and vented my spleen against CNN without fully recognizing that in this case it wasn't quite as bad as I first thought it was. One of the dangers of blogging. Insufficient editing. Mea Culpa. [Nice phrase, that. You can write it and not feel like you are actually apologizing for a screwup, just recognizing and admitting it.]

Posted by: Rick B on December 3, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

For those of you who are so obviously uninformed on the subject, some admittedly so, here's a section by section summary of the many provisions of measure upon which Venezuelans voted yesterday.


Posted by: Chris Brown on December 3, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

"All in all, a satisfying result so far. We'll see what comes next."

Hopefully, the opposition (51%) will consider the more moderate proposals of the proponents (49%) and institute them with the same grace with which Chavez accepted defeat. Unlike in the US where the entire country would be labeled red… or blue… and the victor would claim a mandate.

Posted by: Patrick Nelson on December 3, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

Term limits are EXTREMELY democratic because they are the only mechanism by which an oligarchy that has a headlock on government positions can be removed. ...

The "ONLY" mechanism?? You know, I've heard about these things called transparent elections, which would represent a FAR more democratic approach to ousting an oligarchy. And those, in the absence of term limitations, also allow the People themselves to decide whether they wish to "stay the course". What could be MORE democratic?

... Just as an example, look at the 60+ years of monopoly on power that the PRI had on the Mexican federal government. Or, for that matter, the fact that both the Republican and Democratic front runners are very friendly to corporate interests. ...

Pardon my cynicism, but it would at least appear that you just demolished your own argument about term limits constituting an effective mechanism. The US has had them for well over half a century, and we're nonetheless plagued with oligarchical "leadership", including overtly dynastic forms.

In a functional democracy the citizenry always has the option of voting out those they dislike. Why should they not also have the choice to retain those they overwhelmingly prefer? Isn't that the very essence of democracy -- the PEOPLE'S right to choose?

Posted by: Poilu on December 4, 2007 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

... Blogging seems like a pretty easy job, much of it consisting of expressing opinions that one has received from others on subjects about which one knows little.

Secular Animist: How sadly true. (And that concerns all of what you related above.)

While several blogs I once frequented relied heavily on factual news as their springboard, this one quite often seems to propel itself from unsupported opinion alone, manifesting itself as a glorified "gossip column" in the process.

"Analysis" requires rigorous factual content, Kevin.

Posted by: Poilu on December 4, 2007 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

... At least the next generation of Venezuelans might enjoy a better prosperity and quality-of-life than their parents did, and possibly feel proud of their country. That's more than many Americans can look forward to these days.

Tim B.: WELL said, all of it! Your respose to this journalistic pabulum was downright inspirational.

... few of us follow Venezuelan politics. Nor do I. Doesn't stop me from opining, however..

Rick B.: With astute commentary like that you've offered above, by all means, please DO opine!

Chris Brown: Much obliged for the excellent synopsis of the referdum's various issues. Like a great many Americans, I too was obviously carefully "shielded" from any such detailed knowledge by our overly "protective" MSM.

All in all, it's quite clear to me that the rebuttals offered here far exceed in rigor the original, "hip-shoot" opinion piece, as yet STILL utterly unclarified despite numerous requests for same.

Posted by: Poilu on December 4, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

The establishment, whether NYT or WSJ, has deemed Chavez a thug. Moderates accept that conclusion withoug question.

Posted by: Brojo on December 4, 2007 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: qwgguarz on September 18, 2008 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK



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