An End to the Chavez Trend?

Last week in Mexico City's La Cronica de Hoy, columnist José Carreño Carlón suggested the influence of Venezuela's leftist president Hugo Chavez was beginning to wane. Citing political campaigns in Colombia, Peru and Mexico, he asked if Latin America was seeing "The End of the Autocratic Populist Boom?"

With yesterday's victory of Peruvian social democrat Alan Garcia over Chavez-backed nationalist Ollanta Humala, Carlon's thesis is getting new attention.

Garcia, who won with 55 percent of the vote, today declared that Chavez was "the only loser" in the Peruvian election. "Peru has said no to penetration, interference and international domination," he said. Chavez openly supported Humala, a former military officer running a platform of rewriting the constitution and renegotiating the country's international business relations.

The Peru election comes a week after the landslide reelection of Colombia's conservative president, Alvaro Uribe, the first election result this year to encourage Chavez's foes in Latin America's mainstream media. El Comercio saw Uribe's victory as "a strong wall of protection against the pretensions of Hugo Chavez."

Chavez "should be worried," wrote Fernando Ochoa Antich in Venezuela's El Universal (in Spanish), which, like all leading newspapers in the country, is openly anti-Chavez. "A new leadership is rising in Latin America."

"There is nothing inevitable about South America's plunge into Leftist militancy. We are not witnessing an inexorable, tectonic shift," says the Daily Telegraph in London.

But in Bolivia, where President Evo Morales allied his government with Chavez, the news site Bolpress (in Spanish) says that Humala won by capturing the largest bloc of seats in the Congress and establishing a nationalist, anti-free trade movement.

Mexico's La Jornada (in Spanish) says that the Peruvian results signal, not the waning of Chavez's influence, but its growth. Ollanta's party, they note, finshed first in 14 of Peru's 24 provinces and won 45 percent of the vote, "a phenomenon that could transform the Peruvian electoral map."

The region's dominant political impulse, La Jornada editors say, remains divided between ­"neoliberal left" and the "social transformation" left. The former, represented by governments in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and now Peru, does not seek to overturn free-market economic policies or local oligarchies. The latter countries, embodied by Venezuela and Bolivia, aim to transform their societies by nationalizing natural resources and redistributing benefits to the poor.

The results in Peru, they say, "clarify two well-defined political fronts, one of the left and one of the right."

The next big test of Latin America's political direction will come in Mexico, where conservative presidential candidate Felipe Calderon has pulled even with leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in opinion polls by linking him to Chavez in campaign ads. AMLO, as he is known, denies any special connection to Chavez but says he is serious about helping the poor. Mexicans go to the polls July 2.

By Jefferson Morley |  June 5, 2006; 10:39 AM ET  | Category:  Americas
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Chavez loudly complains the U.S. is always intervening in Venezuelan affairs. However, his gross intervention in the Peruvian campaign reveals him to be a hypocrite. The results are the slap he deserves. No nation wants to have a foreign leader telling its citizens how to vote.

Posted by: RC | June 5, 2006 12:13 PM

More reactionary rhetoric. Chavez is merely throwing off the oppressive yoke of imperalist capitalist skull-duggery. Viva la Chavez!

Posted by: Cinque | June 5, 2006 12:15 PM

Chavez is hollowing out his country, creating a situation where his supporters benefit and the next generation pays in lowered standards of living. The worst affected will be the poor, aged, and disenfranchised of that next generation. The pain of the former communist bloc will be replicated in Venezuela.

Now are the glory years where the shell game seems to produce more than it costs. They will end soon enough. Hopefully Chavez' reign will end before the cost is too great.

Posted by: TM Lutas | June 5, 2006 12:21 PM

As a Bolivian citizen, I am surprised how some analysts do believe that the influence of Chavez is so big in Latin America, that some countries have chosen presidents according to his influence. In the Bolivian case there is nothing further from the truth, since the reason to choose the current president is the rejection to rampant corruption practiced for the last twenty years by the ruling elite and their friends which resulted in spread poverty.

If Peruvians have chosen Garcia, surely it is because they believe that Garcia will be a better president for them. It is not about friendship, but about this hope.

Posted by: W. Vargas | June 5, 2006 12:29 PM

Chavez is the ultimate in hypocrite. He is always talking of a US empire, when it is clear he is trying to build a Chavez empire in Latin America.

Posted by: Ben Turner | June 5, 2006 12:38 PM

The American public, seems to forget all the times the USA has butt into Latin America affairs. With money and arms, washington has shown itself willing to work against any candidate it deems undesirable. Chavez only talks about what he wishes could happen, he doesnt go beyond that. Soon, in 27 days, Mexico will elect a new president, and all polls, show Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to be way ahead in the polls, no matter what right wing media pudits say, AMLO will win. All Mexicans in the USA who can vote for president of Mexico please remember to vote on July 2, for AMLO, and help make Mexican history. Viva Castro! Viva Chavez!Viva Evo! and Viva AMLO!

Posted by: maya0 | June 5, 2006 12:47 PM

We should support reform in Latin America if we are really concerned about immigration here. If they had the labor laws, infrastructure, and social services down there that we have up here, they probably wouldn't abandon their homes to come here. They have the resources, they have the population to develop, why not encourage it. There is no sense in living next to a slum, even if it is a GOP-endorsed slum.

I don't know why Americans get hysterical about Chavez. So, big deal, they have an income tax in Venezuela and they use the money to buy food for starving people. Have you seen our income tax? We pay more than they do in Venezuela. And we provide more services for our poor and spend more on weapons than they could ever afford in Venezuela.

Ask a loony like Pat Robertson what he thinks about a great president like FDR and he'd probably say what he said about Chavez. Why does the superrich hate him? Because rich people didn't used to have to pay taxes in Venezuela and now they do. They hated FDR, too. Boo hoo.

Posted by: BigTobacco | June 5, 2006 12:52 PM

"Autocratic populist"? Isn't that something of a contradiction in terms?

Posted by: Marc Country | June 5, 2006 12:52 PM

To the Post by Maya0: I do hope you are currently residing in Cuba, Bolivia or one of the other wonderful places you admire so much. If per chance you are currently residing in the USA - this makes you the quintessential hypocrite.

Posted by: Catahdin | June 5, 2006 01:01 PM

When Chavez is talking about the butting into Latin affairs his is not simply talking about the USA influencing elections. He is talking about staging Coups like the one that removed the democratically elected President Allende in Chile and installing Business friendly Dictators like Augusto Pinochet. These USA backed leaders end up being murderous thugs. Events similar to these have happened in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. If you want details use Google or simply read a history book of Latin America.

Posted by: Tom | June 5, 2006 01:01 PM

They just make up words like "autocratic populist" to make the leaders sound scary. If it were America, we'd call such a leader a "A decisive leader who is in touch with the soul of America" or some other feelgood gibberish.

Posted by: BigTobacco | June 5, 2006 01:02 PM

When Chavez is talking about the butting into Latin affairs his is not simply talking about the USA influencing elections. He is talking about staging Coups like the one that removed the democratically elected President Allende in Chile and installing Business friendly Dictators like Augusto Pinochet. These USA backed leaders end up being murderous thugs. Events similar to these have happened in Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, and Guatemala. This is what Chavez is complaining about. Simply telling a country his opinion on who to vote for is hardly hypocritical in comparison to the USA's actions of "spreading democracy". If you want details use Google or simply read a history book of Latin America.

Posted by: Tom | June 5, 2006 01:03 PM

Most of the real "patriotic" Americans don't even bother to study our own history. Just a year or so ago, Cheney was in El Salvador, hailing the nation as a success of U.S. foreign policy and promising to apply this paradigm to Iraq.

But people don't even remember that Reagan himself decried our policy in El Salvador and gave their refugess amnesty to repay them for what the United States did to them (Now, some debate the authenticity of Reagan's outrage, but the fact that he declared it to be wrong is significant and laudable).

Death squads, rapes, mass graves... they even murdered and raped a bunch of American nuns down there. But for some reason, American "patriots" get all nostalgic for Latin American police states. It has to be ignorance, because if people are actually nostalgic for jackboots they'd have to be EVIL, EVIL, EVIL.

But still, it is astonishing that people can get so bent out of shape about the idea that Latin American countries would impose labor laws on big businesses. Meanshile we sit back and enjoy public schools, universities, great roads, social security savings, unemployment insurance, child labor and sextraficking laws, clean water, sewage treatment, vaccinations, honest law enforcement, good courts, a stable government, and all the other things that good government makes possible.

Posted by: BigTobacco | June 5, 2006 01:14 PM

The Mexican that can vote in July the 2nd, most evaluate the comment of Maya and evaluate the propossals of each candidate, AMLO should not be president of Mexico because his economic plan is a mess... he's offering short-terms solution with the cost of long-term problems. Besides I am sure Chavez support AMLO because of his ideas, anyway I dont think Chavez can make difference i the opinion of the Mexican people. In the polls? AMLO has advantage with the polls made to poor people and Felipe Calderon advantage with the medium class and up people... but poor people dont use to vote, hence FELIPE WILL WIN... VOTE FOR FELIPE, DONT STOP THE WAY OF PROGRESS WE HAD TAKEN 6 YEARS AGO.

Posted by: Raul Palacios | June 5, 2006 01:21 PM

The more you think about it, the more it becomes clear that conservatives are like the suburban kid who wants to live like a burnout. Sleeping in all the time, doing dope, skipping class, cheating, dressing like hell, acting carefree and hapless.

But behind the carefree attitude is a family that has raised him and cared for him and will put money on his ATM card if he gets in a pinch. Driving a car that they bought and that they insure. He might even talk about how he hates the way his parents live, but when the going gets tough, he'll move back in with them. As much as he resents his parents and acts carefree, in the back of his mind, he knows that he can talk as loud as he wants because if he falls his folks will catch him.

Conservatives act the same way about America's government. They complain about it and act like they don't need it. But without our great history of social progress and safety net (built by liberals), they wouldn't have anything to stand on. They be too busy inhaling coal dust to even think about being "self reliant". They can say with confidence, that they want to destroy social security or that public schools are evil, because they have already been lifted by the benevolence of the Greatest Generation and the Sacrifices they made to provide the New Deal. It's sad. But if you think about it this way, you can understand why they think of themselves as mavericks. They are just recycling the hippy revolt while wearing Abercrombie and Fitch. Blazing a trail that has been blazed by millions of spoiled brats before them.

Posted by: BigTobacco | June 5, 2006 01:26 PM

a clown looking to make trouble.

Posted by: luis velasco | June 5, 2006 01:40 PM

Latin America is in fact turning around.
They realize their neighbors took a path that seemed better paved but leads to nowhere.

Colombia's Uribe has, on the other hand, been able to repaved that road that leads to economic prosperity and individual freedoms.

In the end, Latin America will change course and move in the right direction.

Posted by: | June 5, 2006 01:46 PM

I don't know how much power or influence someone like Chavez has over another nation, but he is an interesting character (in his own way). I think people definitely get bent way too out of shape with his sometimes looney ideas and that is probably what he wants -- some attention. Even though some of the media rips him apart all the time, they still like him for all the political/comical entertainment he provides -- he speaks his mind and doesn't really conform to most rear-end-kissing Presidents that Latin American has had for decades now.

Posted by: Pickle | June 5, 2006 01:49 PM

what I love about right wingers in general is how quick they are to jump on Chavez, by the way his response to Garcia was only after Garcia accused him of supporting Humala, and calling him a series of names, lets get the order straight here people, further, not that I expect the washington post to be anything but pro washington, but not a peep about the BILLIONS of dollars the US administration spends telling EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY IN THE WORLD how to live their lives, the fact that the CIA actively participates in promoting the good old lads who will further the interests of US corporations, I mean come on, you get one guy playing by the same rules you created and you go crying like a little baby;)

Posted by: Sithlord... | June 5, 2006 01:57 PM

As a Venezuelan, it is so funny how many CLUELESS people actually support Chavez from overseas. They have no idea what is going on in the country. Chavez is robbing the country blind. One of his bodyguards travels first class in Air France to Paris frequently to buy shirts at Charvet (with taxpayers' money). Most of his government officials have not been to school and they look like street criminnals. How can a new govt official in Venezuela immediately buy an apartment for $1 million +? You guys have no idea. Why don't you move to Venezuela and check it out? We have always had corruption unfortunately, but I'd rather have a corrupt democratic politician, than a corrupt murderer/terrorist and highly dangerous individual.

Posted by: Kiri | June 5, 2006 02:12 PM

I think that Garcia's pledge to tax mining operations in that country is incredibly telling. He could not have got elected and he will not stay in power if he tries to privatize everything.

Leaders come and leaders go, but I think this has been the real victory of the people. They have insisted that they have a right to their sovereignty and that they should benefit from their own resources. This has been an issue in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, etc. And it is great that the people themselves have been able to prevent this.

No matter how skewed the press is towards the interests of a prosperous but demographically negligible middle class, poor people will assert their right to food, water, and the freedom to live on God's planet. It's not a big issue in this country because our progressive reforms have built a large middle class that rarely frets over life or death issues like starvation or thirst.

We just cannot relate to the fact that private companies have tried, even, to claim ownership of the water that falls from the sky... declaring it a theft for peasants to collect and drink the rainwater that falls on their roofs. We just cannot imagine living like that, so we cannot understand why Latin America would even want reforms in the first place.

But once you think about a foreign company coming to charge you for the rain that falls from the heavens, an honest person will admit that the businesses have gone too far. These so-called leftist movements are very moderate things, really just issues of basic human rights. It's not like they are demanding ferraris and champagne or the guillotine, they just want water and food. It's simple. And it is right. It is an offense against nature and God to demand tribute for life and death itself.

Posted by: BigTobacco | June 5, 2006 02:24 PM

If you live in the USA, you know that our leaders don't just fly first class... They have their own personal jets paid for by campaign donors. Our president and his body guards would never even trifle with first class flights. And to say thank you, they give their donors billion dollar contracts. Chavez should try to get into US Congress, it would be a real step up for him. And, if you are a working person, you'll know that we, too are being robbed by our leaders. Although, from what my relatives in Venezuela tell me, standard of living is actually improving for Venezuela's poor.

Under Chavez, both poverty and unemployment are down. The economy is growing and health care is improving. I can't say the same for the US, we just fall deeper into debt, keep losing jobs that pay good wages, and those that have their jobs are losing ground to inflation.

If I'm going to get robbed by my leaders, I'd rather get something in return for it.

Posted by: BigTobacco | June 5, 2006 02:37 PM

I think that in Latin America, "a corrupt democratic politician" and a "a corrupt murderer/terrorist" are basically the same thing. If you think that a "corrupt democratic politician" is a lesser evil because they seem highly educated and dressed, then I think you might be more clueless than fans of Chavez. I just don't see how that logic works.

Posted by: Pickle | June 5, 2006 02:47 PM

I compare Chavez, Castro and Morales to Los Tres Chiflados (the Three Stooges), Curly, Larry and Moe - comic relief for a while, to which one soom grows tired because their schtick never changes.

Posted by: John W. | June 5, 2006 02:54 PM

Besides the obvious anti-Chavez support garnered by Garcia in Peru (why else vote for Garcia!)....there is the fact that Left-leaning non-Latin American publications, such as the UK's Guardian, are finally starting to dump on Chavez...if ever so slightly.

If the Guardian is starting to describe Chavez as the military guy that he is...and not some imaginary hero of the anti-Bush Left...then maybe the "Sandalistas" in the US and Europe will start to open their eyes.

too bad it took so would have been nice if Venezuela had gotten the same kind of international support a few years ago that Ukraine got when they stood up to authoritarian rule.

Posted by: RK | June 5, 2006 03:20 PM

I lived in Venezuaela for 13 years, and travel there regularly to visit family. The shanty towns and decrepit living conditions of the majority of the populace remain the same... why? Because that clown Chavez and his cronies are just as corrupt as those he replaced. Venezuelans never learn, but this time around at $70 plus dollars a barrell its just more extreme and hypocritical. Who do think is driving all those Hummers, BMWs around Caracas ??? Would you belive the top echelon of Chavistas.... Chavez's brother's company becomes a multi million dollar corportation in just a few years....What a surprise!
Sharing the wealth with poor, shaking off the yolk of Yankee imperialism.... give me a break. You would have to be desperate enough and unfortunatley uneducated enough (i.e. living in the ranchitos) to believe in that tired used communist phraseology. Ironically its precisely those very same poeple who are both his supportes and paying the concequences.

Posted by: Chris Marchet | June 5, 2006 05:23 PM

The people are influenced by despair and not by Chavez; they feel cheated of the rapid wealth accumulation of a few and the widening economic gap. Free enterprise has not failed in Latin American countries but their leadership has. They have failed to create and foment ate favorable conditions for the poor. I don't agree with Chavez or Morales, there actions are simply deterring international investment needed to fuel economic development. BTW If one could just look at Chavez's Bank account(s) you would know the truth behind his policy

Posted by: Marco Guardiola | June 5, 2006 05:39 PM

Do you, guys, believe that what Chavez is doing there doesn't seem like comunism propaganda? You are talking pros and cons about an ideology that is almost dead. You didn't live under a communism regime (I lived 25 years) and you surely don't now how it was. I tell you, guys, terrible! I want to hear your words 2-3 years later, talking about Chavez, Venezuelans or Bolivians, and I am sure that you will change your mind.

Posted by: Americanu' | June 5, 2006 07:31 PM

well one thing is for certain nobody can really say what the papers will print next week. predictions often sell, and create pipe dreams as the winning Iraqi war in 2003, and the candid Afghanistan war, but we all know that after 10 years of fighting the Russian empire exit Kabul as the Americans exit Viet Nam, and they will exit Iraq in the same manner. so this is a prediction that we all know it wont fail you.

Posted by: a bremont | June 5, 2006 08:12 PM

When words fail the super-rich and their rightist toadies, they will always fall back on violence. But first the words:
a. If you like Chavez so much, then move to Venezuela? -- My answer to this is twofold. First, I prefer to work within the system, to stop my US compatriots from further destroying the economies of South America. Second, if YOU like Uribe so much, then why don't YOU move to Colombia (fat chance, that).
b. The slums are not improving? -- This seems to have been assessed on the basis of periodic glances over the hillside. What do you expect to see, aluminum siding and lawn flamingoes? Get a grip. Clearly the vast majority of poor Venezuelans see it otherwise.
c. Chavez is a buffoon? -- Please define 'buffoon.' It seems to me Chavez is succeeding on most fronts. The same cannot be said -- even remotely -- for the buffoons who currently lead the US.
d. Chavez allies himself with criminals, and interferes in other countries' politics? -- Let's see, has he mounted any illegal invasions? The US has. Has he ever tried a coup against another government? The US has -- in fact Bush attempted an illegal (by all known standards) coup against Chavez himself in 2002. So much for US support of democracy, and so much for Chavez being an interferer.
And so, simple lines of propaganda fail the US Rightistas. Having failed at that, all that is left for them is violence, as always. Another coup attempt? More death squads? Bombings? My guess is that covert action to undermine Venezuelan democracy is now vigorous as ever. Just an educated guess, mind you.

Posted by: Eikyu Saha | June 5, 2006 09:57 PM

Kudos to the voters in Peru who clearly sent the bigot from Venezuela a signal to butt out of their internal affairs. Have been to Venezuela about a dozen times myself, believe me, the situation is quite pathetic down there. The reality is this clown is going to be around for a good long time. I think Brazil ,Colombia and Peru however
can keep a check on Chavez's infuence.

Posted by: Buster | June 6, 2006 04:23 AM

Getting George Bush in bed with Alan Garcia, the Al Gore of South America, is a ratings winner. Still, Hugo's a lightweight compared to old Che who, in one of his more moonlit moments, remarked, "Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become..." Samuel Huntington read that as a youth and obviously never recovered.

Posted by: Reynolds | June 6, 2006 08:13 AM

I am an Aussie and retired here after completing the Misicuni Tunnel following the infamous Water Wars. Bolivia is so unique that it cannot fit any stamp from Bush to Chavez. So rather condemning the country as leftist the press needs to see a community that has existed as such by the Ayamara calendar for nearly 5,000 years. Bolivia is the last country in the world to have shed feudal serfdom in 1953 where the newcomers from Europe simply took the land and demanded the services and products from the Bolivians as tribute.

These ancient communities still exist as individual entities with communal decisions where each individual has a voice and are very productive. So the domination by the colonial minority is being overcome slowly with an educated younger generation that is very conscious of the oppression, corruption and greed of the past. This is an old country of over 400 years now made up of young people, but it is not Chavez or Castro's turf as the Bolivian are as a whole very proud of their own heritage. Neither does Bolivia fit the mold of Washington's neo-imperialism, (neo-liberalism does not fit very well) as the perspective has to be what makes Bolivia tick. It should not have to synchronize to the administration's clock, as the privatization and US contractual programs did little for the average Bolivian; in the pure spirit of capitalism it just made the rich richer and the poor poorer. As well demonstrated by "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada who basks in his millions in Washington.

Posted by: Antony IvanSmith | June 6, 2006 11:01 AM

It is sad to see how many Americans --who have never put a step in Latin America-- are so vocal about defending corrupt and authoritarian regimes--such as Mr. Chavez´s, just because they believe that anybody who dares to contradict George Bush government must be good enough to deserve some respect! People wake up! If you want to learn about the history of Latin America and how populist and demagogue presidents have been the rule more than the exception: go and buy some fine history books, make some Latin friends with different social backgrounds, and take a sabbatical so you can see by yourselve the disenchantment people of Latin nations live in...and HEY THERE IS NOT SUCH AS LAME EXCUSE SUCH AS I PREFER TO WORK WITHIN THE SYSTEM!

Posted by: aq | June 6, 2006 12:35 PM

It is sad to see how many Americans --who have never put a step in Latin America-- are so vocal about defending corrupt and authoritarian regimes--such as Mr. Chavez´s, just because they believe that anybody who dares to contradict George Bush government must be good enough to deserve some respect! People wake up! If you want to learn about the history of Latin America and how populist and demagogue presidents have been the rule more than the exception: go and buy some fine history books, make some Latin friends with different social backgrounds, and take a sabbatical so you can see by yourselve the disenchantment people of Latin nations live in...and HEY THERE IS NOT SUCH AS LAME EXCUSE SUCH AS I PREFER TO WORK WITHIN THE SYSTEM!

Posted by: aq | June 6, 2006 12:36 PM

It is sad to see how many Americans --who have never put a step in Latin America-- are so vocal about defending corrupt and authoritarian regimes--such as Mr. Chavez´s, just because they believe that anyone who dares to contradict George Bush government must be good enough to deserve some respect! People wake up! If you want to learn about the history of Latin America and how populist and demagogue presidents have been the rule more than the exception: go and buy some fine history books, make some Latin friends with different social backgrounds, and take a sabbatical so you can see by yourselve the disenchantment people of Latin nations live in...and HEY THERE IS NOT SUCH AS LAME EXCUSE SUCH AS I PREFER TO WORK WITHIN THE SYSTEM!

Posted by: aq | June 6, 2006 12:40 PM

aq, I think we got your point the first time around...

Posted by: Pickle | June 6, 2006 05:07 PM

Aq, I'm very willing to look at evidence regarding Chavez's alleged corruption. What, exactly, is the evidence? A first-class airline ticket and a silk shirt for a bodyguard? All I ever see is innuendo and silly name-calling (witness Buster's 'bigot'), and of course that non-sensical line that "they are all corrupt, therefore Chavez is corrupt" (as opposed to an anti-leftist?). Venezuela has great wealth in oil, but previous governments (with US blessings) have prevented the citizens of that country from seeing anything but pennies and a mountainous national debt. Repossession of oil resources by the state offers one possible avenue for restoring the wealth of the nation to the people of the nation. And as for 'working within the system' I wish you would explain why it is 'lame' to prefer legality and democracy over torture and terror.

Posted by: Eikyu Saha | June 6, 2006 11:51 PM

Oh, and by the way, Aq, I do have friends from Venezuela, but they are all very intelligent and therefore I do appreciate that I am only witnessing the pro-Chavez side of the coin.

Posted by: Eikyu Saha | June 6, 2006 11:56 PM

What is the evidence of chavez´s corruption? That's pretty funny Eikyu....I assume that was satire. Most of the evidence can be found in Chavez's own speeches...or how about the fact that his government publicly threatened to fire all government employees who boycotted the last election...or how about the fact that the list of everyone's vote in a recall against Chavez had their vote published and in many cases lost their job...I could go on..

if you want to be an apologist for El Mugabito de venezuela...enjoy yourself.

Posted by: RK | June 7, 2006 12:57 AM

Yes, RK, please do go on. So far it seems rather tame by death squad (oops, I mean to say 'historical') standards. Rather similar to Reagan firing airline traffic unionists, perhaps?

Posted by: Eikyu Saha | June 7, 2006 01:16 AM

I think that thing that Americans are missing is that whether Peru elected Alan Garcia or Ollanta Humala, they overwhelmingly rejected the neoliberal agenda of the US and the IMF. Both Garcia and Humala questioned whether they would honor the free trade agreement that the Toledo administration negotiated with the US. Maybe Garcia will break the agreement and maybe he won't. Garcia always struck me as a smooth talker who will say whatever it takes to get elected. Irregardless of whether Garcia intends to break the free trade treaty or not, he is going to have to content with a strong block of legislators who agree with Humala and will block any effort to pursuit a neoliberal agenda.

As a US citizen, I see this a positive development. I will be happy to see Peru gain indepedence from the US hegemony. If Garcia doesn't follow an independent course, it is only a matter of time before he becomes a lame-duck president like Toledo.

I'd also like to comment to my fellow Americans that you are being hysterical about Chavez. Whatever Chavez may be, the vast majority of Venezuelans have elected him as president and seem to feel that his policies are benefiting them. His elections have been well monitored and there is no doubt that he was fairly elected. It is also well documented that the US government colluded with certain segments of the Venezuelan business and military sectors to overthrow Chavez in 2002 with a coup d'etat. Then the US gov't colluded in the oil strike, and then colluded in the recall vote. The US state department has spread all sorts of false propaganda about Chavez such as the the story that there were Islamic terrorists in Carracas. This is interference on a grand scale in the affairs of Venezuela.

Yes, Chavez has made a number of trade deals and offered his support to a number of other Latin American countries, but he has never used coercion or false propaganda to do it. When leaders like Kirchner and Morales make deals with Chavez, they aren't being forced against their will and Chavez has never tried to control those countries like the US has done in the past.

Obviously some proportion of Peruvians have been looking at Chavez's policies and decided that they want to do similar things in their country. We should conclude that they are being tricked or coerced into this path, nor should we accuse Chavez of imperialism just because some Latin Americans want to make alliances with Venezuela or adopt similar policies in their countries.

Peruvians are fully capable of deciding what is best for their country, and a slim majority decided that they don't want a Chavez-style transformation of their country. Nonetheless, that 55% majority is very divided. A vote for Garcia was more a vote against Humala, than a vote for Garcia. I predict that Garcia will have a very difficult time governing. The next couple years will probably see a tremendous struggle within Peru as partisans of Humala push a leftist agenda, and partisans on the right push neoliberalism. Garcia will be caught in the middle. Personally, I think that Garcia will have to enact some leftist reforms quickly if he is going to survive politically, because it is clear that the majority of Peruvians are sick of neoliberalism and want a change of course, even if they aren't sure that they want Chavez-style reforms.

Posted by: amosbatto | June 7, 2006 11:14 AM

Thank goodness for Alan Garcia. He has done the impossible (no, not become president again after a disastrous first time), but he has been able to silence Chavez's unending nonsense--for a few days, at least.

For that, he deserves our eternal thanks.

Posted by: matedecoca | June 7, 2006 01:49 PM

So...Eikyu, I's not evidence of authoritarianism or corruption that you're's proof that Chavez is the worst guy's all about the little US-(or Euro)-centric Right-Left score card that you like to keep in your head.

So long as you can point out something bad from what you imagine to be the "other side" (ie. the Right)...then you don't have to address the faults of the guy who you perceive as being on 'your side'.

Many people like to do this, and good dictator PR in the US and Europe depends upon it. And why not?'s great fun. Young college students often succumb to this too.. because it enables them to perceive themselves as the wiser person in a world of hypocrites....while also feeling as if they are part of a cause...supporting "their side" against the "other side" if they are all a bunch of adolescent lawyers defending their imaginary view of the world.

of course, a level of detachment from reality is also key. For in reality, most people against Chavez are also against deaths squads, despite your assertions. The imaginary sides disappear when you live in it.

In your imaginary world...I am supposed to continue the argument and defend everything the US did in Central America as good and your mind, I suppose I must think that...because if I don' might actually have to use your brain to observe the Chavez situation for what it is.

Sorry to condescend...but, I've responded to hearing evidence that Chavez is clearly authoritarian in many ways with the response what, the US did bad things in Central America during the 1980s. Did all of the people suffering in Venezuela from Chavez do these bad things in Central America? No...but who cares...because it's really all about you and your imaginary world.

Posted by: RK | June 7, 2006 05:37 PM

RK, I'm actually heartened by your belief that a black & white view of the world is unreasonable, and that we shouldn't have to let US historical predations in South America blind us and prevent us from taking politicians to task when they do dirty little tricks like revealing votes that were supposed to be secret. Let's all be reasonable, indeed. But the problem (as I see it) is that the forces driving neo-liberalism are being lured by the prospect of billions in profits that can be attained by a few easy manipulations, and when legal manipulations fail, historically the same forces have fallen back upon quasi-military manipulations. People in places like Venezuela lose their livelihoods by this, and they lose their lives. So, yes, I do get hysterical when I see Rumsfeld comparing Chavez to Hitler, or when I see Rice compaining of his 'provocative' relations with other countries. This is how the US typically slinks its way into military involvement, as if rabid economic and political interference were not enough already. And it always seems very justified -- "if we can only change this or that detail of the way Chavez leads his country, we can secure a bright and beautiful future (for us)." And you, RK, provide the propangandistic ammo for just such rationalization. So, I admit to overreacting.

Posted by: Eikyu Saha | June 7, 2006 08:24 PM

Ok, for those who want proves of the filthy corruption Chavez is leading in Venezuela,
But first, let's be clear that Chavez has not done any repossession of oil resources by the state, as he claims, so people of Venezuela can enjoy the wealth of the nation. Venezuelan oil was nationalized in 1972. At that point, foreign oil companies were prohibited to explore and explode Venezuelan soil, unless it was proven that it could not be done by the nascent local company, PDVSA.. For more than 20 something years, until Chavez was elected, PDVSA reported profits which were first funneled to rebuild the oil industry: built refineries, create international brands--such as Citgo in the US which will open some foreign markets for Venezuelan oil products, create a steel industry; the rest was given to the BCB (the Venezuelan Fed)so the central government could ask for annual budget for its programs--which included in many cases social programs. I grew up in a Venezuela where there was a lot of corruption, but highways got built, public schools were improving thanks to more funding, and you could go to a public hospital without risking your life because of lack of supplies.
Now what has Chavez done? As soon as he finished changing the Constitution that would give more power to the Executive branch of gov- all democratically done until then--he proceeded to dismantle PDVSA claiming that top and middle management were enjoying extremely high salaries and that money could be used for distributing to the poor. - Until then, nothing wrong; though it's proved that all along the world oil executives have very inflated salaries, this is not exclusive of Venezuela.

The problems started when he dismantle the traditional way PDVSA reported profits: Chavez decided ( backed up by a Congress that has 60% people from his party) that PDVSA will no longer report profits to the BCV, which approves annual budgets ( and whose head is also appointed by the Congress, so of course is pro Chavez, just that in this case was alarmed by the amount of money the gov was asking for without explanation of how it was going to be used) so it would no longer report its profits to the BCV but it will funnel all royalties directly to the Executive branch.
So now, we don't know how much money PDVSA really produces and what this money is really been used for. Also, I should mention that new top management was not replaced by elections as in the past, but by people personally appointed by Chavez and who are close to the Chavez regime. Interesting enough, many Venezuelans suspect that these new team makes the same amount of money that previous management, just that now there is no way to know because PDVSA does not report anything to the public entities anymore.
As for the super-plus of oil revenues for the past 3 years, most of us suspect is been used by Chavez to rally people for next elections, to buy votes, to buy people. I personally almost attended a Chavez rally last year in Caracas where they were going to give me the equivalent of $100 dollars for wearing a red t-shirt and chanting:Viva la revolucion!!By the way, this is normally know as "the scholarship" in Venezuela and it's very common.
Though, I should say that, lately, Chavez is more interested in buying foreign sympathy than local votes. And Venezuelans whose bridges are falling down, whose families do not have the shelter that Chavez promised, or a job to support their children are infuriated. Hey, but they can always become Chavistas and get the scholarship!

So, it is sad, it's only new people replacing all corrupted government characters. It just that these new ones seem shameless, more corrupt, and, greedier than their predecessors.

Posted by: aq | June 8, 2006 12:06 PM

Chavez reminds me of an insecure child who must act in a more and more outrageous manner (His latest fling to North Korea and Iran comes to mind.) in order to impress his father. In this case, Bush/the USA are the father figure. All of his "concern" for the poor is very nice, but with oil at $70 a barrel, it would be hard not let some of the wealth trickle down.

Poor Venezuela, what will happen when oil returns to $25 a barrel?

Posted by: Jerry Bourbon | June 11, 2006 10:04 PM

Only those Latin America countries with a corruption scale that .
Venezuela had and still has, will witness the rise of another Chavez. Hunger is not a word that could be mentioned in such a rich nation,nevertheless, its defenition gave the opportunity to Hugo Chavez to emerge and become so popular among the less lucky....those that represent the majority in Latin America.
Congratulations Peru.

Posted by: sandra halabi h. | June 15, 2006 07:50 AM

Chavez made a comment about smelling sulfer, what an idiot. One thing you don't do is insult the country that you're at guest in. That's a big no no. But yet he came here insulted our President, our Country and the American people how dare he. How do you think people would react if President Bush came into a country that he were a guest in and started name calling, insulting the President of that country and insulted the people there. I'll tell you it would not go over very well. And the name calling and the sign gestures he was making were very immature and childist. This Chavez has no class and no brains. He is lacking in the intelligent department. REMEMBER ONE THING CHAVEZ...YOU WERE A GUEST IN OUR COUNTRY!!!

Posted by: T.J. | September 27, 2006 11:16 PM

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