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August 17, 2004



Very disappointing post, Hugo. A despot for whom democracy was Plan B just managed to stay in power, and all you care about is that his skin is dark and he shares your name?

John Derbyshire put it best: "Wherever there is a jackboot stepping on a human face, there will be a well-heeled Western liberal there to assure us that the face enjoys free health care and a high degree of literacy."


I care about far more than those two things, I assure you. For Derbyshire to trivialize the importance of access to health care is evidence of how much he understands the plight of the poor.

58% is more than "just managed"; every independent observer has declared the election legitimate. Sounds like those "faces" don't seem to feel stomped upon.


"Trivialize" the importance of access to health care? I don't think so. It's autocratic rule, not health care, that is getting trivialized here. The alleged benefits of socialized medicine are indeed trivial, by comparison, even if that were a legitimate choice. It's not, of course; plenty of countries manage to have socialized medicine, on the one hand, without having a Castro/Chavez/Ortega/Allende-style autocrat, on the other.

BTW, when I said that Hugo the despot "just managed to stay in power," I meant "just" in the sense of recency, as in "this just happened the other day." Not in the sense of "this just barely happened." Chavez is not the first demagogue to convince 58% of the population to resent the other 42% - Huey Long got numbers like that too, IIRC - nor is he the last. There's little question he won legitimately, this time. The only thing I do question is why anyone living in the free world and cares about human rights would be happy about it.


Wherever a government without popular legitimacy tramples on basic civil rights, denies its citizens affordable health care and presides over a collapse in educational standards, there will be a well-heeled libertarian there to assure us that it represents the world's only safeguard and measure of democracy.


Amen, Pip. And XRLQ, you know better than to compare Castro (who was never democratically elected) to the likes of Chavez, who was, or to the likes of Ortega (whose Sandinistas left power voluntarily after losing an election).


I'm tempted to quote Chef of South Park and say "Shut Up, Pip!" but that would be rude, so I won't. What I will say instead is that no government lacks legitimacy solely because its dissenters cry "illegitimacy," nor is ours trampling on anyone's civil liberties (assuming that Pip didn't post his comment from prison), nor is it "denying" anyone any "right" to anything simply because it operates according to the Constitution and its democratic mandate rather than according to the whims of a small but vocal minority. That is quite different from the despotic regimes many American and Western European leftists fail to condemn solely because the dictators are seen as "their" dictators rather than as the despots that they are. These same leftists have no trouble condemning right-wing military dictators, but throw a dose of Marxism into the mix, and suddenly all those supposed concerns about human rights go right out the window. I'm glad that this Hugo at least recognizes that problem with respect to Fidel Castro, but many American leftists do not, and the other Hugo (Venezuela's) clearly does not.

As to my comparison between Chavez, Castro and Ortega, I'll grant you that Chavez was legitimately elected, this time. Seeing as he previously attempted to murder his way into power, however, I'm not prepared to chalk this up to a moral distinction between him and his good friend (literally, not just figuratively), Fidel. Both had non-democratic copus as the original plan. Castro succeeded with Plan A, so there was no need to resort to Plan B, if indeed he had one. Chavez's equally undemocratic Plan A failed, so he opted for Plan B. Whether that represents a change of heart or merely a change of strategy remains to be seen.

Finally, the notion that Ortega and his Sandinista buddies left office "voluntarily" does not pass the laugh test. The Sandinista regime held sham elections regularly, fooling no one except their "Sandalista" lackeys in the west. The only reason they held that one real election in 1990, with adequate foreign observation to ensure that no one could cheat, was because of immense pressure both from abroad and from Ronald Reagan's evil Contras, whom John Kerry lied on the Senate floor to help defund. Ugly as Iran/Contra may have been, without it the Sandis would have "won" handily in 1990, just as they did before. In all likelihood, they would have "won" every election since, as well.


How authoritarian can HC be if he allowed this recall election to take place at all? Or perhaps more importantly, helped get this constitutional reform passed even though he knew it could be used against him?

I won't deny HC has some ugly stuff in his past. But is there serious evidence he's got authoritarian or dictatorial intentions now? That seems to be the pressing question, and I don't see it. I've got mixed feelings about the guy myself; as much as I think he wants to help the poor, I'm not sure how effective he can be. But the inability of so many to wrap their minds around the possibility that a socialist can also be a democrat is pretty amazing.


No one is denying that a socialist can also be a democrat. Western Europe is full of those types, as is Canada to a large extent. Chavez's own record on democracy, however, is mixed at best. Would he have resigned his office volutarily if he had lost? Who knows!


BTW, citing Z Magazine, Venezuelanalysis.com and CommonDreams.org as news sources does zero/zip/nada to bolster the legitimacy of Chavez's victory. I don't necessarily think there was fraud, but if I did, getting assurances of the election's legitimacy from ultra-left propaganda sites would almost be worse than getting no assurances at all. What next? Will someone argue that the government didn't cheat because the government itself said it didn't?

That said, it the link to Venezuelanalysis was worth it for the sheer entertainment value. My favorite article is this one, which skewers the opposition for requesting a recount. Never mind that four recounts weren't enough for Al Gore; in Venezuela, even one is one too many.


Gotta say, guys, this sounds like a page right out of the Castro/Guevarra playbook. I don't care what color he is

"Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez set his sights Tuesday on centralizing power, including exerting control over the courts, local police and the nation's broadcast stations."

Of course, it's all for the "good of the people."

But time will tell.


Have you read the article in the IHT about the accusations of fraud?



Thanks for the link, Mark. Scary stuff, if it pans out. Scarier still if it doesn't pan out because no one will pursue it further. Take, for example, these two paragraphs from p. 2:

Evidence of foul play has surfaced. In the town of Valle de la Pascua, where papers were counted at the initiative of those manning the voting center, the Yes vote had been cut by more than 75 percent, and the entire voting material was seized by the national guard shortly after the difference was established.

Three machines in a voting center in the state of Bolivar that has generally voted against Chávez all showed the same 133 votes for the Yes option, and higher numbers for the No option. Two other machines registered 126 Yes votes and much higher votes for the No. The opposition alleges that these machines, which can both send and receive information, were reprogrammed to start adjudicating all votes to the No option after a given number of Yes votes had been registered. A government spokesman countered that these methods were necessary, however, as failure to employ them might have ended the reign of a guy whose skin is dark, and whose first name is Hugo.

OK, so maybe I made that last sentence up. I wish I could say the same about the rest.


Just so you know, the other Hugo is not a pacifist.



Ah! Xrlq is just one more disgruntled apologist for American imperialism that can't stand seeing Latin American nations opt for self-determinancy.

Perhaps it would be wise for him to remember that the Monroe Doctrine was a unilateral pronouncement of the United States Government that was conceived WITHOUT any input from the rest of the Western Hemisphere..............

The tale is long and sad............although Latin American nations rarely live up to our standards of justice and human rights, whenever nations have opted to provide for their people rather than for the American corporations that see Latin America as merely a labor and materials resource they soon run afoul of the USG.

Sure we all know that Castro, the WORST example of anti-Americanism in the hemisphere, is guilty of totalitarianism, but he STILL has provided his people with universal employment, education and healthcare. That's MUCH MORE than can be said for Pinochet, Somoza, Trujillo or any other American puppet.


Oh goody. Not only has the other Hugo "won" that election and the following one, he's shutting down the opposition so he can "win" many more elections to come. Isn't that great? I mean, anyone who loves Fidel Castro and hates the U.S. can't be all bad, right?

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