Gallup’s latest poll says it is:
President Hugo Chavez’s popularity among Venezuelans has waned in recent years. Less than half of Venezuelans (47%) in August 2009 said they approved of Chavez’ job performance — down from 61% in late 2006 when he was elected to a second six-year term.
That’s not a good sign for a
dictator “president for life”. And what’s even worse is his inability to do much about what is causing that decline but attempt to distract attention by stirring up an existential threat (Colombia).
The reasons for this decline in popularity aren’t hard to figure out. Again, Gallup:
This year, 30% of Venezuelans said economic conditions in their city or area are improving, down from 47% in 2008 and 63% in 2007. Electricity and water shortages have become frequent, and violent crime is rampant in much of the country. This year, 23% of Venezuelans said they feel safe walking alone in their areas at night, the second-lowest figure among the 67 countries in which Gallup asked the question.
Politicians, whether socialist or capitalist, are held responsible for their country’s ability to provide the basics in life – especially when in the past those basics were cheap and plentiful. And, politicians are also held responsible for providing basic security. In all areas the socialist “Bolivarian revolution” is failing. And, because of actions by Chavez over the years to nationalize many industries, Venezuelans who supported Chavez are now beginning to see his government as more of a threat to them:
Conversely, concern about the heavy hand Chavez has demonstrated in the recent wave of nationalizations may be growing. The proportion of Venezuelans who said people in the country can feel very confident their private property will be respected by the government has dropped to 40% this year, from 52% in 2007. And 44% of Venezuelans currently agree that life is very hard for those who oppose the government, up from 36% in 2008.
As Megan McArdle points out, Chavez was able to paper over much of this when the price of oil was high and revenue plentiful, but at the present price and faced with the fact that because he diverted money from the state run oil company PDVSA to fund social programs, his golden goose is on life support. And Chavez has been forced to impose some unpopular restrictions:
President Hugo Chávez has been facing a public outcry in recent weeks over power failures that, after six nationwide blackouts in the last two years, are cutting electricity for hours each day in rural areas and in industrial cities like Valencia and Ciudad Guayana. Now, water rationing has been introduced here in the capital.
The deterioration of services is perplexing to many here, especially because the country had grown used to cheap, plentiful electricity and water in recent decades. But even as the oil boom was enriching his government and Mr. Chávez asserted greater control over utilities and other industries in this decade, public services seemed only to decay, adding to residents’ frustrations.
With oil revenues declining and the economy slowing, the shortages may have no quick fixes in sight. The government announced some emergency measures this week, including limits on imports of air-conditioning systems, rate increases for consumers of large amounts of power and the building of new gas-fired power plants, which would not be completed until the middle of the next decade.
Combine that with growing food shortages and rampant inflation and the picture is not pretty for our boy Hugo. And while his popularity remains slightly north of the critical 50% mark, his job approval rating of 46% portends a fall for that as well. Chavez, like all socialists, is finding out the hard way that they call them the laws of economics for a reason. You just wonder if we’ll learn something from his inevitable decline.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Apparently peace, love and the Obama magic have a 9 month shelf life. Hugo Chavez has determined that the US is up to its old tricks again – and besides, things aren’t going particularly well in the Bolivarian socialist paradise, so it is time to gin up the usual existential threat – the US:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told the military and civil militias today to prepare for war as a deterrent to a U.S.-led attack after American troops gained access to military bases in neighboring Colombia.
Chavez said a recently signed agreement that gives American troops access to seven Colombian bases is a direct threat to his oil-exporting country. Colombia has handed over its sovereignty to the U.S. with the deal, he said.
“Generals of the armed forces, the best way to avoid a war is to prepare for one,” Chavez said in comments on state television during his weekly “Alo Presidente” program. “Colombia handed over their country and is now another state of the union. Don’t make the mistake of attacking: Venezuela is willing to do anything.”
Of course this is all a Bolivarian fantasy concocted to distract attention from internal problems, but it is a fantasy that one assumes is useful in some way to the collection of tin pot socialist dictators how holding forth in Central and South America. After all, Fidel Castro has made a career of it:
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro expressed concern similar to Chavez’s on Nov. 6, saying the U.S. might send Colombian troops to crush Venezuela’s government.
“The empire hopes to send them to fight against their Venezuelan and Ecuadorean brothers and other Bolivarian and Alba peoples to crush the Venezuelan revolution, just as they tried to do with the Cuban revolution in April 1961,” Castro wrote in a “reflection” published on the Cubadebate.cu Web site. The Alba bloc is a nine-member group of Latin American countries led by Chavez.
Wow – the US would do that? Send Columbian troops to “crush” Venezuela’s?
Hey, I thought this Obama guy was different and his ascendency and willingness to grip and grin with dictators would change all this?
The U.S. may try to help Colombia invade Venezuela, as the U.S. supported Iraq’s invasion of Iran in the 1980s, Chavez said.
A military attack on Venezuela would spread to other countries in the region because Venezuela has “friends” from Mexico to Argentina, Chavez said during the program.
“If the Yankee empire tries to use Colombia to attack Venezuela, the war of 100 years would begin,” he said.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
There were so many ways to get this right, and one clear to way to completely blow it. The Obama administration chose to blow it, and to blow it big, by embracing an imbalanced dictator-wannabe whose efforts are supported by the worst offenders of representative democracy and individual freedom in the region:
The interim leader of Honduras says he is ready to sign a pact to end its crisis which could include the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
Roberto Micheletti said the agreement would create a power-sharing government and require both sides to recognise the result of November’s presidential poll.
Mr Zelaya said the deal, which requires the approval of the Supreme Court and Congress, would be signed on Friday.
The opponents had earlier been told by US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon that they had to reach an accord in order to ensure international support for the election on 29 November.
Afterwards, Mr Micheletti announced that a power-sharing deal had been reached that included a “significant concession”.
“I have authorised my negotiating team to sign a deal that marks the beginning of the end of the country’s political situation,” the interim leader told a news conference.
“With regard to the most contentious subject in the deal, the possible restitution of Zelaya to the presidency” would be included, he said.
Mr Zelaya described the accord as a “triumph for Honduran democracy”, and said he was “optimistic” of returning to power.
Fausta calls the above analysis “tactful” and translates the local press reaction as “Micheletti caves under US pressure and agrees to Zelaya’s return” and lists the following terms of the deal:
Noticias 24 lists the main points of the agreement (my translation: if you use this translation please credit me and link to this post):
1. The creation of a reconciliation government.
2. Rejection of political amnesty.
3. Recognition of the November 29 elections.
4. Transferring control of the Armed Forces from the Executive to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
5. Creating a verification commission to enforce compliance with the agreement.
6. Creating a truth commission to investigate the events before, during and after June 28, the date of Zelaya’s removal.
7. Requesting that the international community end all sanctions against Honduras and that they send in observers to the presidential election.
8. Supporting the proposal for a vote of the National Congress with the approval of the Supreme Court of Justice to reinstate all the Executive Power prior to June 28, that is, restoring Zelaya to power.
Although Zelaya’s restoration is largely symbolic (e.g. while he is returned to his office, the election in a few weeks will still occur, and the Supreme Court Electoral Tribunal [Thanks, La Gringa - ed.] now has power over the military instead of the President), the very fact that he is allowed to re-enter Honduras without being immediately arrested, much less that he will be able to call himself President once again, is perhaps the greatest shame of Barack Obama’s young presidency. Without Washington’s bullying of the duly constituted authorities in Honduras, the country would have been held up as an example of independent democracy done right, making a definable break with the banana republics of the past. Instead, the US entered the fray on the side of a criminal Chavista and used our considerable power to retard Honduras’ institutional growth.
There have been times in America’s past where the decision to throw our lot in with certain regimes was questionable at best. In the world of realpolitik, however, it is sometimes necessary to chose the least bad to defend against the infinitely worse. Much of our assistance and meddling in South and Central America, aimed at rebuffing the spread of communism, can be chalked up to that realpolitik. Yet never have we sided against the rule of law in order to defend the wishes of dictators. That is, until now.
Honduras will emerge from this escapade with its dignity and political institutions intact. Unfortunately, that will be despite our best efforts, not because of them.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Hugo Chavez and his socialist government have handled everything so well that they’ve decided to go green and show the world how it is done:
Turn out the lights, shorten the shower to three minutes, buy a portable generator.
That is President Hugo Chávez’s message to the citizens of energy-rich Venezuela, where the “socialist revolution” has brought power cuts, water shortages and collapsing public services.
Heh … Chavez actually did try to push the green theme in his radio address discussing showering and turning off the lights. But it was a facade designed to hide the fact that the infrastructure is collapsing. As you might imagine, that’s sparking more than a little unrest:
“We’re accused of wasting electricity, but the fact is the government didn’t plan, didn’t invest and didn’t carry out maintenance,” Aixa Lopez, president of the Committee of Blackout Victims, told the TV news channel Globovisión.
In fact, as with all marginal leaders, Chavez blames all of his problems on others:
In early 2007, after winning re-election, Chávez decreed the nationalization of those parts of the electricity industry still in private hands — notably the Caracas power company EDC. Since then, there have been seven national power outages. In most parts of the country, weary consumers have grown used to frequent, unscheduled blackouts lasting hours.
This month, the president admitted there was a crisis in both the power and water industries. This came on the heels of a similar admission regarding healthcare. He put the blame mainly on the El Niño phenomenon for producing drought — Venezuela is 70 percent dependent on hydro power for its electricity — and on consumers for their wasteful habits.
Much of his ire was aimed at shopping malls because, he said, they foment capitalist values. “They’re going to have to buy their own generators,” he threatened, “or I’ll cut off their electricity.”
Ordinary Venezuelans have been urged to use less water and turn off the lights. “Some people sing in the bath for half an hour,” Chávez told a recent cabinet session, broadcast live. “What kind of communism is that? Three minutes is more than enough!”
Formal water rationing has now been introduced, government departments have been told to reduce their electricity consumption by a fifth, and the president has created a new Electricity Ministry in a tacit admission that the state has failed to manage the power industry correctly.
In fact, both the Water and Electricity Ministry are in a shambles:
According to Víctor Poleo, who was deputy minister for electricity at the beginning of the Chávez era, despite huge sums of money allocated, little has actually been done.
“My guess is that of every $100 pumped into [electricity] generation and transmission since 2003, $75 has been stolen by the politicians,” Poleo said.
Venezuela is a oil rich state from which 90% of its foreign earning are garnered. Chavez called his socialist economy “bulletproof”. However, it is now deep in recession:
Worse still, its shrinking economy has done little to blunt inflation, which is running at close to 30 percent a year — around three times the regional average. And the economic downturn is having a predictable effect on the government’s popularity, just as it gears up to fight crucial legislative elections next year.
The latest data from polling company Datanálisis shows voters evenly split, for the first time since mid-2004, over whether the president has been good or bad for “national wellbeing.” Only 17.2 percent say they would vote for him if the presidential election were imminent — down from over 31 percent in September.
Of course, as the article points out, the opposition is “incoherent” and unable to provide unified opposition at this point. But those sorts of things have a way of rectifying themselves if the economic and infrastructure problems continue. Chavez may have figured out how to position himself to be president for life on paper, but remaining president for life with the problems Venezuela is now beginning to face (and may see compounding) may be tougher then he thought.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Appearing before microphones at the G-20 conference, the Presidents of the US and France along with the PM of the UK made an announcement concerning Iran:
President Obama and leaders of Britain and France accused Iran on Friday of building a secret underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, saying the country has hidden the covert operation from international weapons inspectors for years.
Appearing before reporters in Pittsburgh, Mr. Obama said that the Iranian nuclear program “represents a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime.” French President Nicholas Sarkozy, appearing beside Mr. Obama, said that Iran had deadline of two months to comply with international demands or face increased sanctions.
Essentially the argument is the facility is too big for the manufacture of nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes and can only exist to enable the pursuit of nuclear weapons.
American officials said that they had been tracking the covert project for years, but that Mr. Obama decided to make public the American findings after Iran discovered, in recent weeks, that Western intelligence agencies had breached the secrecy surrounding the project. On Monday, Iran wrote a brief, cryptic letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, saying that it now had a “pilot plant” under construction, whose existence it had never before revealed.
So now Iran has been called out. That’s the easy part. Increased sanctions are promised. That’s the hard part. Russia may possibly come on board (we’ll see if the unilateral decision to remove the missile defense shield from eastern Europe), but China is an unknown (although the Chinese foreign ministry recently said it was not in favor of increased sanctions). That’s assuming the Obama administration plans on working all of this through the UN.
One of the sanctions that the US and others are considering is one which would restrict the importation of gasoline. While Iran sits on a sea of oil, it has very limited refining capacity. It must import most of what it uses. Cutting those imports would seriously effect the country. However Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez, during a recent visit with Iran, promised to provide the regime with gasoline. That could set up a confrontation between the US (and others) and Venezuela. Hugo Chavez might finally get the confrontation with the US he’s been claiming was coming very soon.
This is about to get complicated and nasty. December is the date in which France has demanded compliance with international demands. In the interim, both sides are going to be scrambling to line up their allies. And then there’s the wild card – Israel.
This will be an interesting couple of months. But one question I have – why wasn’t this presented to the UN before the president of Iran spoke?
UPDATE: Dale sends me a link to this article by Simon Tisdale at the Guardian in reference to this story:
…Now it seems the Iranian regime has been caught red-handed, and clean out of trumps, by the forced disclosure that it is building, if not already operating, a second, secret uranium processing plant.
The revelation will bring a triumphal roar of “told you so!” from Bush era neoconservatives in the US to hawkish rightwingers in Israel. The likes of former vice-president Dick Cheney and UN envoy John Bolton, and the current Israeli leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, have long insisted that Tehran’s word could not be trusted.
Yet the argument about who was right and who was wrong about Iran is hardly important at this juncture…
As Dale sarcastically notes:
Yes. Whatever we do, let’s not try and keep track of who was right and who was wrong about Iran. We certainly wouldn’t want to have a track record of foreign policy reliability we could consult in the future.
Because this is about, uh what was it again, oh, yeah, change!
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
A lot is happening, not that you’d know it unless you’re paying attention.
The North Koreans are happily enriching uranium again, as are the Iranians. We’re in the middle of completely screwing over Honduras while ignoring what Venezuela is in the middle of doing.
And what is that you ask? Well the Washington Post fills us in:
But Mr. Chavez has clearly forged a bond with one leader who is as reckless and ambitious as he is: Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The growing fruits of this relationship, and its potential consequences for U.S. security, have not gotten as much attention as they deserve.
Mr. Chávez was in Tehran again this week and offered his full support for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hard-line faction. As usual, the caudillo made clear that he shares Iran’s view of Israel, which he called “a genocidal state.” He endorsed Iran’s nuclear program and declared that Venezuela would seek Iran’s assistance to construct a nuclear complex of its own. He also announced that his government would begin supplying Iran with 20,000 barrels of gasoline a day — a deal that could directly undercut a possible U.S. effort to curtail Iran’s gasoline imports.
Such collaboration is far from new for Venezuela and Iran. In the past several years Iran has opened banks in Caracas and factories in the South American countryside. Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau, who has been investigating the arrangements, says he believes Iran is using the Venezuelan banking system to evade U.S. and U.N. sanctions. He also points out that Iranian factories have been located “in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela” that lack infrastructure but that could be “ideal . . . for the illicit production of weapons.”
“The opening of Venezuela’s banks to the Iranians guarantees the continued development of nuclear technology and long-range missiles,” Mr. Morgenthau said in a briefing this week in Washington at the Brookings Institution. “The mysterious manufacturing plants, controlled by Iran deep in the interior of Venezuela, give even greater concern.”
Big deal. I mean, look at what Honduras has done.
Mr. Morgenthau’s report was brushed off by the State Department, which is deeply invested in the Chávez-is-no-threat theory. State “will look into” Mr. Morgenthau’s allegations, spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday. Meanwhile, Mr. Chávez is off to Moscow, where, according to the Russian press, he plans to increase the $4 billion he has already spent on weapons by another $500 million or so. Mr. Chávez recently promised to buy “several battalions” of Russian tanks. Not a threat? Give him time.
And, of course, as a little jab at the US, Chavez recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia and buying tanks in Russia.
North Korea, as mentioned, is back to building nuclear bombs. But don’t worry, all the signs are present that they’re willing, once again, to do a little bartering. They’ve announced they’re open to two-party talks with the US. That means, they’ll talk and the US will pay for them to quit making bombs. And they’ll agree until the next time they need a little cash.
But don’t worry – Honduras is going to pay the price for their constitutional misbehavior. And besides, our president gets to play “King of the World” in a couple of weeks might even have the chance to give Moammar Qaddafi a hug while he is at it.
Yup – it’s looking good out there.
As you recall when Honduras invoked its Constitution and kicked out its sitting president for violating it, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica stepped forward and volunteered to act as an intermediary to help settle the “crisis”.
It was, apparently, only a “crisis” to those outside Honduras and now we’re beginning to understand why. It seems Arias wasn’t at all the honest broker everyone thought he was. Cato@Liberty reports:
President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica has joined the trend in Latin America of calling for a new constitution that would expand executive powers and get rid of “unnecessary checks” on the president’s authority. Although Arias has less than 9 months left in office and can’t run for reelection, his brother and current minister of the presidency — a primer minister of sorts — has openly said he’s interested in running for president in 2014. A new constitution with expanded executive powers would fit him just fine.
But Arias is also apparently at war with the media which to this point is still free and able to oppose the changes for which Arias is calling. The Arias argument against the media sound very familiar:
However, the most disturbing aspect of Arias’ call was his harsh criticism of the media. Borrowing from the script of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Arias described news outlets as “corporations interested in making a profit” that don’t necessarily pursue the “public good.” He asked the media to “tone down” its criticism of government officials, and said that journalists “should understand their role within a higher framework.” He complained that news outlets claim to represent the public interest, without any control or accountability.
This is precisely the formula followed by the new leftist despots in Central and South America. Use the system to subvert the system and expand the executive’s power to a defacto dictatorship. The first step, of course, is to rewrite the country’s constitution to abet their grab for power. And, of course, along the way it is critical that they silence and then control the media.
This formula isn’t a hard one to discern, and the the result is obvious. Despotic governments imposing ruinous socialism while a muted press is powerless to do anything about it.
And where is the US is all of this? Busily engaged in undermining the one government, Honduras, which has actually stepped up to thwart the formula and enforce its constitution.
The US should be on the side of self-determination and the rule of law. Instead, we’ve ended up on the side of power-grabbing future despots and potential ruling cliques of nepotism. How did this happen, and why hasn’t the national media shined its light on Arias’ interests in this dispute? Could it be that it would make Obama look like a bumbling fool on the international stage — or worse?
Good questions with no easy answers. However, one has to wonder why the media hasn’t gotten into the details of what is happening in Honduras and why it is so heavily opposed by the players in the region, such as Chavez, Ortega and Correa. There’s an unacknowledged revolution going on which is neither good for the people of the region nor good for the US and we seem to be not only blind to the fact, but implicitly and perhaps unknowingly aiding it. And now we find Arias too is a player.
Honduras is the only country in the region saying “no” to the trend and they’re under increasingly heavy fire to give in. In fact reports now say the Obama administration is contemplating cutting off foreign aid to Honduras unless they reinstall Mel Zelaya in the presidency. The willing ignorance the US is displaying concerning the problem in Honduras cannot be seen as anything but pandering to the likes of Chavez, Correa and Castro. It certainly isn’t based in respect for a nation’s laws and their right to self-determination – and that certainly makes the Obama administration look foolish on the international stage.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
OK, not precisely, but you could infer that from remarks made by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez:
“President Obama is lost in the Andromeda Nebula, he has lost his bearings, he doesn’t get it,” he said.
His remarks were apparently a reaction to something Obama said about the situation in Honduras as well as Latin America as a whole:
Last week Obama said critics of U.S. involvement in Latin America who are now asking Washington to do more to restore the ousted president of Honduras “can’t have it both ways.”
Saying you can’t ask for help on the one hand and then demand the US get out of Latin America on the other apparently makes you a space cadet lost in “the Andromeda Nebula”.
“We are not asking you to intervene in Honduras, Obama. On the contrary, we are asking that “the empire” get its hands off Honduras and get its claws out of Latin America,” Chavez said in a rambling weekly television and radio show.
Well so far so good on improving relations in Latin America. Of course, if you read the article, you’ll see that Reuters goes out of its way to make the case that this is all a side-show and in fact, Chavez thinks Obama is ok. I guess, like the reporting on the economy in which the media finds negative numbers that aren’t as negative as expected to be good news, this somehow qualifies as good news on the foreign relations front.
At least in Venezuela. Apparently the game of golf is the latest thing under assault in the socialist paradise Hugo Chavez is fashioning:
After a brief tirade against the sport by the president on national television last month, pro-Chávez officials have moved in recent weeks to shut down two of the country’s best-known golf courses, in Maracay, a city of military garrisons near here, and in the coastal city of Caraballeda.
“Let’s leave this clear,” Mr. Chávez said during a live broadcast of his Sunday television program. “Golf is a bourgeois sport,” he said, repeating the word “bourgeois” as if he were swallowing castor oil. Then he went on, mocking the use of golf carts as a practice illustrating the sport’s laziness.
Meanwhile, the rubber-stamp National Assembly passed a bill that will broaden the state’s control of what is taught in schools:
The bill would order schools to base curricula on what it calls “the Bolivarian Doctrine” — a vague reference to ideals espoused by 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar, such as national self-determination and Latin American unity.
Or, more simply said – socialism. Unsurprisingly, it has generated protests a colleges and universities – not that Chavez cares.
Meanwhile, as the economy continues to tank, Chavez is using the dictator’s normal first choice to divert attention from economic problems – claiming there is an external threat.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday raised tensions with Colombia over a U.S. troop plan, accusing his neighbor of sending an army patrol over their Orinoco River border and ending a Colombian gasoline subsidy.
Chavez made his remarks on the eve of a regional summit in Ecuador, where the persistent Washington critic will try to fuel opposition to a Colombian plan to allow U.S. troops more access to seven of its military bases.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a staunch U.S. ally, says the troop plan is necessary to fight drug traffickers. But Chavez claims a greater U.S. presence in the region is a direct threat to him and risks sparking war in South America.
Where have we seen all of his before? And how predictable is this as well?
Poor Venezuela – they’ve got a tiger by the tail and they’re in for an awful ride. They’ve allowed this goon Chavez to manipulate the democratic process into autocratic rule and he’s now developed into not just a threat to the freedom and liberty of his own citizens, but a threat to other nations.
Anyone can see this isn’t going to end well. I feel for the people of Venezuela.
I have to wonder what our State Department and President, who seem completely enamored with process over actual democratic institutions, will have to say about this:
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega announced Sunday, on the 30th anniversary of the leftist Sandinista revolution he led, that he would seek a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to seek reelection.
Following in the footsteps of elected regional allies, Ortega told thousands of supporters here that he would seek a referendum to let “the people say if they want to reward or punish” their leaders with reelection.
His close leftist allies who have had rules changed enabling them to remain in power include presidents Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.
In the last month President Manuel Zelaya in neighboring Honduras was ousted in a coup by his own military after seeking similar action.
My guess is they’ll applaud this even while it has essentially established “democratic” dictatorships in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. And my guess is the “certified election results” are complete for Nicaragua, just as they were for Hodura’s Zelaya, even as I write this. They only need to be produced at the proper time to “validate” the referendum.
Call it the Venezuelan model.
And our puddin’ heads in Washington will again applaud this step toward totalitarianism as a wonderful exercise in democracy we should all support.
Meanwhile those meanies in Honduras who take their Constitution too seriously? Not so much.