December 11, 2007

Chávez suspected of foul play

Jorge Castañeda, Mexico's former foreign minister and now a Global Distinguished Professor at New York University, writes in Newsweek that Venezuelan proto-dictator Hugo Chávez hardly wanted to abide by the results of the recent nationwide referendum. Indeed, he wanted to overturn the actual results and only backed down because the military threatened to toss him out in a coup if he persisted in "winning" the vote:

But by midweek enough information had emerged to conclude that Chávez did, in fact, try to overturn the results. As reported in El Nacional, and confirmed to me by an intelligence source, the Venezuelan military high command virtually threatened him with a coup d'état if he insisted on doing so. Finally, after a late-night phone call from Raúl Isaías Baduel, a budding opposition leader and former Chávez comrade in arms, the president conceded—but with one condition: he demanded his margin of defeat be reduced to a bare minimum in official tallies, so he could save face and appear as a magnanimous democrat in the eyes of the world.

Now, I don't know if Castañeda is telling the truth and/or from where he gets his info. What I do know is that many of those on the Left are quite quick to jump on the bandwagon that Chávez is somehow a "model democrat" for, first, offering that ridiculous quantity of items for voters to vote on (which would have dramatically increased and consolidated his political powers), and second, for believing without reservation that Chávez wouldn't even attempt to influence the vote by whatever means available to him.

Some even claim that Chávez's model for democracy is superior to that of the US's. I can only imagine these same folk invoking the title "model democrat" for George Bush if he held a national referendum which contained the items found on the recent Venezuelan ballot. Can you hear the screams from Kos and the crowd if Bush put to a vote (I guess I should say "attempted to put to a vote" because in actuality there's no way he could actually do so) things like the following:

  • Organization of the State: President may name secondary vice-presidents as needed, presidential term extended and limit on reelection removed, may re-organize internal politico-territorial boundaries, and promotes all military officers;
  • Presidential term is extended from six to seven years. The two consecutive term limit on presidential reelection is removed;
  • New presidential powers as specified in other sections of the reform are listed here, which include the ordering and management of the country's internal political boundaries, the creation and suspension of federal territories, setting the number and naming of secondary vice-presidents (in addition to the first vice-president), promote all officers of the armed forces, and administrate international reserves in coordination with the Central Bank;
  • Change in states of emergency, so that the right to information is no longer protected in such instances. Also, the right to due process is removed in favor of the right to defense ...

And, interestingly, if the above (among many others) were approved, there was another section in the same "block" that would have made it significantly more difficult to initiate a grassroots popular referendum! So, you see, if you had second thoughts about granting Hugo all those new powers, it'd a be a lot tougher than ever before to get a popular referendum to change it at a later time!

To begin with, George Bush couldn't even legitimately contemplate such a referendum because there is simply no way to do so within the means of our 218 year old Constitution. To make any changes in the how many times a president can run for office, or what/how a chief executive can do in terms of "nationalization" clearly requires a constitutional amendment. This is a laborious process, and for good reason: It had better be a damn good idea to necessitate a major governmental change. Such a proposal must pass both houses of Congress by a 2/3 vote (or 2/3 of all state legislatures), and then 3/5 of all the states must approve of the idea. If George Bush got ultra-tricky and thought he could pull something off like what Chávez did, he'd be shot down in the court system faster than Mike Matthews tosses off the "F" word. The ruling would be simple, and in essence would say that "Bush has to utilize the amendment process." To compare a purely democratic system (Venezuela's) to that of the US's (representative republic) means that one does not offer ample protections for minorities (political, especially, but not limited to racial, ethnic, etc.). In other words, we're talking about the proverbial mob/dictatorial rule.

In addition, this same Left, who clamored for weeks after the 2000 [and especially] 2004 elections about electronic voter fraud (perpetrated by the GOP, of course), immediately vouches for the legitimacy of Venezuelan elections/votes. The recent (and past, 2004) Venezuelan vote certainly may be legitimate. I am not making a case that it definitely is (and was) not. Some on the Left have noted that the Venezuelan electronic voting system gives a verifiable paper receipt, unlike the United States (with the exception of one state, Nevada) in 2004. (Of course, Venezuela didn't begin using these machines until Aug. of 2004 anyway.) But if you read carefully, it's only certain machines (in Venezuela) that utilize these paper receipts. In the United States, not only may different states use different voting methods, different voting methods may be used within states. Nevertheless, paper receipts with electronic machines are hardly a guarantee of fraud-free voting. Venezuela has a long history of vote fraud, and 2004's recall election experienced quite a bit of it as well. Venezuela's [current] electoral authority is dominated by Chavistas (electronic voting expert Rebecca Mercuri, regarding the 2004 recall vote, "commended Smartmatic's -- the co. that makes the voting machines -- ability to print hardcopy ballots, but criticized the Venezuelan election committee for only taking random samples of the actual ballots rather than a complete manual audit") and Smartmatic's president himself states forthrightly how problems (fraud) can occur with his machine.

Further, does anyone else recall the Left's claims about the exit poll results (in favor of John Kerry) in the 2004 election and how they ended up being incorrect? It meant there had to be a GOP plot to "steal" the election. Amazingly, exit polls in Venezuela's 2004 recall election had Chávez losing the vote by a whopping percentage -- 59%. But the actual vote was only 42% favoring Chávez's recall, a huge 17% difference (much larger than the difference between the polls-results in the US 2004 vote). What did the Left say about this Venezuela poll-results issue? Either they point out that international observers stated the vote was fair, or the exit polls were done by opposition operatives. Oh.

Again, keep in mind that I bring these facts up NOT as an accusation of definitive Chávez vote fraud. I am on record as supporting a return to paper ballots in the US or a mode of voting that leaves virtually NO question as to what the voters' intent was. What I do question is the rapidity of the Left to jump to the defense of people like Chávez -- whose quest for power consolidation is beyond blatantly obvious -- all the while castigating the GOP and George Bush for their "fraud"-like actions (like in Ohio in 2004, for instance). It transcends amazement that a political and governmental system laced with myriad checks and balances like which the United States possesses is given less credence than one that can be changed at a whim -- Venezuela's.

It's just plain farcical.

Posted by Hube at December 11, 2007 04:41 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Hubes on track. I noticed the same thing.

Posted by: Alan Coffey at December 11, 2007 08:01 PM

I know too little about Chavez to comment, but will comment on what little I know.

In two separate conversations with Latin American military attaches who worked closely with US security forces, we talked about the plight in general of South Americans......In my usual fact-finding way, I asked them: well what would you do? With your wealth of experience, broadened horizons, if you were a head of one of these countries, what would you do?

Both pointed to Chevez as following the right approach....When questioned on his tactics, both said that he is that way because he won't roll over as do other countries who bow to U S interests. And for that the people love him.....

your evidence shows perhaps that people outside his own country are the ones looking up to him...
But there is massive support for the nationalization of global corporations doing business in that area.......across the entire South American continent.

For what its worth, just thought I would add that. As an aside, be careful of putting too much stake in US publications, for as in iran, when we disposed their duly elected government and installed the Shah, our local news agencies tend to get spoon fed and report only that one side....

What does Costa Rica have to say.....I would be curious about their imput, since they tend to follow a more conservative line of politics.

Posted by: kavips at December 11, 2007 11:32 PM

I've opined that leaders like Chavez are popular -- among the poor and disenfranchised, mind you -- because these said poor eventually have it up to here with leaders never dealing with such gross economic inequities. It's just common sense, after all. However, the Chavez approach isn't the answer. I don't know these attaches you mentioned, but I'm curious that they "agree" w/the Chavez approach. As if Cuba (Chavez's model) isn't evidence enough that the approach doesn't work. In fact, it's an unmitigated disaster.

I know many Venezuelans (they're not "rich," either) and they're scared out of their gourd about Chavez. They're pondering leaving the country as a last resort. And who can blame them? I wouldn't want to live in another Cuba, either. But, again, governments that continually ignore the plight of their most needy citizens will eventually reap what they sow, and eventually someone like Chavez will fill the void. Finding a middle ground between a Chavez and the elite-owned presidents of the past is a must for true progress in countries like Venez.

Posted by: Hube at December 12, 2007 07:34 PM

I had written about Costa Rica, but for some reason "questionable content" was an issue. Let's see if this works:

CR is more "left" than many realize. It has universal gov. subsidized healthcare and many industries are gov. owned and operated (like power and telephone). The current government is left of center. But the key for CR is that it has always had a strong middle class, and that makes all the difference. That's why a Chavez won't ascend in CR. Most ticos think Chavez is a putz, but like me and many others, they understand why he got to where he is.

Posted by: Hube at December 12, 2007 07:38 PM

Great. Thanks for the response....Here is how I see it. At stake is the redistribution of wealth from those that have (too much) to those that have nothing.

Costa Rica does it progressively with their income tax provisions. That is why they have a middle class.

States that did not, and allowed wealth to accumulate unrestrained by any social obligations, have either abject poverty or unlimited wealth, and no middle class. A tax system that redistributed a small part of the wealth back to the poor, would have prevented much of conflict those Latin American states experience. No one minds a rich neighbor who helps out his neighbors every now and then.....But when one has no food, he resents seeing the dog eat better than his children......

This is the environment we privileged citizens need to understand is the reality of most third world nations.....

I am inclined to believe that a 30% income tax is the ideal method for redistributing excessive funds to assist those in excessive poverty, and create a stable, prosperous nation.....

I would be interested if others with direct Latin American experience could provide their take on this plan.

I forgot Chevez. See? With this system he is not needed...Peace and stability prevail..........

Posted by: kavips at December 12, 2007 11:38 PM