Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Humble Hugo Chavez

Following last weeks loss I'd thought Hugo Chavez to be uncharacteristically humble or "democratic" in accepting defeat without so much as a recount.

"I congratulate my adversaries for this victory"

Yesterday Newsweek ran an opinion piece by Jorge Castaneda that claims Chavez' humble acceptance was some rather fine acting and that the "narrow" defeat was apparently part of a face saving deal between Chavez and Venezuela's military.

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.

It would seem the former defense minister is not only an increasingly potent catalyst for the opposition but also maintains considerable sway in the highest echelon of Venezuela's armed forces. One wonders if Baduel is gearing up for a presidential run in 2012 as he's not only broken ranks with Chavez but also been quite vocal about it. His criticism culminating in a New York Times op-ed run just a day before the election in which he lambasted Chavez for his failures in leadership:

Exorbitant public expenditures, the recurrence of government deficits even at times of record-high oil prices, the extreme vulnerability of foreign investments, exceedingly high import tariffs, and our increased domestic consumption of fuel at laughably low prices are all signs of what lurks on the horizon. It now seems that, even without an appreciable dip in global oil prices, our economy may well come to a crashing halt. When it does, it will bring an end to the populism that the government practices and has tried to export to neighboring countries.

That last bit is especially interesting and one which Castaneda details, referring to the "fifth column" that Chavez enjoys in many of his neighboring countries and how it's been exascerbated and exploited by Chavez to keep other regional leaders "in check."

these leaders know Chávez can count on a fifth column in nearly every country in the region. Even while he denounces the policies of his opponents and throws vitriol in every direction, he also uses his nation's resources to befriend their constituencies. These acolytes are devoted to his ideals and, more important, to his funding. They are boisterous, or powerful, or both, and they can make life miserable for governments ranging from the emblematic left (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil) to the liberal right (Mexico's Felipe Calderón or Colombia's Alvaro Uribe).

An enlightening read. Chavez' growing political hegemony throughout the region looks to be facing foundational decay at home both in the defeat of his constitutional "reform" and a military sympathetic to at least one facet of the opposition. The next 4 years could bring Hugo Chavez some "interesting times."


Jacob Scott Hundley Kauffman said...

Wow, that sure is an interesting deal.

It's a peculiar site to see a military threatening a coup on behalf of the people's right to vote in un-corrupt elections.

Per Kurowski said...

My Venezuela is a world war one battlefield. Two deeply dug in trenches with about a quarter of the Venezuelans each, another quarter of the citizens running exposed in no mans land, and the final quarter of its people wandering around bomb shocked and oblivious to all in the neighboring woods.

I pray to God we will become a nation again.

Divisionism is the true weapon of mass-destruction!

Jay@Soob said...

jacob, I agree and wonder what the future holds for the Venezuelan military. Will they take on an increasingly custodial role a la Turkey? Or is this an anomaly?

Thanks for the comment and apt analogy. Have you got any opinions or insight on Raul Beduel?

SnoopyTheGoon said...

That is a big one, for sure. Many thanks. Need to brush up on the latest in Venezuela, it seems.