Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chávez Is Losing His Grip

Chávez Is Losing His Grip
The end is near for his revolution.
By Mac Margolis
Published Jan 29, 2010
From the magazine issue dated Feb 8, 2010

In his 11-year rule, Venezuelan strong-man Hugo Chávez has outlasted all manner of angry foes, conspirators, and mounting chaos. Until now. As he loses control of a shrinking economy, his Teflon is wearing thin. Chronic blackouts and water shortages are darkening industries and forcing homes to ration electricity and baths. Inflation is 30 percent a year, the worst rate in Latin America, and despite an official price freeze, economists say it could double this year. Crime is soaring, with the murder rate tripling under Chávez. Discontent is rising, too.

Once hailed as a redeemer by the poor, Chávez has seen his approval ratings plunge below 50 percent. A year ago, two thirds of Venezuelans were upbeat about their country. Now the same number see the country in decline, says pollster Luis Vicente León. That may not be enough to topple Chávez, whose mandate ends in 2012. Like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe or Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, he has twisted the rules of democracy—and controls enough cash, media, guns, and institutional clout to cling to power and crush any perceived threat, no matter how absurd. (Chávez recently banned Sony PlayStations and Barbie dolls as imperialist tools, and denounced Twitter as a vehicle for terrorists.) But the gathering turmoil in this nation of 29 million is like nothing the Bolivarian Republic has ever seen. Chávez's controversial project to build and spread 21st-century socialism may already be over.

The end is unlikely to be pretty. After independent channel RCTV declined to air a presidential speech late last month, Chávez ordered cable operators to drop the popular station's programming. Immediately, protests erupted nationwide, killing two and injuring dozens. Tear gas choked downtown Caracas. Undaunted protestors vowed to keep marching. "Keep this up and you will force me to take radical measures," warned Chávez in a nationwide broadcast.

This was not how the Bolivarian revolution was to play out. When Chávez launched it in 1999, he promised to wrest Venezuela's vast oil wealth from gringos and the rapacious elite to fuel 21st-century socialism, which would turn power over to indigenous people and the forgotten poor. And Venezuela would be just the beginning. With mythic Latin American liberator Simón Bolívar as his patron saint, Chávez set out to export the "Bolivarian alternative"—rejecting neoliberalism and the long shadow of the United States—throughout the hemisphere, and perhaps beyond. For a time, the new bolívarianismo stirred hearts across the Andes and in Central America.
Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua formally signed on to the Chávez pact. Cuba and a few more islands in the Caribbean followed.

Now the ballyhooed Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean has stalled. The first blow was the world economic crisis, which gutted oil prices and depleted the Chávista war chest that proved so useful in showering money on the slums, keeping cronies happy, and buying sympathy abroad. Then Chávez allies began angling to extend their terms in power, as he had. A turning point came in Honduras, where efforts by a Chávez ally, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, to hold an illegal referendum in the hope of extending his mandate ran afoul of the Supreme Court, the Congress, and finally the armed forces, which ousted him at gunpoint. At first the world diplomatic community joined Chávez in decrying what looked like an old-fashioned coup d'état—but most Hondurans wanted no part of Chávismo. Last November they elected a new anti-Chávez president, Porfirio Lobo.

Now a handful of nations, including the U.S. and Costa Rica, have recognized the new government in Honduras, while Zelaya has quietly departed for voluntary exile in the Dominican Republic. Chávez is increasingly isolated in the hemisphere. Even card-carrying lefties like Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Peru's Alan García have snubbed Chávez's vision and embraced what Chilean President-elect Sebastián Piñera, a conservative, has called "democracy, rule of law, freedom of expression, alternation of power without caudillismo."

Don't count Chávez out yet. Oil prices are rising, and his opposition is in disarray. But 21st-century socialism has lost its allure. WHOEVER WORKS FOR A REVOLUTION IS PLOWING THE SEA, reads Bolívar's gravestone, reflecting the liberator's despair over his ultimately failed mission. It's a lesson Chávez might keep in mind.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution

Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution - New Crisis Group briefing
Essential reading.


Venezuela: Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution

Bogotá/Brussels, 5 November 2009: Against the spirit of the constitution, President Hugo Chávez is accelerating his “Bolivarian Revolution” by implementing radical laws that affect basic rights and liberties and thwart the political opposition’s fair chances in the December 2010 legislative elections.
Venezuela: Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution,* the latest update briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines how in 2009 the Chávez government has progressively abandoned core liberal democracy principles guaranteed under the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The executive has increased its power and provoked unrest internally by further politicising the armed forces and the oil sector.
It is exercising mounting influence over the electoral authorities, the legislative and judicial branches of power and other state entities.
“The December 2010 legislative elections promise to further polarise an already seriously divided country”, says Nicolás Letts, Crisis Group’s Colombia/Andes Analyst. “Unresolved social and mounting economic problems are generating tensions that exacerbate the risk of political violence”.

The government’s lack of capacity to correct serious deficiencies in the management of the state is provoking increasing social protest. The continued targeting of the political opposition and the mass media, coupled with growing economic, security and social problems, are deepening discontent. The opposition, which continues to be divided, is challenging Chávez through democratic means. However, it may in the future look to more violent alternatives for confronting him, if his government continues to shut off space for participation and restrict critics from expressing their views through democratic mechanisms.
Society at large is experiencing critical levels of insecurity and stark deficiencies in basic public services.
Tense relations with Colombia may take a toll on the president’s popularity at home.
While Chávez’s bellicose rhetoric towards Colombia is unlikely to elicit an armed reaction, it does
stimulate the potential for mounting trouble along the border. “Ten years of ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ have failed to produce significant and sustainable improvements in the living conditions of the poorer segments of society”, says Markus Schultze-Kraft, Crisis Group’s Latin America Program Director. “Chávez has proved to be a poor manager, with difficulties to administer the vast state apparatus he has created and cater for citizens’ legitimate demands”.

*Read the full Crisis Group briefing on our website:
Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1602
To contact Crisis Group media please click here

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

10 lessons we can learn from the rise of The Nasis

We have to learn from history........ always.
vdebate reporter

10 Lessons We Can Learn From The Rise Of The Nazis
by John Hawkins

Hitler did not rise out of a vacuum: Many people assume that another Hitler can rise up in any nation, but that's not necessarily so. Hitler's rise in Germany was not a forgone conclusion in Germany, but there were a number of conditions that made that country especially susceptible to it.
The Germans were a warlike people who were used to capitulating to authority and they had a long, rich philosophical bent towards hatred of the Jews and racial superiority. They also had minimal experience with democracy, a terrible economic crisis, the Versailles Treaty, which was an almost universally despised boot placed upon the nation's neck, and an independent military that played a powerful role in political affairs. Some nations, the United States included, have a character that simply precludes their being run by a "Hitler," no matter what the intentions of a leader may be.

All it takes for evil to win is for good men to do nothing: Many people are aware that Britain, France, Russia, and the other powers of Europe had the opportunity to stop Hitler, but the truth is that the German people had countless chances to do so as well.
When Hitler became Chancellor, the Nazi Party had never captured more than 37% of the vote and much of the rest of Germany considered them to be frightening gutter trash. In other words, 63% of the country didn't support Hitler and strongly suspected he was a dangerous man; yet they made no serious effort to stop him. On numerous occasions, Germany's political and military establishment were given excuses and openings that could have been used to bring Hitler down before he came to power and brought the nation fully under his control. Time and time again, people who knew better simply stayed quiet or decided to step aside rather than take a stand. The price Germany and the rest of the world paid for their failure to act is incalculable.
Take even non-reasonable claims seriously: Margaret Thatcher once said,
"It is one of the great weaknesses of reasonable men and women that they imagine that projects which fly in the face of commonsense are not serious or being seriously undertaken."
Hitler was not shy about telling people what he intended to do when he reached power. The first volume of Hitler's book Mein Kampf, which included a very rough blueprint of his plans, came out in 1925. Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and he swallowed Austria in 1938. Had Europe's leaders simply taken Hitler at his word about what he wanted to do and acted appropriately, he would have been squashed like a bug and humankind would have been spared another world war.
Watch what people do more than what they say: This one may seem to be a bit of a contradiction with the last one, so let me explain.
Surprisingly often, people with bad intentions will tell their followers exactly what they intend to do and then, when confronted by a power that could potentially stop them, whether it be another nation or just the voters who can put them out of office, they will simply lie.
So, if you're not sure what a nation or a leader truly intends, pay more intention to what they do than what they say. It takes a true fool to believe words over actions, but such fools were not in short supply during Hitler's day, nor are they uncommon today.
Diplomacy for its own sake is useless: There was no shortage of diplomacy between Hitler, his victims, and the great powers of the day. The problem was then, as it often is now, that so many people seemed to believe that diplomacy was an end unto itself. Hitler happily met with the representatives from other nations and either bullied them or told them what they wanted to hear. Then, he promptly did whatever he intended to do in the first place. That's why talk alone is meaningless and can even be detrimental if people mistake merely conversing for progress. If you have no carrots and sticks to bring to the table in order to produce the outcome you want, you are wasting your time.
Appeasement is a mistake: When you reward a behavior, it usually occurs more often. So, when a belligerent nation or group benefits from its belligerence, it should surprise no one when it continues to be belligerent. That principle applied to Hitler and it most certainly still applies today.
The mediocrity of political "leaders:" We have a tendency to believe that our political leaders are much better, smarter, and more capable than the average person. In some cases, that's true -- but today, as in Hitler's day, men like Churchill were rare as hens’ teeth while shortsighted, gullible, and foolish "leaders" were the rule. Those who are deeply skeptical of the competence and claims of their political leaders will find that history is almost always on their side.
Be very wary of people building power outside the rule of law: In 1923, Hitler tried to take over Germany with the poorly executed Beer Hall Putsch. Despite the fact that Hitler was convicted of High Treason, a sympathetic judge sentenced him to a mere five years, of which he only served nine months. Additionally, Hitler's own private army, the Brownshirts & the SS, assaulted his enemies, disrupted their political gatherings, and generally paved the way for his rise to power. This is an example of why allowing certain political groups and parties to be "above the law" can be a great threat to democracy.
There are things worse than war: More than 400 years before the rise of Hitler, Machiavelli wrote:
"One should never allow chaos to develop in order to avoid going to war, because one does not avoid a war but instead puts it off to his disadvantage."Had Britain and France acted when Hitler sent his troops into the Rhineland, threatened Austria, or even Czechoslovakia -- they could have stopped Hitler at little cost. While it's wise to fear war, it's better to go to war to eliminate a small danger than to allow it to metastasize into a dire threat to your way of life and simply hope against hope that you won't have to deal with it one day.
Everybody's not "another Hitler:" Know who's not another Hitler? Pretty much everybody who ever lived except for Adolph Hitler. Maybe you could get away with referring to Stalin or even Pol Pot as "another Hitler," but some off-hand comment in a speech or a policy people disagree with doesn't make a politician "another Hitler." Likewise, a 70 year old guy who gets testy with his congressman at a town hall meeting isn't a "Brownshirt" either. American politics could do with quite a bit less "You're a Nazi" rhetoric being tossed around by both sides.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The corruption of democracy in Venezuela‏