Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hugo Chavez's presidential Strikeout

Hugo Chavez's presidential strikeout

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

VENEZUELAN STRONGMAN Hugo Chávez is having a bad month. He's been forced to devalue the currency and impose nationwide power cuts, steps that will worsen a serious recession and Latin America's highest inflation. The U.S.-led humanitarian intervention in Haiti has undercut his propaganda about an evil American "empire." As his baseball-crazy country watches its annual championship series, a new slogan has gone viral: "Chávez -- You Struck Out."

So it should surprise no one that Mr. Chávez has taken new steps to tighten his authoritarian grip. On Sunday, without so much as a hint of due process, his government ordered cable systems to drop six television channels -- including RCTV, the country's oldest and long its most popular station. The alleged offense was failing to broadcast Mr. Chávez's live speeches -- of which there have been more than 140 in the past year alone, lasting up to seven hours each.

This is not the first attack on RCTV, which produces Venezuela's most popular entertainment programming as well as news programs with an opposition bent. In 2007, Mr. Chávez ordered the channel off the public airwaves, also without the due process nominally required by law. That action prompted the birth of a student movement that under the slogans of free speech and democracy helped defeat the caudillo's attempt to rewrite the constitution, and propelled opposition candidates to victory in Caracas and other major cities and states last year.

The students have returned to the streets of Caracas and at least four other cities this week, with violent results -- two were killed and dozens injured in the town of Merida in clashes with security forces and pro-regime thugs. On Tuesday, Mr. Chávez's vice president and defense minister resigned, along with the environment minister. International criticism is raining down on his government, most of it considerably stronger than the milquetoast reaction of the State Department, which observed that "any time the government shuts down an independent network, that is an area of concern."

Mr. Chávez may calculate that all the turmoil is worth it. Later this year, an election for the National Assembly is due, and what is now a rubber-stamp body could fall into the hands of the opposition if the vote is free and fair. The currency devaluation will, at least, allow Mr. Chávez to spend far more in the domestic market in the coming months; the attack on RCTV will eliminate a major opposition platform. The student protests may provide a pretext to arrest key organizers, or even to declare an emergency and put off the elections.

If Mr. Chávez were a right-wing leader or an ally of the United States, Latin American governments and many Democrats in Congress would be mobilizing to stop his latest abuse of power, and to encourage peaceful and democratic opposition. But he is not, and they are mostly silent. The Obama administration, too, has done next to nothing to defend democracy or encourage the opposition in Venezuela. Now -- when Chávez's regime threatens to disintegrate into chaos and violence -- would be a good time to start.

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PMBComments | US Senate Committee Staff Weighs in on Insulza's Mess at the OAS

I think that Insulza has done nothing on the favor of Venezuelans. The situation in Venezuela have gone worse. I want the new Chilean presiden: Mr. Pinera kick him out of the OAS, he also has a strikeout.
vdebate reporter
PMBComments Attached you will find the US Senate report (drafted by Republican Staff of the very important Committee on Foreign Relations) titled "Multilateralism in the Americas: Let's Start by Fixing the OAS" that is the subject of the following Miami Herald and La Nación (Argentina) stories (read below).


Not that many people in the world, or even in our hemisphere, care for the OAS, an organization that has become disjointed and inconsistent under the leadership of its seemingly cowered Secretary General El Panzer (1), Jose Miguel Insulza. Nevertheless the study is brief enough to be worth a read by those of us who instinctively believe in the power, or the ultimate need, of multilateral mechanisms.

The conclusions of the report are reasonable and should be implemented ASAP. In addition to the need to focus SERIOUSLY on democracy and human rights, it calls for improved financial controls, and it ends chastising Insulza for his selective actions on behalf of democracy in the region it (highlights - as I have done on previous PMBComments - his repeated blunders in Honduras, his cowardly silence on Nicaragua and Venezuela, and his obsession with playing domestic politics in his native Chile). The report ends with a call to the member states to get their collective act in shape and worry about the kind of leadership that they elect on March 24th. While not calling outright for Mr. Insulza to abandon his hopes for a second term it states that his first term was a real disappointment.

Will this report hurt Insulza as the Miami Herald implies? Who knows? Countries - actually governments - like Brazil, that are die hard supporters of both Hugo Chávez and a weak OAS might actually redouble their efforts to give El Panzer 5 more years to graze in DC. Chileans - outgoing and incoming - might rally around him even though his misdeeds have lessened the country's well deserved influence and moral standing in the region. An then we have Venezuela which seems intent on a now farcical candidacy of its own making (let's remember Insulza was their darling in 2005. many still wonder why that was the case; What did Chávez and his acolytes know about Insulza that gave them comfort to have him at the helm of the OAS?). Putting these, and other considerations and calculations aside, it would benefit the OAS that Insulza does not push his luck and further traumatize the organization by pursuing a reelection he has most definitely not earned. PMB

(1) According to a top Chilean political analyst, Insulza loves the moniker El Panzer, which would seem to denote ruthless strength as in German tank, or armored military force, but in fact the this Congressional report highlights his sloppy management of the organization and his less than forceful resolve when it comes to facing the thugs that are really bullying democracy in the region. You can see the joy when he insults Honduras' Roberto Micheletti, and we have all witnessed his less than muscular response to Hugo Chávez 24/7 shenanigans. There is no panzer there.

Miami Herald
Congressional report could hurt OAS leader's reelection efforts


The head of the Organization of American States' campaign to win reelection took a hit Tuesday from a report complaining the OAS has failed to stop elected presidents from eroding democracy in the region.

``Given the challenges described in this report, no reelection should be rushed or rubber stamped,'' the U.S. congressional staff report said. ``Any reelection should involve a deliberative evaluation of the incumbent's first term in office.''

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, a Chilean socialist whose five-year-term ends in May, has said he wants to be relected, and so far is the only candidate. The 34-nation OAS is scheduled to vote Wednesday on holding the election in March.

But the report's withering criticism of the OAS and his performance may bolster opposition to Insulza's candidacy. Some Obama administration officials view him as too soft on leftists such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Washington provides 37 percent of the OAS' total budget.

Commissioned by Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the report was written by Carl Meacham, his senior staffer on the committee.

The report noted the OAS acted decisively when a military coup briefly toppled Chávez in 2002 and when Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted and expelled from the country last summer. The organization also is strong on election monitoring, cooperation on counter-drug and counter-terrorism and the protection of human rights.

But the hemispheric body did little as Chávez and Zelaya slowly undermined democracy in their respective countries, the report added, arguing that those maneuverings in essence sparked the efforts to topple the two presidents.

``In both cases the OAS reacted forcefully to the [presidents' ousters] . . . yet it had demonstrably failed to respond to the erosion of democratic institutions by elected presidents that preceded the coups,'' it noted.

The report also said Insulza's strong support for Zelaya following his ouster complicated efforts to resolve the crisis, and that the OAS has failed to act as Chávez cracks down the Venezuelan news media and as Nicaraguans complain of massive fraud in elections last year.

The OAS also faces a $9.6 million budget shortfall in 2011, the report added, and will have to either raise members' contributions or tighten its belt and cut back on activities, the report added.

``The OAS requires a renewed effort to make it effective and financially solvent in the coming decade,'' Lugar wrote in a letter submitting the report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Insulza, a former interior and foreign minister in Chile's socialist governments, was elected secretary general in 2005 after a string of 17-17 votes against the U.S.-backed candidate, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.

Washington helped break the stalemate by throwing its support behind Insulza after he publicly promised to make the OAS a strong protector of democracy in the region, specifically mentioning Venezuela and Cuba.

His reelection prospects were complicated earlier this month when Chileans elected center-right candidate Sebastian Piñera as their next president. Without his own country's endorsement, Insulza's chances for reelections would be diminished.

Piñera has not yet said whether he will support Insulza, who campaigned for the center-left candidate in the presidential race, Eduardo Frei.

La OEA, en la mira del Congreso de EE.UU.

Críticas a Insulza en un informe republicano
Martes 26 de enero de 2010 Publicado en edición impresa

WASHINGTON (De nuestra corresponsal).- La crisis de Honduras parece haber sido el disparador. Pero lo cierto es que, tras meses de marchas y contramarchas, la habilidad de la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) para intervenir en crisis institucionales está en la mira en esta ciudad. Parte del descontento apunta contra su titular, el chileno José Miguel Insulza.

"La OEA tiene que resolver una cuestión crucial de liderazgo. El secretario Insulza no ha cumplido con las promesas que hizo al asumir y, por la salud de la institución, es conveniente que los países miembros consideren las condiciones que debe tener su titular y no den por garantizada ninguna reelección", dice un durísimo informe del Congreso norteamericano.

Titulado "Multilateralismo en América. Empecemos por arreglar la OEA", el documento , al que tuvo acceso LA NACION, fue elaborado por la oficina del senador republicano Richard Lugar, uno de los hombres más influyentes en la Comisión de Relaciones Exteriores del cuerpo.

De 27 páginas, el informe, sumamente crítico sobre la situación de la OEA y la gestión de su actual titular, será formalmente difundido en los próximos días.

Si bien destaca la trascendencia de la organización americana, el documento pone en duda su eficacia a la hora de trabajar en la promoción de la democracia en la región.

"Tiende a reaccionar cuando hay una situación clara de golpe de Estado, pero no cuando hay un deterioro gradual de la democracia por culpa de gobiernos que abusan de sus poderes constitucionales", subraya.

También señala la grave crisis financiera que atraviesa la organización, con dinero siempre insuficiente, lo que se traduce en incapacidad real para operar. Estados Unidos es el país que carga con la mayor parte del sostén económico de la entidad. Y a la luz de los refuerzos presupuestarios que deberían hacerse, el impacto del informe podría ser crucial.

La nota es especialmente crítica en lo que se refiere al manejo de la organización y de su secretario general en la reciente crisis de Honduras, donde, entre otros puntos, reprocha la falta de capacidad para lograr "un compromiso" entre las dos partes en juego. Y el hecho de que esa incapacidad motivara la intervención de otros actores internacionales.

En el tramo final, el texto carga especialmente contra Insulza, a quien cuestiona por haber estado "más atento al destino político de Chile", con una situación especialmente complicada en lo personal por haberse manifestado "públicamente" a favor del derrotado aspirante Eduardo Frei.

En el informe se acusa a Insulza de aplicar una "política selectiva de defensa de la democracia", en referencia a las situaciones en Venezuela y Honduras. "La asociación del secretario general con el abortado intento de retorno del presidente Manuel Zelaya, el 5 de julio, dañó seriamente la imagen de la OEA como un agente honesto", afirma.

"Desafortunadamente, la OEA está fallando en su misión. Hoy por hoy, si más gobiernos del hemisferio se vuelven poco democráticos, la OEA será aún menos capaz de reforzar, colectivamente, los procedimientos para reforzar la democracia", afirma el texto, que lleva como carta de presentación una nota firmada por el senador Lugar.

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