WHO IS HUGO CHAVEZ? RUTH KING FROM 2009
Hugo is very, very ill. Recent reports about Venezuela’s election confirm that his party won huge majorities notwithstanding his failing health. So before he slips his mortal coils and the media convulses in a collective shiva and encomia….here is a reminder of his life and rule.
Exclusive: What Is It About Hugo that Charms Obama?
Most Latin American tin pot dictators appear on the scene, promise great reform, ascend to power and abuse it. The Perons of Argentina, Stroessner of Paraguay, Gregorio Alvarez of Uruguay, Gabriel Moreno of Ecuador, and Augusto Pinochet of Chile, were brutal, authoritarian and corrupt but their influence and ambition stopped at their nations’ borders.
Chávez is another story. He is more akin to Fidel Castro, whom he calls his inspiration, along with Noam Chomsky and Che Guevara. Castro’s armies were proxies for his Soviet sponsors as far afield as Angola and Mozambique and in 1962 Castro and the Soviet governments hatched a plan to place nuclear missiles ninety miles from our shore in Cuba, provoking one of the major confrontations of the Cold War.
Chávez has not strayed from our hemisphere but casts a wide net throughout South America, thumbing his nose at the United States in the company of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, the other “socialist revolutionaries.” They are the three stooges of the “Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas” alliance formed in June 2009.
For good measure, Correa and Chávez control huge oil deposits and are the only non-Muslim members of OPEC and enthusiastic participants in price manipulations and blackmail. Venezuela has huge oil reserves but unlike the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the citizens of Venezuela are poor and desperate. A gallon of potable water is far more expensive than a gallon of oil, but the cars and machinery are broken down hulks.
Evo Morales is a clown who loves to be photographed shining shoes, promoting cocaine use and extolling the praises of Che Guevara who died in Bolivia. However, Bolivia has the world’s largest lithium and tin deposits critical for world production of batteries and construction.
All three support Iran and voice strong verbal support for al Qaeda surrogates Hamas and Hezbollah.
Who is Hugo Chávez?
Hugo Rafael Chávez was born in 1954 in a town named Sabaneta. His parents Hugo and Elena Frias were schoolteachers. He is of mixed descent-African, and Spanish. At an early age he was sent to live with his paternal grandmother Rosa Chávez, who ushered him through his elementary education.
After completing high school he enrolled in the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences, graduated with a degree in Arts and Science and the rather unimpressive rank of sub-lieutenant. After a brief foray in Caracas University, which did not culminate in any degree, he returned to the active military where he served for 17 years with many posts and staff positions including teaching at the Academy of Military Sciences. His records from university are unavailable…..lost, it seems.
Chávez, was proficient in sports and almost made it to the finals in the Venezuelan National Baseball Championships. His career was unremarkable for anything other than loud and fiery speeches denouncing Venezuela’s government fraud and corruption. He established a leftist, quasi Marxist, crackpot Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement, known as MBR.
In 1992 Chávez and his “Bolivarian” cohorts, who actually had little influence and few followers among the military, planned a military coup d’etat against the Presidency of Carlos Perez, a crook and tyrant. It was a disaster riddled with betrayals, defections and errors. Soon after, Chávez turned himself into the police and issued a broadcast apology and plea for an end to hostilities. He accepted a jail sentence of two years.
In a nation with a tanking economy in spite of one of the world’s great oil reserves, and a public distrust of government’s theft and repressions, his prestige rose when he remained defiant even after a two year stint in jail. In 1994 he was officially pardoned and he regrouped his “reform” movement naming it the “Fifth Republic Movement” and by early 1998 he began an unlikely quest for the presidency. He promised an agenda of “esperanza y cambio”…. hope and change and a new republic free of patronage, bribery, corruption and a new constitution.
Although relatively unknown and behind in the earliest polling, his populist appeal resonated with a public longing for real change. By December 5, 1998 he won 56 percent of the votes. There were accusations of voter intimidation and fraud but there was no recount and he was inaugurated.
His constitutional assembly did draft a document which guaranteed term limits, established a right for a recall of any elected official with a petition from 20 percent of the population, established merit based judiciary, and a group of “public defenders”…a form of solicitors general to monitor government abuse.
Chávez flouted every relevant paragraph. He dismissed judges and “public defenders” and replaced them with his Bolivarian cronies who act as spies and thugs; he abolished term limits, bypassed all existing restraints on presidential powers. He embarked on systematic appropriation of industry, communications, electric, and construction materials such as steel and cement. He nationalized all oil reserves and expropriated farms and woodland. He has shut down opposition media and enacted law making criticism or parody of his government a felony.
He survived a coup in 2002 which lasted all of 47 hours and in 2004, his stacked court was able to overturn a constitutionally sanctioned petition signed by millions calling for his ouster.
In a reversal of the old saw about Latin hospitality, “mi casa es su casa” (my home is your home), Chávez made it “su casa es mi casa” by forced expropriation of property and land, defending this policy by declaring “land is never private but always the property of the state.” These land and farm “redistributions” have reduced the incentives for production….and meat, flour and fruits and vegetables are extremely scarce in a nation once self-sufficient in food production.
Chávez has organized the “Bolivarian Circles” a forum of community organizers who decide how to spend the government allowance for “social development.” They dole out funds for “neighborhood beautification,” mass mobilization of voters, support (read: selective protection) to small businesses, and provide basic social services. They also dip their own hands into the kitty for spying on the locals they purport to help.
The Venezuelan public despises him. I visited Venezuela in 2006 and 2007. He is called “pig” openly and described in colorful anatomical terms. In the election of 2006 there were credible reports of irregularities and fraud, but the indefatigable Jimmy Carter certified it and that was that.
What Carter missed is Hugo’s “Tascon List,” which identifies millions of Venezuelans opposed to his rule who petitioned in 2004 for his ousting. They have been subjected to loss of jobs and benefits and intimidation and were unlikely to vote against him for fear of reprisals.
During his term, Chávez has been awarded dozens of honorary degrees…and some are amusing:
- Honorary Doctorate – Granted by the Academy of Diplomacy of the Ministry of External Affairs of Russia in 2001.
- Honorary Doctorate in Economics – Granted by the Faculty of Economics and Commerce of Beijing University in May 2001.
In a list compiled by the magazine New Statesman in 2006, he was voted eleventh in the list of “Heroes of our time” and in 2006 he was Time Magazine’s“Man of the Year.”
He is said to suffer from bouts of depression. More commonly witnessed are his bouts of oppression. He taunts and threatens Venezuela’s tiny Jewish minority and echoes Ahmadinejad’s crude anti-Semitism stopping short only in calling for genocide. From the start of his rule he has been a strident enemy of Israel but in 2004, when his friendship with Ahmadinejad blossomed, he found a convenient target in the vulnerable Jewish community. Calling Jews the killers of Christ, he incites gangs to sport Nazi insignia and vandalize and torch Jewish homes, community centers, businesses and schools. These attacks have grown in number and ferocity during the past six months and he recently expelled Israel’s ambassador.
While theories abound, the most likely reason for these racist Chávez sponsored outbursts against Jews is his growing alliance with Iran. Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote in the Wall Street Journal on January 16th, 2006: “The warmth and moral support between Ahmadinejad and Chávez is very public. The two tyrants are a lot more than just pen pals. Venezuela has made it clear that it backs Iran’s nuclear ambitions and embraces the mullahs’ hateful anti-Semitism. What remains more speculative is just how far along Iran is in putting down roots in Venezuela.”
Hugo Chávez staunchly defended President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent “election.” While he rants about “Israeli genocide against civilians” there is not a peep about the brutal crackdown on dissidents in Iran. And Ahmadinejad who has traveled to Venezuela several times returns the compliment calling Chávez “the champion, the leader of the struggle against imperialism.”
There are many examples of Chávez slipping his mental coil:
At the UN in March 2007 Chávez compared President Bush to the devil…in his own lofty words: “The devil came here yesterday. Right here … it smells of sulphur still today.
It was almost mild compared to his insult on September 2006 when he told the American President : “You are a donkey, Mr. Danger.”
On Septembr 12th 2006, he announced that it was very likely that the United States was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
Moved by claims that it will help the metabolism and productivity of his fellow citizens, President Hugo Chávez said clocks would be moved forward by half an hour at the start of 2008. He announced the change on his Sunday television program, accompanied by his highest-ranking science adviser, Héctor Navarro, the minister of science and technology. “This is about the metabolic effect, where the human brain is conditioned by sunlight,” Mr. Navarro said.
Well, the guy just wants to be ahead of his time.
Clearly he is a cur, generally despised by the civilized world. While Castro in his early years affected a certain “simpatico” dash, Chávez is like a toad without the charm. But President Obama who has never said a deprecatory word about Chavez gave him a warm handshake at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad this past April. More recently, President Obama has overtly backed Chávez’s support for the deposed tyrant of Honduras who sought to reverse all civil rights and trash the constitution of the citizens of Honduras.
Is it the vast oil reserves? Is it his script for imposing socialism in the guise of “change?”
Is it the phony “revolution”? Is it his cunning grab of absolute power? Is it Obama’s romance with anti-Western tyrants? Is it the fact that Obama considers an election of a leftist everywhere in the world to be sacrosanct? Is it a search for a new alliance of Third World nations?
It’s hard to tell if it is some or all of the above, but one thing is certain. They are both unlikely and populist candidates and they both won elections by a surprising majority. Steve Chapman the writer and columnist for the Chicago Tribune warned
in a column “History Repeating as Farce” in 2007:
A phony revolution may nonetheless be a durable one. If the Venezuelans who go to the polls give Chávez what he wants, they are likely to discover a paradox: They can bring about dictatorship through democracy, but not the reverse.
Now there’s a sobering thought.
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