Friday, January 12, 2007 at 10:47 AM
Since his landslide reelection last month, however, Chavez has demonstrated – not only to foreign companies doing business in his country, but also to foreign governments throughout the Americas – that he intends to use his dictatorial powers at home, and unprecedented influence abroad, to execute his Bolivarian socialist revolution…without question and with dispatch. And this, alas, has apparently come as a rude awakening to many of his erstwhile fans and enablers (and even a few acolytes).
All of those sectors that in an area so important and strategic for all of us as is electricity – all of that which was privatized, let it be nationalized.” [Chavez in a speech after swearing in his new Cabinet ministers]
But no one should be surprised that Chavez is moving so aggressively to nationalize the key sectors of Venezuela’s economy. Nor should anyone be surprised that he is emulating his mentor Fidel Castro by squashing political dissent (e.g. by refusing to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television because he deemed their criticism of his policies “treasonous”).
After all, regardless of what one thinks about his form, in substance, Chavez must rank as the most honest national leader on the world stage today. Because no dictator has ever subjected himself to free and fair elections – during which he made plain his intent to wield dictatorial powers – and won as clear a mandate as Chavez did to implement his socialist agenda.
On the other hand, I can appreciate the shock and awe Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza of Chile, is suffering after Chavez called him a “meddlesome…asshole” on Monday, and then demanded his resignation. But even in this regard, outrage over Chavez’s behavior is unwarranted.
After all – as I chronicled in a previous column entitled “America’s shrinking sphere of influence throughout the Americas” – in his first regional proxy fight with U.S. President George W. Bush, Chavez won a spectacular victory by outmaneuvering Bush and his candidate to effectively appoint Insulza as secretary general. Therefore, one can certainly understand why Chavez is more than a little annoyed that Insulza dared to criticize him publicly as follows:
…the shutdown of a mass media outlet is a very rare incident … unprecedented in decades of democracy…[Chavez’s move smacked of] censorship against freedom of speech.
But, just as any government minister should expect to be fired if he openly criticizes the policies of the leader who appointed him, so too should Insulza have expected Chavez to react as he has.
More important, however, if my admonitions to regional leaders – in another column entitled “PetroCaribe: let’s look this gift horse in the mouth” – about the perils of being indebted to Chavez were not cautionary enough, then the wrath Chavez will surely unleash against Insulza should prove most instructive.
But, you play with fire…; bargain with el diablo…(Get the point?!)