Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hugo Chávez, Dictator in Training

He's not quite as ambitious as Turkmenistan's President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov, who has elevated himself to the status of a god, but Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a persistent thorn in the side of President George W. Bush, is asking voters for a 25-year term.

President Bush's reign offers ample reason for Venezuelans to give Chávez's request a resounding no vote. Bush once held 90% favorable ratings among American voters, but is now about as popular as a pork butcher at a kosher vegetarian convention. Furthermore, Bush is doing as much as he can to dismantle the democratic foundation of U.S. politics, even with only 8 years in office. Does anyone really believe that Chávez — and those in his government — will be able to resist that temptation for 25 years?

Indeed, I personally believe that the mere fact that Chávez asked for a 25-year term is ample reason to remove him from office immediately and bar him from ever running again. He is a traitor to the Venezuelan people, so kick him to the curb.

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Update: The press reports on which this article was based have been demonstrated to be factually inaccurate and politically biased, even though I scanned through not only the U.S. English-language press, but also some Spanish-language sources south of the border. Current Venezuelan law permits the President to run for a second 6-year term, but then he is termed out. Chávez is proposing that — if the opposition parties do not run a candidate — he should be permitted to run for re-election to additional 6-year terms of office, not a single 25-year term. The backdrop is that the opposition has attempted to delegitimize Venezuelan elections by boycotting or otherwise tainting them in the view of the world community. Chávez is essentially playing a "put up or shut up" card [either run a candidate and compete in a fair election, or stop complaining that the MVR, Chávez's party, keeps winning].

Still and all, if the proposal goes beyond the sabre-rattling stage to actually keeping the same President beyond the two-term limit, I would see that as moving far too close to dictatorship, and I would be concerned that Chávez's legacy would be completely overshadowed by an unwise power grab.

Thanks to a reader for bringing the facts to my attention. For additional coverage of the reality of the situation, as opposed to the distorted view that has dominated the headlines, see, for example, You can also read my newer (2006-05-26) blog entry here.