Chavez: A 21st Century Castro
As a citizen of the United States and the world, I am very concerned with the trends I am seeing in Venezuela. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez seems to be belligering the public into giving him more power:
When President Hugo Chávez first asked Venezuelans to eliminate presidential term limits in December 2007, they told him no. But on Sunday, as if resigned to the idea that he would keep on asking until he got the answer he wanted, voters said yes. Venezuela’s second constitutional referendum in 14 months was approved by a resounding 54% to 45% margin, allowing Chávez to run for a third six-year term in 2012 and perhaps others after that.
It is very difficult for a straight up despot to create support in today’s societies. Dictatorships like North Korea, Zimbabwe and Burma are being squeezed by the international community. In order to create support within the western world, one has to appeal towards liberal populist sentiment and mask one’s authoritarianism under claims of economic self-determination and quasi-democracy, all of which Chavez is doing.
These are worrying signs for any lover of freedom and pluralism. Chavez seems to be building a modern day replication of Castro’s Cuba, in an era when communism was supposed to be in the dustbins of history. What is happening in Venezuela spells the same outcome wherever it occurs in the world. Chavez is building himself up as a 21st century authoritarian, and we should stop beating around the bush about what he is. Chavez has already had power for a decade, longer than I personally believe any one man should be in power of any country.
A good start would be for President Obama to step away from the far left within his party and condemn Chavez’s power grabs. While Obama should continue to repudiate neoconservative doctrines of democracy by force, he should continue the American policy of democracy promotion. It would also help to assert that, even in a time of economic peril in which American policy has shifted towards large degrees of social welfare, the United States does not support socialist authoritarianism.