Was the Venezuela coup another Chile 1973?
April 14, 2002 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Was the Venezuela coup another Chile 1973? Two months ago, Narco News called attention to the striking similarities between the situation in Venezuela and CIA plots against leftist Chilean president Salvador Allende in the early 1970s. The CIA's own version of what happened in Chile discusses its "sustained propaganda efforts, including financial support for major news media, against Allende and other Marxists." Hmm. Chavez shut down five private TV stations after they repeatedly aired what he called misleading footage of the protest deaths last week, after months of relentless attacks against his government. Sure makes you wonder.

On another note, did eyewitness accounts widely disseminated over the Web help doom the White House spin that "government supporters, on orders from the Chavez government, fired on unarmed, peaceful protestors"? If the Web didn't exist, would the final word have come from articles like this now out-of-date, pro-business analysis in yesterday's Washington Post?
posted by mediareport (47 comments total)
i get it, its your way of saying hes' back. Good.
posted by clavdivs at 1:09 PM on April 14, 2002

Well, considering that some of the accounts disseminated over the web included video from a rooftop of people snipering a crowd... I'd say it's fairly supportive of the White House's claim. But what do I know.
posted by louie at 1:14 PM on April 14, 2002

The phrase "eyewitness accounts widely disseminated over the Web" caused me to immediately flash on the JFK assassination and the enduring controversy over the official sequence of events. While not to say there'll never be future successful attempts at cover-ups (covers-up?), the Internet has made it an order of magnitude harder for governments to put forth their own spin on events and expect everyone to swallow them meekly.
posted by alumshubby at 1:17 PM on April 14, 2002

Indymedia is not "eyewitness accounts widely disseminated over the Web". It's just indymedia, and you should call it that.
posted by smackfu at 2:15 PM on April 14, 2002

From Wash. Post:
The new government includes many of the dissident officers, who understood the U.S. State Department's repeated statements of concern over the Chavez administration as a tacit endorsement of their plans remove him from office if the opportunity arose.

So, it seems the coup plotters at least believed they had support from the U.S., and the silence from Washington while the coup went on against a democratically elected government speaks volumes.
posted by swell at 2:18 PM on April 14, 2002

i just read this thing that said the rooftop snipers were members of a chavez opposition party and most of the people that died were chavez supporters.
posted by kliuless at 2:28 PM on April 14, 2002

I like how you said he shut down "pirate" TV stations. I didn't know they were pirate, but the fact of the matter is this guy is obviously not someone who values free speech.

Look, there's a lot of stuff on the internet. And I'm sure you could find "Eye witness" reports for just about any conspiracy theory. The fact that something is hosted at indymedia, or this 'counterpunch' site isn't really going to convince me of anything.

It really discusts me the way people let politics get in reality. I'm supposed to trust "eye witness" reports on a unabashedly anti-whatever website like indymeda vs something posted in a legitimate newspaper, the Washington post, because the wp is "pro-business" Yeh, sure.

And lets not forget that "eyewitness" reports are going to be biased, and only cover a small part of what was going on.

Anyway, here is what I know factually about what happened

+Chavez shut down TV stations that disagreed with him. The radical left had a hissyfit when the US government politely asked that American TV stations not show bin-laden pronouncements. (that bothered me too). You should at least try to be non-hypocritical

+Chavez asked the military to fire on protestors, they decided to take him out of power instead. Now, it seems like the military had the best interests of the public in mind here.

+The new president tried to dissolve the house and senate equivalents, and then the military got rid of him. Again, they seem to be acting in the best interests of the people here, too.

+The new president then took office and declared that he would only hold it until Chavez came back.
posted by delmoi at 2:51 PM on April 14, 2002

Chavez asked the military to fire on protestors...

Source that?
posted by riviera at 3:26 PM on April 14, 2002

posted by y2karl at 4:07 PM on April 14, 2002

Condi Rice has warned Chavez that he "needs to respect constitutional processes". Odd thing to say to someone who had just been bounced in a coup. Hope the State Dept is listening -- the US ambassador met with the new foreign minister just hours before Carmona resigned.
posted by nikzhowz at 4:49 PM on April 14, 2002

Good. I am glad we back to the good old leftist/racist old days. The underlying asumption here is that it is uterly impossible for brown locals to actualy dislike their governemt becasue it is corrupt or bad or doesn't serve their needs. It's Washington's/capitalism's/white folks's fault.
Too bad for the Venezuelans! They followed their own naked self intrest by not wanting to be killed. They didn't listen to the right white folks & roll over and die ....
posted by Jos Bleau at 4:58 PM on April 14, 2002

Care to source that, Joe?
posted by y2karl at 5:12 PM on April 14, 2002

are these good ol' days leftist/racist as in pro-left and racist or leftist as in anti-leftist or leftist/racist as in anti-leftist and pro-racist or what the fuck is your dumbass trying to say?
posted by techgnollogic at 5:37 PM on April 14, 2002

1. Smackfu: I saw Gregory Wilbert's account at Z Mag, Counterpunch and a lot of other places. The point is that it spread widely, but you're right, it was one account, so sorry for the exaggeration.

2. Delmoi: The Associated Press, a "legitimate" source by your standards, still uses the word "allegedly" when it runs the accusation against Chavez. If you have better information than AP, feel free to share. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be properly skeptical when the two sources who most want to take Chavez down -- the coup leaders and Bush spokesmodel Ari Fleischer -- also happen to be the source of the charge that he's a murderer.

And what about those shootings of poor people by police on Saturday, when the coup leaders were the ones in control?

3. What makes you think I agree with Chavez' decision to close down the private (not "pirate") TV stations? I think it was his stupidest move, one he probably regrets. But you don't address the accusation that the stations were deliberately distorting the shootings to topple Chavez. And would it change anything in your view if the stations had been getting funding from the CIA? That's exactly what happened in Chile, by the CIA's own admission. Check this interesting report from the counter-revolt: "Broadcasts showed crowds attacking the Radio Caracas and Venevision television stations, which largely avoided covering thousands of Chavez backers converging on the Miraflores presidential palace... 'The television did itself and the Venezuelan people a great disservice by carrying out a news blackout,' said Eric Ekvall, a political analyst in Caracas."

That NYTimes story adds this: "Already angry about Chavez's arrest, victims were further incensed by the fact that private Venezuelan television and radio stations did not report Saturday's disturbances -- or pro-Chavez protests -- in poorer areas such as the slums of western Caracas.

'The local media aren't showing what is happening here. They complained about Chavez ... but they are worse,' said Hector Flores, 52, a chauffeur observing the events at Perez Carreno."

Hard to feel much sympathy for the TV stations.

4. "The military" isn't a monolith in this. Delmoi's favorite paper reports that military troops loyal to Chavez were hugging each other with joy when the end-run around democracy failed. Reuters put it like this: "While many of the top generals turned against him on Thursday and Friday, his supporters had the last laugh as most of their troops remained loyal." AP says it was actually a rebellion by the commander of a strategic air base on Saturday that set the counter-revolt in motion, and a must-read NYTimes article reported that presidential guards waving the flag from the roof of a barracks encouraged the Chavez supporters to keep it up.

5. Louie: No one's disputing that there was shooting; one medical official said that most of the first wounded were shot in the face and head, consistent with gunmen on rooftops. The issue is who shot at whom. Let's hope there's a journalist talking to people at Jóse Maria Vargas Hospital in Caracas, trying to verify if the initial wounded were indeed Chavez supporters, as Wilpert claims. That would be interesting information.
posted by mediareport at 5:41 PM on April 14, 2002

I like how Condoleezza Rice tells Chavez "the whole world is watching."
posted by roboto at 6:06 PM on April 14, 2002

Ok, a purely subjective observation, based on my own observations of numerous Venezuelan friends and acquaintances:

They were celebrating when he was gone, angry and sad upon finding he was back, and are now fearful for friends and family back home.

I do NOT favor military takeovers of civilian governments, even in a case like this, where it seems as if a majority of the population would prefer ANYTHING over the status quo. Now, I don't know anyone from the poorest segments of Venezuelan society, but the people I do know are not rich and are just average people trying to make a living. They consider the man a complete whacko. If the majority of Venezuelans had any idea that his goal was to model their country after Cuba, he would never have been elected.

Hopefully, he's smart enough to get a clue from what's just happened and will change his direction to be more inclusive of the entire society. I'm not counting on it.
posted by groundhog at 6:09 PM on April 14, 2002

Even if we assume that the 14 people killed on Thursday were anit-Chavez protesters, the coup faction proved they were just as capable of killing demonstrators. According to the Independent, 9 pro Chavez demonstrators were shot on Saturday. On the surface, seems to me there is very little moral high ground here for the anti-Chavez crowd to claim.
posted by tdca at 11:37 PM on April 14, 2002

Apologies if my previous post is redundant - mediareport posted similar story above from Associated Press.
posted by tdca at 11:42 PM on April 14, 2002

cite (2nd paragraph)

Btw, some news sources still talk about "Alleged suicide bomber Mohammed Atta". It usually doesn’t mean anything other then the person hasn't been convicted. I'm not saying that we should assume someone is guilty without a trial, but "Alleged" in a newspaper is not really an indication of unknown-ness, but rather conviction in a court of law. That's been my experience anyway.

And who knows, perhaps CNN is wrong.
posted by delmoi at 12:20 AM on April 15, 2002

And what about those shootings of poor people by police on Saturday, when the coup leaders were the ones in control?

Well, obvously the interm people sucked as well, which, I suppose, is why the millitary, realizing their mistake, got rid of him too. (in my intrepretation of the facts)
posted by delmoi at 12:22 AM on April 15, 2002

More here. . .

alumshubby: The conspiracy theories revolving about the assassination of JFK were jerry-rigged and haphazardly speculated upon over decades, each year distancing itself that much further from the fact. Embellishment ensues with or without the web. We're mere days from these events. Though I do agree with you about the speed in which this can occur now with the web as a tool.

delmoi: Private TV stations. Much as Mohammed Atta is qualified as the 'alleged' suicide bomber, the ease at which we jump to conclusions is best tempered with neutral language.

crasspastor: I don't know enough about any of this to speculate. But I sure as hell ain't gonna give up on the web as 'desemminating of eyewitness accounts' just because it's independent and usually by way of that, liberal. For chrissakes it is those very eyewitness accounts which give us any news at all. Should we prefer it all through a corporate, state approved filter first?
posted by crasspastor at 2:00 AM on April 15, 2002

I totally spelled disseminate wrong in my phonetical haste.
posted by crasspastor at 2:06 AM on April 15, 2002

As I research this now, it is appearing to me what a huge story this could be when history sifts it all out. Like WWI started in the most unlikely of ways. It is truly amazing how in the dark we've been kept on this. With the web and all!
posted by crasspastor at 2:18 AM on April 15, 2002

Okay I'm off to bed. But read this guys. Certainly most slanted, but damn if it's not nice to hear the term 'democracy' used as an ideal rather than an 'America: Open for Business' ploy. 'Quip' 4-14-02

I am finished.
posted by crasspastor at 2:28 AM on April 15, 2002

Hearing Chavez celebrated as a democrat is slightly ... at odds with the known record. His curious history began with a 1992 coup attempt against a democratically-elected government, for which he spent several years in jail. His first political campaign was marked by support from leftist rebels in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as Fidel Castro and Moammar Qaddafi. After gaining the presidency, he deepened those ties, citing Libya as a "model of participatory democracy".. In 1999 he visited Beijing and declared "I have always been very Maoist". He became the first elected leader to visit Saddam Hussein in Baghdad [photo]. He has praised 1970s terror icon Carlos the Jackal, who kidnapped many of his OPEC buddies in an infamous hostage incident, by saying "We have a commitment to this citizen" (Venezuela was one of the countries to which he'd fled). In 1999 he first disturbed the military by reinstating many of his 1992 coup buddies (a move which can be speculated to be ultimately behind some of the divisions that became apparent during last week's coup). Once in power, he immediately set about revamping the constitution; whatever else he did for "human rights", he upset a balance that had worked well for nearly four decades, creating a more authoritarian presidency with a longer term for himself. Only after criticism and another crisis in which he tried to guarantee his own office under the 1998 elections until 2013 did he agree to hold new elections, which he won despite allegations of irregularities. Far from being the result of new policies by the Bush administration, his relations with the military were at thier 'lowest point' a mere 19 days after Dubya's inauguration last year, and coup rumors have been rife for at least that long. Growing concerned at legislative interference, he sought emergency decree powers. In a very ominous sign, he started up Bolivarian Circles -- neighborhood revolutionary cells -- loyal only to him. By February of this year, opposition legislators were drawing up a petition to have him declared insane, and by a month ago his approval rating had sunk to 34 percent.

Perhaps his high point was the public-private partnership in relief efforts after devastating floods, but the rest is a mish-mash of antiglobalization rhetoric, palsy-walsy relations with strangely undemocratic characters, toying with the constitution and the balance of the instruments of state, and interference in the prized oil monopoly for political reasons.

The swift and conciliatory return of Chavez to power has even raised questions just the opposite of the discussions that sparked this thread -- that the coup represented a Reichstag event by Chavez himself, to boost his popularity and restore his mandate in the legislature. I can't say -- it sounds no more or less far-fetched than the other theory. It's interesting that the coup of 2002 mapped almost directly to the coup of 1992 in many significant ways, though. (I'm quite curious how he has a 1000s-strong, furiously loyal Presidential Guard, yet was apparently kidnapped without incident by the coup plotters.)

Some links via Hugo Chavez news archive, but sources are passim.
posted by dhartung at 3:29 PM on April 15, 2002 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the links Dan. At your best. ; )
posted by crasspastor at 4:55 PM on April 15, 2002

The swift and conciliatory return of Chavez to power has even raised questions just the opposite of the discussions that sparked this thread -- that the coup represented a Reichstag event by Chavez himself, to boost his popularity and restore his mandate in the legislature. I can't say -- it sounds no more or less far-fetched than the other theory.

Oh, Christ almighty. I call Godwin.
posted by ZippityBuddha at 6:51 PM on April 15, 2002

Maybe he isn't crazy, but by almost all accounts he's a Class I buffoon without a clue how to manage the economy, and his efforts only seem to accelerate the free-fall. He began a habit in 1999 of meeting opposition by threatening states of emergency, which is when the opposition forces first formally requested action by the OAS. Though the constitution "largely drawn up by Chavez himself" lays out strict criteria, the legislature had never defined procedures or powers in such an event. Chavez insisted last summer that the situation was grave enough to warrant extraconstitutional presidential powers -- a situation largely created by his own extirpation of the buying power of the middle class and waves of brain drain and capital flight measured in the billions. When he took over the country, the economy was stable and growing along with other nations in the Latin boom. Only continued high oil prices helped mask this slide.

One provision of that constitution had long troubled advocates of free speech with language permitting the government to prosecute for publishing what it deemed "untruthful" information.

The current crisis clearly has its roots in a package of 49 "revolutionary" decrees that were promulgated by Chavez in November, covering (and angering) broad swaths of the economy. One in particular infuriated the oil industry management and union alike by declaring that all future ventures would be 51% owned by the government, effectively sealing the fate of any foreign investment. None of the decrees were debated in Congress. The opposition movement hatched its plan last year to constitutionally remove Chavez using Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution as revised under Chavez in 1999. By late winter it was assumed Chavez only had 3 months at most before a crisis, a coup, or (remotely) his resignation. Chavez was so angered that the main national labor union supported his ouster that he held up contract renegotiations. The opposition knew months ago that Chavez would not be forced out peacefully and that a coup was probably the only solution. By April, even Western media respected by the left were questioning his viability.

I'm comfortable with the horse we're riding.
posted by dhartung at 7:27 PM on April 15, 2002 [1 favorite]

From leftist alternet, there is this piece, which raises some interesting questions and gets a jab in on 'pivileged' western protesters.

I'm not sure I am comfortable with this horse Dan. From the article:

While Chavez had proven himself no friend of the multi-party state, to call a military coup against a fairly elected president and the dissolution of a constitution a "return to democracy" is more than a bit Orwellian. And if firing on an unarmed crowd is grounds for overthrowing a government, how do we explain U.S. support of Israel, which of late has been firing into Palestinian crowds more or less hourly?

Sure, to reduce it down this way may seem superficially simplistic. But what of the simplism and 'jump of the gun' by the White House as this story unfolded? It does seem to justify some skepticism as to the motives of US leadership. I'm not making any calls here, just speculating. Your dilligence Dan, has made my day. Thanks for all the legwork. Now I just need it all compiled so I can get my mind around this.
posted by crasspastor at 8:29 PM on April 15, 2002

The opposition knew months ago that Chavez would not be forced out peacefully and that a coup was probably the only solution...

Oh yes, good, a "solution". What was the problem again?

I'm not really surprised to see that the opposition is trying to "force out" the government, oppositions have a tendency to try and do that (especially a govt that appears to be attacking some vested interests -- like those of the powerful oil unions for example).

So Dan the solution you are calling for is what the IMF recently and euphemistically called a "regime change"? That is, the ousting by military means of a democratically elected government, the dissolution the legislature, the abolition of the Constitution and sacking Supreme Court?

I suppose perhaps that might also include a little tacit support for soccer stadiums being used as prison camps, the liberal use of kidnapping, torture, execution, disappearances and all the usual stuff that goes with Latin American military coups...

What type of horse are you riding exactly? Well, whatever it stinks.
posted by lagado at 10:55 PM on April 15, 2002

kliuless, dhartung, lagado

Thanks for posting some excellent sources in your comments.

While Chavez would not be my type of candidate, the mainstream economist has even accommodated his return to power, particularly given the string of events that transpired after his initial over-throw. His elected mandate outweighs the economic interests who want him gone. In any event, that's the bottom line for me.
posted by tdca at 11:43 PM on April 15, 2002

It seems as though, as I yet again research this for myself further, that Chavez is trumping the US 'position' on his country because of said Venezualean 'Vast Oil Reserves'. If one were to extrapolate a touch, the next great war could be sparked not by Middle East 'tensions', but rather the extreme defiance Chavez has towards the US and the US not ever to be played second fiddle. This seems to be a powder keg in the making. Chavez has his bargaining chip and apparently popular at that. And one must wonder if this is what may, in ensuing times, thrust us into the fabled Global War. What adversarial country with the cojones and might would stand for the US excercising it's own might over an emerging democracy? How can any friends be made or kept with the US's position on this simmering fiasco? Could the US possibly turn a blind eye to a true socialistic democracy in the making (if that is what this is)? Hell no. I think this has to grow. And we will now make enemies with what Latin American friends we do have. Cuba II. Only this time during the Orwellian-like propaganda of the War on Terrorism. This seems to be horrible news.
posted by crasspastor at 12:02 AM on April 16, 2002

WARNING: DO NOT TRUST DHARTUNG'S CHARACTERIZATIONS OF THE LINKS HE'S POSTED. This is not meant as a defense of Chavez, but as a warning that many of dhartung's spins do not match the content of the links they point to.

Best example: his claim that Chavez "started up Bolivarian Circles -- neighborhood revolutionary cells -- loyal only to him" is directly at odds with the story it allegedly describes. The Post does say, "To a Venezuelan elite that has fallen precipitously from its place of political privilege since Chavez's election three years ago, the circles smack of Cuban-style revolutionary defense committees, designed to ensure fealty to the president's populist agenda." However, it then adds, "But aside from the poster of guerrilla leader Che Guevara on the wall, ideology rarely enters this room...The circle, known as the Bolivarian Movement of Women, has started job training for poor women and sports programs for neighborhood children, and collected thousands of dollars for pressing community medical needs. A loan program is scheduled to begin within weeks."

Here's more: "...[I]n a country where decades of machine-run politics snuffed out civic participation, the act of learning to sew represents a radical and controversial awakening."

A sewing circle? That's a real fierce "revolutionary cell" there, dhartung. Yes, an academic is quoted characterizing the circles as "a few well-organized bands of militants," but the story itself gives examples of groups raising money for playground equipment and bridges, petitioning the president to help a citizen get a prosthetic leg, gathering to find ways to deal with drugs and violence against women, and much more.

Hey, dhartung: did you actually read the article or just skim it and pick out what you wanted to see?

Dhartung also claims that Chavez "praised 1970s terror icon Carlos the Jackal by saying, "We have a commitment to this citizen," but doesn't mention the fact that Carlos was actually born and raised in Venezuela (it wasn't just "one of the countries to which he'd fled"). And the Guardian article adds a second part to the quote: "We have a commitment to this citizen, especially to guarantee that his human rights are respected."

Dhartung also writes, "His first political campaign was marked by support from leftist rebels in Venezuela and Colombia," as if that itself constitutes some sort of indictment. Come on. The situation in Colombia is complex and violent, but there are legitimate grievances the leftists are fighting for, analogous to the situation in the Occupied Territories. It's no surprise someone like Chavez would be aligned with leftist rebels in Colombia, or that a former rebel fighter would want to keep a friendly military presence nearby as he ran for office in a country known for its violent political rallies. Even the article he cites can't put the accusation more strongly than this: "Chavez's alleged links to leftist rebels would be an anomaly in a region where most military officers have traditionally fought Marxism."

Oh my. An anomaly. A pro-marxist politician. And did you say he was a friend of Castro?! Heavens!

I don't know about the rest of you, but the next time dhartung posts a huge pile of links, I'm going to assume he hasn't actually read them thoroughly.
posted by mediareport at 12:02 AM on April 16, 2002

Can we at least agree that the Bush administration looks like a bit of a real-politik opportunist by supporting the attempted coup politically?

Supporting coups in oil-rich central and south American countries doesn't surprise me, but having those coups fail is a new twist, and watching the media and the popular reactions in the US has been most interesting.

I've been really surprised there haven't been more comments on this. I thought this would be good for at least 5 posts, and 50 comments per. Color me amazed.

But then, maybe it's like the article Hunter S. Thompson offered to cover for expenses for the National Enquirer, only to be informed that "Enquirer readers prefer their stories in black and white, and that story has too much grey".

Do Venezuelans have the right to choose bad government? Does the US have the right to interfere if they choose bad government democratically?

Will the US compomise it's ideals for oil?
posted by dglynn at 12:40 AM on April 16, 2002

Do Venezuelans have the right to choose bad government?

No, not at least according to Henry Kissinger.
posted by lagado at 6:11 AM on April 16, 2002

Wow, check out the article this morning disclosing that, over the last few months, unnamed senior US officials met with the guys who (briefly) overthrew Chavez:

We were not discouraging people," the official told the Times. "We were sending informal, subtle signals that we don't like this guy. We didn't say, 'No, don't you dare,' and we weren't advocates saying, 'Here's some arms; we'll help you overthrow this guy.' We were not doing that."
posted by Mid at 6:22 AM on April 16, 2002


Yes, I noticed that as well. It was a nice piece of spin though even if most of the articles linked were pretty innocuous. As a damning indictment of Chavez, well, to paraphrase Paul Keating, it was more like a flogging with a piece of warm lettuce.

I don't know about the rest of you, but the next time dhartung posts a huge pile of links, I'm going to assume he hasn't actually read them thoroughly.

"This is the age of the internet, and we can fact-check your ass." -- Ken Layne
posted by lagado at 6:59 AM on April 16, 2002

My mistake regarding Carlos the Jackal; I misremembered he was from Spain.

lagado: Is, or is not, Chavez pals with some of the strangest people? Is or is not Chavez ruling by decree? Discuss. Especially regarding commitments to democracy. One can, of course, make up one's own mind, but there was plenty of spin the other way before I got to the thread.
posted by dhartung at 7:50 AM on April 16, 2002

Supporting coups in oil-rich central and south American countries doesn't surprise me, but having those coups fail is a new twist...your wrong. Venezuela has a history of failed coups, matter of fact, they have the record for failed coups. Dhart has a lot of facts. down playing Carlos dont cut it. McViegh was an american, he had a responsibility to see that his rights were not violated, we had the right to watch him die(well tried to watch) Anyone think that Chavez might be our Joe? V-land has always been leftist, so what, whats the argument."legitimate grievances the leftists are fighting for". Naive. those rebels also deal drugs, kill...they just want to control the trade. Lagado, your post was filled with alotof...come on, your article claimed that the samsonites(topplers) where incountry in 2001. They took that long to rid this guy? Your link is like reading the sit-rep from 'Covert Action' YAWN. Something funny about this 'coup' I think it was a pronucimento with the leader whining about having to leave office and Washington waffles- good policy during a coup;)
posted by clavdivs at 8:42 AM on April 16, 2002

first sentence shold have quotes, that was from dgylynns' post
posted by clavdivs at 8:45 AM on April 16, 2002

clavdivs: ixnay on the awnYays, hokay?
posted by y2karl at 9:09 AM on April 16, 2002

lagado: Is, or is not, Chavez pals with some of the strangest people? Is or is not Chavez ruling by decree? Discuss. Especially regarding commitments to democracy. One can, of course, make up one's own mind, but there was plenty of spin the other way before I got to the thread.

dhartung, Chavez evidently makes a career of thumbing his nose at the United States and visiting Saddam Hussein, while annoying as hell to American public opinion, is not exactly an indictable offence or a war crime. Nor is being sympathic to leftists in Columbia or freely engaging in trade with Cuba (unless of course you are a US citizen).

As for "ruling by decree", I think this sounds a little exaggerated but I'll agree that there are a number of cases where Chavez has bypassed Congress and has behaved in an autocratic manner. I'm not aware that he has done anything actually illegal under the laws of the country but his undemocratic tendencies would not make him (in tdca's words) my favourite "type of candidate" either. However, on a scale of world leaders, he strikes me as being something more akin to say Dr Mahathir or Lee Kwan Yew than Kim Jong Il or even Robert Mugabe.

As for the implication that any of this would somehow justify supporting a military coup destroys any credibility to your arguments about flaunting democratic processes. A military coup against an elected government is, to put it as simply as possible, a crime against a nation and people and not a legimate corrective measure. It's a cure which is invariably much worse than the disease.

This may seem a little odd to someone who lives in the Western Hemisphere and thereby presumably has a fairly shakey grasp on these issues regarding the preservation of life and liberty in neighbouring countries, but there you have it.

If the Venuzualans want change, and if so then I support their struggle, a "regime change" needs to come from an exercise in grass roots "people's power" and not by simply re-installing some top brass in the Presidential Palace.
posted by lagado at 5:27 PM on April 16, 2002

lagado: I agree with you more than you seem to think. But the Chavez lovefest had become a tad icky, and I'm glad to at least hear that he's not your ideal. My point in posting the links above is that if Venezuelan society is fragmenting Chavez has himself largely to blame and his artless "Bolivarian revolution" rather than mysterious outside forces of interference. In his return to power he seems to have grasped this and has already made conciliatory gestures such as backing down on replacing the oil company directors with a hand-picked slate of loyalists.

(Perhaps the Cuban economic model can work when you're a major gas pump. That certainly seems to be the direction he's been going, especially since last year. I guess we'll find out.)

There are in the end two overlapping issues here, the indigenous Venezuelan opposition and its reasons for acting against Chavez and its choices of methods being one; and the ability of the US to affect that process being another. I'm trying not to confuse the two. Of course a constitutional process would be preferable. The story was put out that the army general was ordered to move tanks to protect the presidential palace, and refused. Was it the last, anti-democratic straw? Or a convenient moment? Or just a lie? The more one argues that they planned this in detail for months with the support of an experienced team of DC spooks, the harder it is to square that with the amateur hour antics of Saturday.

So I tend to believe that some of these folks said "we may be moving" and we said "we won't stop you, but for god's sake don't X Y or Z" and yet the alphabet came to pass.

I will note it seems strange that someone would wring their hands over even the passive role that we seem to have played while endorsing "support for leftist rebels" in another country. Isn't that the same thing? Just whose grievances are legitimate, whose governments are deserving of violent opposition, and whose legitimacy is undermined when supporting the same?

Allow me my devil's advocacy in a thread which didn't deviate much from the, uh, revolutionary party line. And thanks for responding to my questions.
posted by dhartung at 1:16 AM on April 17, 2002

Endorsement versus material support I suppose would be the rubicon that Chavez would be ill-advised to cross. I'm not aware that this has been the case.

Anyway, fair enough, I'm just hoping that the soldiers continue to remain in their barracks and that the Yanquis suppress their natural impulse to interfere. Given Venezuela's position as the world's fourth largest oil producer, the third largest in OPEC, you might understand that I hold at least some reservations about the prospects for the latter.

posted by lagado at 5:18 AM on April 17, 2002

"This may seem a little odd to someone who lives in the Western Hemisphere and thereby presumably has a fairly shakey grasp on these issues regarding the preservation of life and liberty in neighbouring countries, but there you have it. " another slanted list lagado...of those actions, how many were requests by other countries or actions that fall under some aspect of the Monroe doctorine."while annoying as hell to American public opinion" the american people barely noticed. oh wait, to you the american people is our media, gdub, and guys with AK's spending the afternoon at the gun range. Jez, what a crock. and Y2Karl, what did you say, did you say something?
posted by clavdivs at 8:22 AM on April 18, 2002

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