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Thread: The Chavez Threat

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    The Chavez Threat

    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep...havez-20100916

    Successive U.S. administrations have proved unable or unwilling to slow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's descent into authoritarianism.
    September 16, 2010|By John R. Bolton

    Venezuela's Sept. 26 national parliamentary elections present a major opportunity for strongman Hugo Chavez to cement his grip on power. Despite a tradition of a free press and competitive politics, a cosmopolitan elite and extensive natural resources, Venezuela is increasingly a case study in how to lose political and economic freedom.

    The stakes are especially high in light of evidence consistent with an emerging Venezuelan nuclear weapons program. Ironically, Chavez's frequently clownish behavior protects him, camouflaging the seriousness of his potential threat to U.S. security and to democratic societies throughout Latin America.


    Washington, under Republican and Democratic administrations, has proved unable or unwilling to slow Chavez's descent into authoritarianism. Unlike coups by prior caudillos in the Americas, the situation in Venezuela today is like a slow-motion train wreck, which makes it all the more frustrating. A lack of international outrage is discouraging pro-democracy Venezuelans across the ideological spectrum. They worry they have been forgotten, especially by an Obama administration that finds foreign policy a distraction.

    This month's elections, therefore, may be a last chance for change before Chavez completes his takeover. He has advanced his agenda since taking office in 1999 by fragmenting his domestic opposition, manipulating election rules, closing down opposition news sources and expropriating the considerable assets of businesses and entrepreneurs. He has materially impaired Venezuela's prosperous petroleum economy by failing to make prudent investments and improvements, while using substantial oil revenues to consolidate his hold on power.

    Even more disturbing are Chavez's international threats. While Latin American democracies have refrained from doing anything that smacks of "interference" in Venezuela's internal affairs, Chavez has felt no similar compunction. For example, it's clear he has sheltered, supplied and financed FARC guerrillas who seek to overthrow the government in neighboring, and still-democratic, Colombia. In decades past, accusations that the United States was engaged in such tactics would have brought millions into the streets shouting "Yanqui go home!"


    Last year, Chavez led the charge against those in Honduras trying to prevent its fragile democracy (and one of the Western Hemisphere's poorest countries) from being subverted by Manuel Zelaya, a would-be caudillo. Chavez has poured money — openly or through suspected clandestine channels — into elections in Peru, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador to support leftist candidates of his ilk. To that same end, he questioned the legitimacy of President Felipe Calderon's election in Mexico and purchased much of Argentina's sovereign debt. One can only imagine what he might be doing to support the Mexican drug cartels, as with their cohorts in Colombia. For that reason, Venezuelan involvement in hemispheric drug trafficking should be a top U.S. intelligence priority.

    On the world stage, Chavez's behavior is increasingly ominous. As Fidel Castro has aged and Cuba's relations with Russia have faded, Chavez has stepped forward. He has engaged in extensive military cooperation with Moscow, including major acquisitions of conventional weapons, from infantry rifles to sophisticated, high-end weapons well beyond any conceivably legitimate requirements of Venezuela's military. Chavez's purchases of advanced-model Kalashnikov assault rifles, some Venezuelan businessmen and former diplomats suggest, are meant to arm campesino "militias" that will rally to him if Venezuela's military ever threatens his regime, or the weapons may be destined for revolutionary or terrorist groups. In either case, the consequences would be profoundly negative.

    Beyond enhancing his own swaggering reputation, Chavez's growing closeness with Russia and Iran on nuclear matters should be our greatest concern. For decades, after military governments fell in Brazil and Argentina, Latin America prided itself on avoiding the dangers of nuclear proliferation. The 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco symbolized this perceived immunity, but the region's nuclear-free status is today gravely threatened.

    Now, Venezuela is openly helping Iran evade international sanctions imposed because of Tehran's nuclear weapons program. Along with the refined petroleum products it supplies Tehran, Chavez allows Iranian banks and other sanctioned enterprises to use Caracas as a base for conducting business internationally and, reportedly, to facilitate Hezbollah's activity in the hemisphere.

    Even more alarming, Venezuela claims Iran is helping develop its uranium reserves, reportedly among the largest in the world. Indeed, the formal agreement between them signed two years ago for cooperation in the nuclear field could easily result in a uranium-for-nuclear-knowhow trade. In addition, Chavez has a deal with Russia to build a reactor in Venezuela. All of which may signal a dangerous clandestine nuclear weapons effort, perhaps as a surrogate for Iran, as has been true elsewhere, such as in Syria.

    President Obama and other freely elected Western Hemisphere leaders at a minimum need to tell Chavez clearly that his disassembling of Venezuela's democracy is unacceptable. This is very nearly the exact opposite of current White House policy, which attempts to appease Chavez, Castro and other leftists, as it did by joining them against the democratic forces in Honduras.

    Unfortunately, with our own elections approaching in November, it is hard to get Obama's attention directed to Latin American affairs, or foreign policy generally. But make no mistake, if Chavez can intimidate his domestic opposition, manipulate election laws and extend his authoritarian control, Venezuela will increasingly be a global menace.

    John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option."


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    Hugo Chavez

    You do know that the Venzuelan National Oil Company owns CITGO Petroleum. And who owns and controls the National Oil Co.? At one time the U.S. got a large percentage of it crude oil from Venzuela, until Chavez took over.

    There's an even greater problem with Chavez than avoiding international sanctions and giving an international outlet to Ahmadinejad and his Iran clique...
    Perhaps we need to Nationalize CITGO.

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    Good news: Chavez loses ground in election

    http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-...27-712256.html

    CARACAS (Dow Jones)--Gains by Venezuela's opposition in Sunday's legislative elections are being viewed by some as a watershed moment, perhaps even the beginning of the end of Hugo Chavez's hold on power.

    But the president, a classic one-step back, two-steps forward leader, has seen greater adversity than this during his 11 years in power, and so far has always come out on top.

    That's not to say the achievement at the polls by the unified opposition forces should be discounted altogether. The opposition had just 10% of the seats in the National Assembly going into the vote, and now has more than 33%. That means Chavez can no longer use the legislature as a rubber stamp for his "21st Century Socialism" policies. And if he begins simply decreeing one law after another rather than seeking Congress' approval, he'll have a tough time defending himself against critics who already call him a dictator.

    Exit polls suggest the opposition actually won the popular vote with 52% of the total. That could give anti-Chavez forces some momentum ahead of 2012 presidential elections, which Chavez has already begun campaigning for.

    But analysts warn not to view the election results as a harbinger of major change in Venezuela.

    "We do not feel President Chavez will feel excessively constrained by the fact that his allies do not control two-thirds of the legislature," said Alberto Ramos of Goldman Sachs. On the contrary, "we would not be surprised to see the government moving deeper into the heterodox camp by radicalizing the policy approach and eroding even further the remaining institutional checks and balances."

    Chavez, who first took power in 1999, has remained firmly in control of this oil-rich nation, despite crippling recessions, nationwide general strikes, an attempted coup, soaring inflation and crime rates that would force many leaders to flee into exile.

    A former army paratrooper, Chavez is blessed with an easy-going gift of gab that endears him to many among the poor. But his popularity has clearly taken a hit due to the many problems facing the resource-rich country, including persistent water, electricity and food shortages in many regions due to a lack of productivity and questionable planning by officials.

    His 40% approval rating, though, is still an enviable number among many world leaders.

    For Chavez, if the opposition considers winning one-third of a vote victory, then it simply shows just how marginalized they have become. "The [opposition] says they won," Chavez quipped Monday in a message on the social-networking site Twitter. "Well by all means, then, I hope they keep 'winning.'"


    Wall Street Optimistic, But Still Hesitant
    Analysts on Wall Street say a stronger opposition and the prospect of a more democratic Venezuela should make investors look more favorably on the country. "This change should translate into higher asset prices," said Barclays Capital analyst Alejandro Grisanti.

    Strategists said they expect prices of Venezuelan bonds to rise as investors see the possibility, albeit slim, of a democratic shift in the 2012 presidential elections.

    Venezuelan bonds on Monday outperformed their peers on J.P. Morgan's Emerging Market Bond Index Global, the benchmark measure for the asset class. The country's risk premium dropped 29 basis points to 1155 basis points over Treasurys, with the bonds rising 1.1% in price terms. The broader index was mostly flat on the day.

    Uncertainty over the Latin American country's policy outlook and a lockdown on its foreign-exchange market earlier this year made Venezuelan bonds one of the most volatile and among the highest-yielding government securities in the developing world. The country, which has never defaulted on its external debt, saw its risk premium at the start of the month balloon to more than 12 percentage points over U.S. Treasurys, the highest on the Embig index and worse than countries that have defaulted in the past like Ecuador and Argentina.

    "Venezuela is trading at its worst levels in relative terms with a lot of bad news already priced in," said Siobhan Morden, a Latin America strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland. She said the election results may spark a relief rally.

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    I'd take Chavez rather than Obama any day!

    The Venezuelan voting system also looks a lot fairer than the USA one, I'd have to say.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Godwinson View Post
    I'd take Chavez rather than Obama any day!

    The Venezuelan voting system also looks a lot fairer than the USA one, I'd have to say.
    http://westernrevival.org/chavez_watch.htm

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    Just taken a look at some of that stuff on your link, Joe, but almost everything you accuse Chavez of is also true of Obama and the USA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Godwinson View Post
    Just taken a look at some of that stuff on your link, Joe, but almost everything you accuse Chavez of is also true of Obama and the USA.
    I despise Obama, but he's preferable to Chavez. Chavez is aligned with all of the worst regimes, including the anti-white Morales government in Bolivia.

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    Well you're aligned with some pretty bad apples yourselves, Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Godwinson View Post
    Well you're aligned with some pretty bad apples yourselves, Joe
    Chavez is friendly with Russia, North Korea, Iran, much of the Third World, and fellow ultra-leftists in Latin America. Our main allies, along with the Israelis, are Canadians, Australians, and Europeans. How does that compare?

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