Via Elephants in Academia, Hugo Chavez says upcoming film to focus on coup in Venezuela. Apparently Oliver Stoned will direct. I predict another lost weekend or two. The WaPo’s rather sympathetic to the public relations effort.
Bear with me and let’s take this news item at face value:
On the one hand, consider how Hugo’s been tossing money around in his quest to control Latin American politics and at the same time do a PR job on the credulous.
So, the only surprising thing about this match is that it took so long. Maybe Hugo’s people were being squeezed too hard by Oliver’s people. Oliver probably wanted to make sure the money wasn’t coming from the garage sale.
Aside from talking about movie deals, Hugo hasn’t exactly been charming Mexico and Colombia, however, since both countries have free-trade pacts with the United States. While the USA is Venezuela’s top oil customer, Hugo wants the rest of Latin America to deal with him, not with the US.
The Economist this week looks at the situation in Latin America (emphasis mine):
Broadly speaking, one camp is made up of moderate social democrats, of the sort in office in Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. The other camp is the
radical populists, led by Mr Chavez, who appears to have gained a disciple in Evo Morales, Bolivia’s new president. The populists shout louder, and claim that they are helping the poor through state control of oil and gas. Neither Mr Chavez nor Mr Morales is from the “white” elites who, in caricature at least, have long ruled in the region. Both direct volleys of abuse at Mr Bush. For all these reasons, the
populists have captured the sympathy of ignorant paternalists abroad, such as London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, who this week welcomed Mr Chavez as “the best news out of Latin America in many years”.
The facts speak otherwise. Yes, after seven years in power and a massive oil windfall, Mr Chavez has finally created some health and education programmes for the urban poor. At last, poverty is falling (though it is still around 40%) in Venezuela–but it would be extraordinary if it were not, given the oil price. Yes, Mr Chavez has twice been elected and remains popular. But he is running down his country’s wealth. Having dismantled all checks, balances and independent institutions, his regime rests on his personal control of the state oil company, the armed forces and armed militias.
The Economist isn’t buying the charismatic-leader-helping-the-poor-offering-free-health-care-education-adult-literacy-and-job-training-initiatives-that-help-millions-of-Venezuelans/Cubans/Bolivians/[insert nationality here]TM crap. Instead, it proposes that
Meanwhile, democrats everywhere–including in Europe and in Latin America itself–need to make it clear on which side of the battle they stand. They should not welcome Mr Chavez in their midst unless the presidential election in Venezuela in December is demonstrably free and fair. Restoring democracy in Latin America cost too much blood for the achievement to be lightly thrown away.
I don’t think Oliver’s going to include that in his movie.
For all of Hugo’s clowning around, let’s not lose sight of how serious the situation is.
Jed Babbin looks at China’s South America
A few weeks ago, Chavez met with his hero, Castro, and the newly elected Evo Morales of Bolivia to talk about how they can combine their influence to America’s disadvantage. Chavez, for all his crude bluster, is neither ignorant nor lacking in savvy. He knows that China is the number two oil importer in the world, and that the Hu Jintao government is pressing every advantage it can find to tie up oil supplies around the world. And, he knows, China periodically tests American resolve. The last time China engaged in such a test, an American Navy EP-3 Orion was forced down on Hainan Island and the crew held hostage for a week to China’s demand for an apology from President Bush. With Chavez’s and Castro’s help, China is testing Mr. Bush again.
Last month I was posting on that same subject.