Communism's Comeback

Hugo Chavez: History repeating as farce

Communism is dead in Russia, a shell of itself in China and just hanging on in Cuba. But Lenin's corpse has a rare reason to smile. A new workers' paradise is sprouting in Venezuela, under the direction of the sometimes clownish but always cunning President Hugo Chavez.

Most of the rest of the world learned the folly of autocratic socialism back in the 20th century, but Chavez prefers to repeat mistakes rather than learn from them. He has nationalized oil holdings, created new state-run firms, confiscated privately owned land and politicized finance, while endeavoring to take over telecommunications and power companies.

All this is part of his grand plan for "Bolivarian socialism" and "the formation of the new man." President Chavez does not dream on a small scale. "The old values of individualism, capitalism and egoism must be demolished," he says, and he is eager to get on with it, in spite of—or, maybe, because of—what else will disintegrate in the process.

In case you have lingering doubts about what sort of country he has in mind, Chavez offers a color scheme for his educational program: "red, very red." It is no coincidence that he is a close ally of Fidel Castro's Cuba. But his anti-Americanism endears him to noncommunist tyrants as well. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made multiple trips to Venezuela to embrace Chavez as "the champion, the leader of the struggle against imperialism."

Chavez, like Castro and Ahmadinejad, is hostile toward political as well as economic freedom. He has closed down some opposition media outlets, while cowing others through laws making it a crime to disparage him or his confederates. The judiciary and electoral council have been stripped of their independence. The government has refused to admit human rights monitors from the Organization of American States.

Sometimes Chavez is just, well, strange. In August, he announced that he would move the nation's clocks ahead, so the time in Venezuela will three and a half hours behind Greenwich Mean Time instead of four. "It's about the metabolic effect, where the brain is conditioned by sunlight," he explained.

But all this is merely a prelude to the next stage of his revolution. It is expected to commence after a national referendum to be held Dec. 2 on a package of constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez and his confederates.

The changes would not only repeal the two-term limit on his office, allowing him to serve for life, but also transfer virtually all power to one person: the president. He would gain the authority to supersede local governments on a whim, declare a state of emergency anytime it suits him and seize farms and processing plants if he deems it necessary for "food security."

The question is not what Chavez he will be able to do if this plan passes. The question is what he will not be able to do—and the answer is, not much.

Still, Chavez apparently remains popular among the poor, who may be unaware of the economic stagnation generally produced by this brand of socialism. In following the example of Cuba, Chavez is doing something exceptionally novel: modeling his economy on one far poorer than his own. It's as though General Motors, dissatisfied with its fortunes, were to embrace the business plan previously used by American Motors.

But Chavez's "reform" plan is expected to pass anyway. One reason is that it includes such enticements as a new six-hour workday and expanded social security benefits. Other reasons: Government control of the media makes it hard for opponents to get their message out, and some dissenters are boycotting because they see the plebiscite as rigged against them.

Still, supporters of pluralistic, constitutional democracy have not given up. University students have marched in opposition to the proposals, despite violence from pro-Chavez forces and jeers from the president, who calls them "fascists" and "rich bourgeois brats." But as Douglas Cassel of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame put it in a recent radio commentary, "Show me a revolution opposed by university students en masse, and I'll show you a phony revolution."

A phony revolution may nonetheless be a durable one. If the Venezuelans who go to the polls next month give Chavez what he wants, they are likely to discover a paradox: They can bring about dictatorship through democracy, but not the reverse.

COPYRIGHT 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  • ||

    In a way, this may be a good thing; Most communists that I have talked with have claimed that Cuba's economic problems are all the result of the U.S. embargo. If Venezuela embarks upon this path without U.S. sanctions, it will remove that objection.

    State socialism is attractive on paper because it frees people from dealing with the consequences of their actions. In practice,, it invariably leads to violence and destruction of production systems as people are effectively "punished" for producing and "rewarded" for not producing. In debates, many proponents of state socialism refuse to acknowledge this fact, and it would be nice to have yet another difficult to refute example to point to.

    Sucks for the people who have to suffer under a system that they don't want though.

  • Guy Montag||

    If Venezuela embarks upon this path without U.S. sanctions, it will remove that objection.

    Impossible. The existance of the USA is their excuse for every other economic ill in the world too.

  • BakedPenguin||

    The exist[e]nce of the USA is their excuse for every other economic ill in the world too.



    Not all of them - some are to be blamed on the US's economic "exploitation", meaning the US is to blame because we:
    1) don't trade with them or we
    2) do trade with them.

  • Barak Obama||

    Hillary Clinton in a red beret.
    Is Reason going to do a story on Hillary's Hot Lesbian Lover?

  • Tim Lambert||

    I hate to be picky, but Venezuela is not in the southern hemisphere.

  • Blue||

    Barak,
    At least she (Dick Cheney with hair) is getting some.

  • Barak Obama||

    I hate to be picky, but Venezuela is not in the southern hemisphere.

    Is Miss Teen South Carloina interning?

  • Barak Obama||

    So is this one of those phantom posts?

    Does not appear on the front page anymore.

  • ||

    OMNEG! The commies have infiltrated the sever squirrels.

  • Syloson of Samos||

    Tim Lambert,

    Yeah, the top 1/4 of South America is in the Northern Hemipshere, as is roughly 60% of Africa.

  • ||

    Venezuela does almost extend down to the Equator. Maybe the poster is anticipating a successful invasion of Brazil?

  • ||

    In response to our resident leftist, joe, I addressed this issue less than a month ago.

    My predictions remain unchanged.

  • Episiarch||

    Hugo will not accept a loss on his constitutional "reforms". He will either win (however he does it) or there will be violence. Probably ending in Chavez's death, which would probably be best for the people of Venezuela.

  • ||

    I predict that the next time Chavez speaks before the U.N. General Assembly, he'll whine and bitch until they agree to move the Equator north of Venezuela, so Chavez can avoid being in the same part of the world as the U.S. and Spain. He'll be successful in this campaign.

  • ||

    "In a way, this may be a good thing; Most communists that I have talked with have claimed that Cuba's economic problems are all the result of the U.S. embargo. If Venezuela embarks upon this path without U.S. sanctions, it will remove that objection." In a way, I agree. The WORST thing we can do is get all worked up about. Let them try it if that is their thing, let us wish them the best, try to influence them to be as democratic and protective of rights as we can without too much intereference, and if it does not work for them they will not hang on to it for long.

    We have to remember that one of the reasons it seems so appealing is that many of these places have simply inhumane levels of inequality and poverty, much of it based on "capitalist statism" when what government was there intervened on the behalf of what was essentially a landed aristocracy. Some people have gobs more land and money for highly illegitimate reasons and it's hard to just say to the poor "hey, liberalize your economy and run with it! At least they can't whip you under a liberal capitalist system so chin up while you empty the latrine of the family that has kept your family as serfs for generations! Soon your hard work and iniative will warrant you moving up from the lower, lower underclass to the lower underclass. And think of the FREEDOM." Remember too that everytime anyone proposed throwing a monkey wrench into the oppressive systems of the past someone would scream "communists!" thus making "communism" seem sexy and valiant in many of the people's eyes. The more real communism they get the less they will be enamored with it (talk to any Eastern European), but our getting all frothy at the mouth will be counter-productive at best...

  • Guy Montag||

    I predict that the next time Chavez speaks before the U.N. General Assembly, he'll whine and bitch until they agree to move the Equator north of Venezuela, so Chavez can avoid being in the same part of the world as the U.S. and Spain. He'll be successful in this campaign.

    Hopefully someone will tell him to shut up, in Spanish of course, as this seems the only effective way of stopping his quest for global domination.

  • ||

    Guy,

    That's how Spain got added to the list in the first place.

  • Guy Montag||

    PL,

    He can not avoid the power of the Monarchy! The crowne is the only thing that can stop him!

  • ||

    He can not avoid the power of the Monarchy! The crowne is the only thing that can stop him!

    Does spanish speaking Latin America have the same sort of respect for the Mother Country royalty that we do here in Gringoland?

    Just curious.

  • Episiarch||

    Does spanish speaking Latin America have the same sort of respect for the Mother Country royalty that we do here in Gringoland?

    Do you mean no respect but a morbid fascination?

    I doubt they care very much about Juan Carlos, but I could be wrong. The Queen is head of state in all the Commonwealth countries, and so is somewhat revered (not here, of course, thank Jeebus). But I don't know if, after independence, any ties to the monarchy were retained by former Spanish colonies.

  • ||

    There is the whole "But I'm Spanish" theme among the upper class of many South and Central American countries. Whether that relates to any particular fondness for the Spanish monarchy or even Spain itself is another question.

  • SxCx||

    tarran:

    Sorry, are you saying you want a population to suffer just so you'll have an extra talking point?

  • ||

    The Queen is head of state in all the Commonwealth countries, and so is somewhat revered (not here, of course, thank Jeebus).

    Princess Di was fawned over by tens of millions of Americans. Never could figure out why, but she was.

  • ||


    Sorry, are you saying you want a population to suffer just so you'll have an extra talking point?


    Pretty patently not...though if you really think the free market is the enemy of freedom, why fake outrage about people being ruled by the biggest champion of that cause?

  • Guy Montag||

    Does spanish speaking Latin America have the same sort of respect for the Mother Country royalty that we do here in Gringoland?

    Since that is the only proven thing to shut up Mr. Chavez, I submit it as evidence in the affirmative.

  • Episiarch||

    Princess Di was fawned over by tens of millions of Americans. Never could figure out why, but she was.

    She was fawned over by all the same douchebags who fawn over all the celebrities. She pulled the same strings as Jennifer Aniston ("poor dear, her husband isn't treating her well") in the same idiots.

    The vast majority of Americans don't give a shit about the royals. I think it's the same in Latin America.

  • SxCx||

    Pretty patently not...though if you really think the free market is the enemy of freedom, why fake outrage about people being ruled by the biggest champion of that cause?

    I find it perverse to hope for another depressing example of failed socialism, despite how much savvier it'd make my own politics.

  • ||

    SxCx

    If it would induce the leftists to stop trying to create the 'Socialist Utopia', letting one country try it, without any sanctions or interference, would be worth having the bad example.

    However, as BakedPenguin pointed out @ 7:40, it doesn't matter what the US does, the failure will be blamed on the US, not on the economic policies.

    While it's not worth a 'talking point', I can't see that trying to do anything is going to help the situation.

    The only suggestion I can make is for the US to "be nice, be overly nice". No matter what Chavez does or says, find something nice to say.

    It may not help, but it will drive Chavez crazy crazier. It might also make some of his leftist friends think he's actually allied with the US.

  • atrevete||

    Some crazy people DO already think he's actually allied with Bush, because of the oil of course.

  • ||

    "If it would induce the leftists to stop trying to create the 'Socialist Utopia', letting one country try it, without any sanctions or interference, would be worth having the bad example."

    I can see how you would think this- hell, I live here and sometimes I think "if people are stupid or apathetic or cowardly enough to let this guy do what he wants, then let them eat shit under a communist rule".. but then I realize that people dont deserve that kind of misery (much less to prove a point).
    The situation here in Venezuela is just depressing, and yet, I still have a glimmer of hope that this new Constitution will not pass since most Venezuelans oppose it. It seems this is the last chance to avoid becoming a full-fledge dictatorship.
    Personally I always knew Chavez would win the last election but Im not sure this time.
    I would be deeply saddened to see this country turn into Cuba (though everyday it appears to be more like the communist island- there are food shortages and NOW there's a shortage of toilet paper of all things!)

  • ||

    Like all concerned Americans, Chavez is not anti-American. Chavez has been consistent on his stance against George W. Bush, but he has nothing but great things to say about America. To say that he hates America is a lie. Want proof?? http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11022 Just like the rest of concerned citizens in America, he dislikes the current administration. I can not say that I blame him for such sentiment.

  • Gahan||

    Meanwhile, Bolivians are rioting against Evo Morales's new Magna Carta. Several are dead, hundreds wounded. Of course, they're all just reactionary fascists in the service of the CIA.

  • Gahan||

    "there are food shortages and NOW there's a shortage of toilet paper of all things!"

    Despotic constitutional reforms drafted by thuggish caudillos make dandy toilet paper ;)

  • ||

    rana

    I realized what I said could be construed as "let the Venezuelans suffer."

    I do not wish anyone to suffer.

    I just wish that the left would wake up and realize that the US is NOT the reason that socialist regimes turn into oppressive hells.

  • atrevete||

    "Until the King of Spain apologizes, *I* am freezing relations with Spain". Chavez

    L'etat c'est moi as far as Hugo is concerned. Another recent statement is that anyone who votes No on the new referendum is committing "treason" against him.

  • Marcvs||

    Chavez is not anti-American



    Yeah, I'm sure he doesn't think we are a bunch of fascist capitalists, it's just GWB.

    Even if he loves Americans, what does that have to do with a socialist thug who wants to become a communist dictator? He can love me all he wants, he's still a colossal douche bag.

  • ||

    "I just wish that the left would wake up and realize that the US is NOT the reason that socialist regimes turn into oppressive hells."

    Aresen,
    I agree. Unfortunately, people "No aprenden de cabeza ajena" (dont learn from other's mistakes).

  • Juan||

    Maybe it's because of the subsector of Chavismo I interact with, but I do often think "fuck you, you'll get what you deserve" of them. But the problem is, to put it on econspeak, the externalities of voting.

    If the reform passes, count me out. Hell, I'm probably out regardless of what happens.

  • ||

    "Despotic constitutional reforms drafted by thuggish caudillos make dandy toilet paper ;)"

    If they print El Comandante's face on the toilet paper, I'd be more than happy to wipe my ass with it.

  • Paul||

    I have always wished and hoped that the U.S. will leave Chavez alone so that he may (will) fail on his own. Here's why that probably won't happen:

    As the Chavez revolution begins to crumble, Chavez, like all socialist dictators, will merely tighten his socialist dicatorship around the necks of his people, screaming that it all would be working but for a few unfaithful subversives. As the tightening inevitably worsens the economic situation, Chavez will declare-- either incrementally or all at once-- a state of emergency, and put the country into martial law. When that happens, the rest of the Western World will be forced to "do something" about the human rights crisis that will naturally emerge during this situation. At which point the U.S. will start to move against the Chavez government. How that move is engineered is largely unimportant, whether we physically intervene or apply sanctions, the result is the same: Chavez will then claim that "aha! the U.S. is merely using this bump in the road to take down my democratically sanctioned presidency". At which time, we will be blamed for all of Venezuela's problems, before, up to and surpassing that moment in time.

  • Gahan||

    Paul,

    While I wholeheartedly agree with you about what Chavez will CLAIM, what ultimately matters is how much water his claims hold with the Venezuelan people, which, if we play our cards right and don't do anything stupid, won't be much. While our doing nothing may not result in Chavez being overthrown, an intervention on our part will only serve to strengthen his grip on power, unless we're talking about a full-scale invasion, which, given our current track record, is not very advisable.

  • ||

    There is the whole "But I'm Spanish" theme among the upper class of many South and Central American countries. Whether that relates to any particular fondness for the Spanish monarchy or even Spain itself is another question.

    Pro L,
    It's a form of subtle racism. "But I'm Spanish" = "I'm white and don't have dirty Native American blood"

  • Guy Montag||

    Paul,

    I have always wished and hoped that the U.S. will leave Chavez alone so that he may (will) fail on his own.

    I can hear the "Britney Spears Guy" tweaking up the script.

  • Episiarch||

    Mo, it's not subtle at all. It's pretty much out-in-the-open racism. If you see a blond, blue-eyed Latin American, you can bet a lot of money they're upper class, and they like to keep the blood "unsullied".

  • SxCx||

    I should clarify that I'm not endorsing interventionism in any way, and agree that observers should let Chavez do his thing in order to get a pure sample of where his policies are headed.

    That said, I sincerely hope it isn't a humanitarian disaster, even if that means conceding a libertarian argument or two.

  • ||

    That said, I sincerely hope it isn't a humanitarian disaster, even if that means conceding a libertarian argument or two.

    I'd prefer to be proven wrong on that as well. But I won't be. Damn!

  • ||

    Mo,

    That's my understanding, though I've only seen it directly in Mexico.

  • ||

    I hope next Monday I can tell Joe he was right and that we should "trust democracy"... Im hoping... they say its the last thing one should lose.
    Although the words "dictator" and "fair and open elections" seem mutually exclusive.

  • ||

    I'm not sure that Chavez is opposed to economic reform. It's just that his reforms aren't the ones REASON would like to see implemented. He's a reformist allright, just not your type.

  • ||

    spike

    Chavez' economic "reforms" are like fixing the car by removing the engine.

  • Paul||

    Aresen:

    That would be fixing the car. Good god, man, don't you know there's a gas crunch on?!!

  • Paul||

    I'm not sure that Chavez is opposed to economic reform. It's just that his reforms aren't the ones REASON would like to see implemented.

    So reforms are reforms are reforms, then?

    Nothing to see here, just "reforming"!

  • ||

    Aresen,

    I have a Canada question. Does Canada have a strong libertarian undercurrent? I'd say that the U.S. does, despite our voting history, if in no other respect than in our tradition of distrusting the government. Naturally, that "libertarianism" is not as strong as it once was.

  • ||

    Don't be silly

    the are basically social democrats....quite lefty ones but social democrats nevertheless. if the are commies so is half of europe

  • ||

    Lets see here, Chavez has been elected twice in internationally monitored elections, survived a U.S. backed coup (as well as having the U.S. back opposition parties in the country) and survived a National Referendum (also partially sponsored by the U.S.). He is now (along with the parlaiment and Venezuelan people) trying to make Constitutional changes which must be approved by the Venezuelan people...nope no democracy here...better go to that really democratic American system right?? Have you ever asked yourselves why America cares so much about Venezuela and insists upon interfering in this soverign state? Would we ever accept similar interference by other countries in our own affairs? The reason is simple, the corporate kleptocrats in the United States want something that somebody else has, a large oil supply and like always they will steal or kill to get it.

  • Juan||

    While our doing nothing may not result in Chavez being overthrown, an intervention on our part will only serve to strengthen his grip on power, unless we're talking about a full-scale invasion, which, given our current track record, is not very advisable.

    Oh, it is VERY advisable :-)

  • ||

    For the twenty+ years of my adulthood, I've been hearing how all sorts of oppressive or increasingly oppressive regimes are all really lands of milk and honey--it's just U.S. imperialism/hegemony/corporatism/etc. that says otherwise. That's bull. I heard the same nonsense about Libya--false, Nicaragua--false, Cuba--false, Russia--false, and so on. The U.S. is hardly a paragon of virtue on the international scene, but we're not exactly the bad guys, either.

  • ||

    PL

    Canada has a negligible libertarian impulse.

    Our national psyche seems to be "if the government doesn't do something about this, it will never get done".

    Which is why people with initiative tend to migrate to the US. (I tried, but US immigration didn't think I had "required skills". The perils of a Liberal Arts degree. I suppose I could have become a frostback, but I wasn't that hungry.)

  • Paul||

    "if the government doesn't do something about this, it will never get done".

    Oh, how a man can dream...

  • BakedPenguin||

    A question for the anti-immigration folks: If the referendum passes, and thousands of Venezuelan apply for asylum in the US, would you support their applications? If not, why not?

  • ||

    Paul

    I was thinking more in the context of Kruschev's surprise when he visited the US around 1960. He really thought most people would not have shoes, because the capitalists wouldn't provide them.

  • ||

    Still, Chavez apparently remains popular among the poor...

    Bringing to mind the old saying "any system that robs Peter to pay Paul will always get a lot of support from Paul". It's just standard Marxist class warfare and it's on display everyday in Washington as one politician after another rushes to implement yet another failed policy "for the children".

    The 'socialist utopias' didn't fail because of the United States or capitalism. They failed under the weight of their own inherent weaknesses. However, without the United States as a comparison who would have known that the 'socialist utopias' failed once all the Pilgrims died out? If every country is a 'socialist utopia' then everybody is equally miserable, except for the ruling class, and that's the way it should be. Capitalism is evil because it makes socialism look bad.

  • ||

    BakedPenguin

    If someone has the gumption to go to a strange land in the hopes of bettering himself, he has initiative and courage.

    That's pretty well all I'd look for in an immigrant.

  • ||

    Aresen,

    Even in BC? I always thought they were a little more free market oriented. And what of the wild reaches of Nunavut?

  • Rigoberto (Resident Libertaria||

    Episiarch, you'd lose money out here. I'm a "white" Cuban, and am EXTREMELY poor. But I'll admit, that undercurrent exists in a lot of Argentine circles, from what I understand. I've never really bragged about having 100% Spanish ancestry, because it's nothing to brag about. We kicked the Spanish the hell out, why would I want to brag about being anything like them?

  • BakedPenguin||

    That's pretty well all I'd look for in an immigrant.



    Aresen, myself as well.

    I asked the question because one of the recurring themes from people who oppose immigration is that the immigrants are often socialists. Obviously, it would not be true in this case.

  • Juan||

    Yes! Open the doors to Venezuelans who want to flee Chavez! It'll be good for you! :-)

  • ||

    PL

    BC and Alberta are a little better than the rest of the country, but there is still a large number of people who think the government is the solution to their problems.

    Nunavut is the largest per capita recipient of federal handouts, beating even PEI. It was carved out of the old Northwest Territories in order to create another safe Liberal seat. A billion loonies a year for 20,000 people.

  • Paul||

    Bringing to mind the old saying "any system that robs Peter to pay Paul will always get a lot of support from Paul".

    Boy, you can say that again. "Yes," says I, to any system that wants to rob some other guy I've never met before to pay... me!

  • ||

    When did the lefties start using the word "fascist" the way the KKK uses the word "nigger"?

    -jcr

  • LarryA||

    The U.S. is hardly a paragon of virtue on the international scene, but we're not exactly the bad guys, either.

    And we have plenty of toilet paper.

  • ||

    Juan,
    Dont you find it interesting how people like "James" find it so easy to defend a thug like Chavez from the comfort of his freedom-lovin' U.S. residence?

    Hey James, I invite you to come down to Venezuela and SEE and LIVE the reality that is life here. Please come. Im SURE you will change your mind- you will leave (lucky you, you know you get to go back to the US anytime you feel like it) knowing this is no longer a democracy.

  • ||

    I suppose to me it comes down to whether I support equal rights for the poor and indigenous peoples or do I support the CIA backed Conquistador class and the choice is obvious.

  • ||

    Has anybody in the United States seen even one news report on Chavez that mentions that the United States backed the 2002 coup in Venezuela? Even one? We have very selective information and democracy in this country.

  • ||

    "I suppose to me it comes down to whether I support equal rights for the poor and indigenous peoples or do I support the CIA backed Conquistador class and the choice is obvious"

    James,
    Boy, you really believe this stuff, dont you? Then there is really not much to discuss. I still invite you to come down and see for yourself. I guarantee you will have a different perspective.

    Do you really belive the poor people are better off with Chavez? I am not saying they havent been treated unfairly in the past (AND PRESENT), but they and everyone in Venezuela (except for those in a "lucrative" (read "corrupted") goverment or government supported business position) are POORER now than before. ADD to this the fact that inflation, crime and corruption have INCREASED during Chavez's regime and GUESS who is hit hardest by this? THE POOR.

  • ||

    James, if you truly cared about "the poor and indigenous peoples" you wouldn't blithely consign them to a system that is guaranteed to bring more misery and despair.

    Compare North and South Korea (oops, make that the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea and South Korea). I see a stark contrast in the economic circumstances of the populations that is due solely to the difference between Communism and Capitalism, and one that greatly favors the people of South Korea. You, evidently, see the dire economic circumstances of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea as a direct result of the interference of the CIA and other western agencies. Of course, the same dire economic circumstances exist (or existed) in all other Communist nations so they too must have resulted from the interference of the CIA and other western agencies.

    I must say that a philosophy or worldview that is underpinned by conspiracy theories really isn't very persuasive, nor is it amenable to rationale discussion as its very basis is irrational. For your position to have any merit the CIA must be strong enough to hold the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Cuba, the former Soviet Union, and The Peoples Republic of China in thrall while being too weak to destabilize and control Venezuela. Couldn't they have just subcontracted to Halliburton? Was the CFR to busy to take up the slack? Your position is so illogical that it doesn't even make a good fantasy.

    Consider all of the things, and the number is vast, that must be true for your position to be correct. Then consider one position - that Communism doesn't work. Then call Occam and see if he has a razor to spare. Then call everybody in Venezuela and apologize.

  • ||

    Aresen,

    I was kidding about Nunavut. I've always had a soft spot for the territory, because they sent me a free mouse pad when they were "spun off". I had been managing an NSF-funded project to track state and provincial use of the Internet back in the 90s, and I happened to run across their web site right before they parted from the Northwest Territories.

    Later on, my whole staff got free mouse pads--I think the Nunavutian government was pleased to be recognized by people in the United States.

  • ||

    I don't think I am a conspiracy theorist...in fact you can find out alot about the CIA involvement in Latin America by reading the transcripts of U.S. gov't officials. Do you think the overthow of Allende happended by itself? Do you think that the U.S. gov't does not send billions to prop up Uribe and fight paramilitary wars in Columbia? It is nearly impossible to find a military regime in Latin America in the past 100 years that did not receive enormous finacial and miliary aid from the United States. What about the School of the Americas? What I am saying is not conspiracy 'theory', though it is technically a conspiracy of elites in the U.S. gov't with elites in Latin America.

  • ||

    The truth is that right wing gov'ts have a difficult time winning ANYWHERE in the world through free and democratic elections, but especially in S. America, so we should not be surprised that the U.S. and other gov'ts have to assist them.

  • Rigoberto (Resident Libertaria||

    rana, James isn't going to listen to you. I don't know what you call communists in Venezuela, but in Cuba we call them comecandelas. And comecandelas are afraid of anything that has to do with facts. Como decia mi Abuelo, un Comunista bueno es un Comunista Muerto!

  • ||

    "The truth is that right wing gov'ts have a difficult time winning ANYWHERE in the world through free and democratic elections, but especially in S. America, so we should not be surprised that the U.S. and other gov'ts have to assist them"

    Let's say, for the sake of argument, that this is true, are you saying that a LEFT, military, totalitarian regime (such as, possibly, soon to be Chavez's regime) is GOOD for Latin America? Or perhaps its OK with you because its NOT backed by the U.S.?
    How in the world can you possibly think a government such as this will help the poor, or anyone for that matter? You can go on and on about how the US lead the 2002 coup against Chavez and at this point I say, SO WHAT? (less we not forget that Chavez himself lead a coup in Venezuela!, which, BTW must be alright with you since it wasnt U.S. backed) Therefore, its OK what Chavez is doing here? You dont seem to answer my question.
    Chavez is a power-hungry-military-thug who will stop at nothing to remain in power. He is bringing this country down. I fear that time will prove me, and most of these bloggers, right.

  • ||

    Rigoberto,
    Yesterday, on my way home from work, I was stuck in traffic due to student demostrations against the Referendum. They were handing out fliers. One was a comic of two characters talking about how this new Bolivarian Socialism is modeled after the Cuban Socialist system. One of the characters turns to the other and says "if socialism in Cuba was so great, wouldnt the gringos be swimming over there?"

  • ||

    "I don't know what you call communists in Venezuela"

    1. Comunista
    2. Bolivariano
    3. Rojo, rojito
    4. Maldito Chavista

  • ||

    So many untruths so little time...

    1)Chavez did spend time in jail for his coup attempt(unlike the leaders of the 2002 coup) and in fact it is mentioned often about Chavez in the media. BTW, in the United States, if you led a coup you would likely be killed.

    2)The Chavez gov't is not a military regime, he has been elected twice and survived a referendum(U.S. sponsored). The coup against Chavez was led by the military (as usual) and the first thing that the new gov't did was to disolve the parliament and courts.

    3) Chavez, under the new constitution would still have to be re-elected and doesn't really gain any powers not available to a U.S. president in a time of crisis.

    4)In response to your comment about Cuba, while I don't support many of Castro's policies he has been hampered by the fact that not only does the U.S forbid its own citizens to trade or spend money in Cuba, but under the Helms/Burton Act, it penalized any other country in the world that trades with them. Furthermore, Cuba sill has a higher quality of life than almost any other Latin American country!

  • Rigoberto||

    That's right! We're swimming to U.S. for god's sake! Chavez is modeling his country on failure. You know how much a lechon costs in Cuba? 34 Pesos. The average Cuban makes less than 10 Pesos a month. So they have to save for 3 months just to have a good lechon asado! That's what's in store for Venezuela, and I vote that we send all the American useful idiots over there to FULLY experience "worker's paradise".

  • ||

    By the way...after the failed Chavez coup, the former president of Venezuela was impeached and removed from office for the first time ever in Venezuelan history..

  • Rigoberto||

    I love it when American's like James talk about my country like they have lived there. You know nothing about the quality of life, or anything else in Cuba because the stats are released by the government itself. You need some enlightenment.

    http://www.therealcuba.com/

    I'd also recommend you read "Como llegó la noche" by Huber Matos, a former associate of fifo's.

  • Rigoberto||

    Also, I'm an American citizen and I just sent money to my family this month, so they obviously don't forbid all trade. I'd love for my family to be able to trade places with yours, so your mom, dad, uncle, aunts, ect could all experience the WONDERFUL quality of life that Cuba offers. Meantime my family will finally get some food.

  • ||

    The U.S. gov't forbids U.S. citizens and companies from trading with Cuba under most conditions, and in 2004 the Bush administration reduced the amount that family members can send back to Cuba and reduced the amount of time that they can travel to Cuba.

  • Rigoberto (Resident Libertaria||

    James, Castro nationalized over 2 Billion dollars worth of American PRIVATE property. Would you still do business with someone that stole your car?

  • ||

    Yes. Why? Because the U.S. gov't is should protect the American people, not American finacial assets abroad or Multi-National Coprorations. I am a bit dismayed frankly that you are not a bit more aware of what the Monroe Doctrine is or how the U.S. has intervened at the highest levels of Latin American politics.

  • ||

    For God sakes which country do you think destroyed Cuban representative gov't to bring Batista to power???

  • Rigoberto||

    James, I was simply saying that using the embargo as an excuse for the current condition in Cuba is a intellectually dishonest. Cuba's failure is the abject failure of communism it self. And yes, I do know about the Monroe doctrine, but I have to ask, did YOU live in Cuba under Batista? Back then, they didn't like Batista much, but he is better than Castro, because at least people were allowed to grow. Now all the people are equal; equally poor.

  • ||

    James, about your "untruths"... I hardly think you can lecture me on Vz or Cuban history (I strongly agree with Rigoberto how you think you know more about one's onw country) but I will endulge myself a little since there seem to be a lot of people who hold your mistaken beliefs.

    Regarding your fisrt point: Yes, Chavez went to jail for his coup but he was given a full pardon by then-President Rafael Caldera. If he had done his full jail time and had not been pardoned he would have been unable to run for President of Vz and we would be in this mess.

    point 2: while Chavez has been elected twice, he is fastly approaching a military regime (just give him a chance to pass his new Constitution this Sunday).

    point 3: Chavez wants unlimited reelection, somthing that is NOT allowed in the US. And as far as the limit of his powers, well let's say for Chavez its always a "time of crisis" because HE and ONLE HE decides when it is a time of crisis.

    (laughable) point 4: Have you BEEN to Cuba? I have. A "higher quality of life"?! Honestly, this is so dumb that I cant possibly find the words...

    Jesus James, really I would love it if you could trade places with Rigoberto's family or many Venezuelan families who would jump at the chance to live in the US. It is not your stupidity that surprises me most, its your arogance: somehow you think that its perfectly fine, in fact commendable and admirable, that the Cuban people live in misery, BUT NOT YOU, no poor little you have to suffer and live in the big evil capitalist empire.

  • ||

    Regarding my previous post,
    point one should say "WOULDNT be in this mess" (sorry for the typo)

  • ||

    Point 3: In the U.K., France and many democracies you can run for unlimited re-election. It is in some respects more democratic that artificial limits on how many times the people can vote for someone.

    Many people do live very well in the United States, this is true, but there are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the exploitation of poor people all over the world for labor in U.S. corporations or the largest debt in the world.

    Cuba has a higher quality of life than many LATIN AMERICAN countries, certainly not more than the United States as Cuba is a small country with limited national resources.

  • atrevete||

    Hmm, actually James' stupidity surprises me most, arrogance comes in second. Or maybe some people just get used to living in fantasyland.

  • ||

    So, James, by your own admissions there were a succession of leftist governments in South America and there are still "poor indigenous people". How can that possibly be except by:
    (a) my contention that Communism doesn't work, as amply demonstrated around the world by every Communism experiment; or
    (b) your conspiracy theory that the evil CIA and other western agencies prevented the glorious Socialist Enterprise from flourishing?

    You claim "What I am saying is not conspiracy 'theory', though it is technically a conspiracy of elites in the U.S. gov't with elites in Latin America." and yet you can't grasp that those elites are leftists who espouse the same theories as you? I will say this, you're right that it's not a conspiracy theory, it's your ideology that's on display.

    It's odd that you keep mentioning the CIA and can't find any references to the activities of the USSR (that would be the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The plethora of leftist governments, and their very obvious presence in Cuba, would indicate that they had some "minor" interest in spreading their, and your, ideology. So, I'll ask again, how can there possibly still be"poor indigenous people" in South America?

  • atrevete||

    Patria, socialismo, o muerte"

    Fatherland, socialism, death. The motto of Chavez' "Fifth Republic". On banners and fliers everywhere in Venezuela.

    Nothing fascist about that is there?

  • ||

    "You claim "What I am saying is not conspiracy 'theory', though it is technically a conspiracy of elites in the U.S. gov't with elites in Latin America." and yet you can't grasp that those elites are leftists who espouse the same theories as you? I will say this, you're right that it's not a conspiracy theory, it's your ideology that's on display."


    No, the people in U.S. Business/Gov't that have led the overthrow of Latin American governments have not been leftists. They have overwhelmingly been corporatists and cold warriors.

  • ||

    "Cuba has a higher quality of life than many LATIN AMERICAN countries"

    Where do you get this "fact" from? I can tell you that Cuba's quality of life is NOT better than Venezuela's. So why would the goverment want to emulate Cuba's socialist system? Could it be that what Chavez really wants is to emulate Castro's stay in power?
    I can also tell you that Venezuela's quality of life has decreased during the last 9 years.
    Presently, I can hardly find milk, sugar, cooking oil, eggs, and other price-controlled products. But this would be the least of my worries considering there isnt a single person I know that hasnt been a victim of violent crime during the last 9 years. Does any of this concern you or at the very least make you question your support for Chavez?

  • atrevete||

    No, the people in U.S. Business/Gov't that have led the overthrow of Latin American governments have not been leftists. They have overwhelmingly been corporatists and cold warriors. (James)

    Sigh. Got any names? dates? actual scenario of how these "corporatists and cold warriors" got together and actually FORCED for example, housewives in Chile to bang their pots and pans out the windows of their houses every night against Allende? How did Bill Gates and Paul Allen and Oprah Winfrey, all big corporationists, get together and force half amillion people in April 2002 to march on Miraflores. And get shot at.

  • ||

    I would recommend several books: Shock Docktrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer, Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins, Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA by Tim Weiner and many many more.

  • ||

    By the way if you want to talk about poverty...poverty absolutely exploded under Pinochet in Chile, free market reforms did not make poverty decrease...or how about Bolivia? Under IMF 'restructuring'? Or Argentina, who followed the free-marketism most closely, it was a disaster--they participated in the largetst soverign default in history!

  • ||

    The United States directly and knowingly supported Military regimes in Argentina and Brazil and Uruguay while people were being disappeared and looked the other way during Operation Condor.

  • ||

    James,
    The thing is you can have your opinions, no matter how fantastical, and they wont affect your quality of life... much... but you are not doing any favors to the poor Latin American people you claim to support by turning a blind eye to atrocities commited by the Left. Suffering is suffering, misery is misery, no matter who is inflecting it.

  • ||

    "...inflicting it."
    damn typos.

  • ||

    "or how about Bolivia?"
    What about Bolivia? Do you think they are better off today than they were before Evo Morales? I dont think so.
    And Batista was a prick, but Castro is a real SOB. There is no comparison.
    Yup, previous governments in Venezuela were corrupt, but Chavez is by far the most corrupt.
    So because Right-winged governments have brought misery to their people (which they have no doubt), then, by your logic, the Left-winged government must be right? huh?
    How can you say that one type of government is bad and not the other? How can you possibly defend your argument? Wait, you cant, so you keep going off on tangents and avoid real facts that could diminish your arguments.

  • ||

    Well U.S. involvement in Latin America is not some sort of fantastical opinion, I mean the records are there. Some people in Latin America do not want to be known as America's backyard and I support them. Now fundamentally I believe in a mixed economy but my point is that people will be a lot better off if the United States keeps its hands off of these countries.

  • ||

    I support gov'ts elected by the people not enforced through military rule or imposed by the backing of outside parties.

  • ||

    There are many good books about U.S. involvement in Latin America...read one or two and then we will talk.

  • ||

    James,
    If your original argument was that the U.S. should decrease or stay out of other countries' politics, I would agree with you. But dont defend a thug like Chavez because they U.S. may or may not have backed a coup against him.

    "I support gov'ts elected by the people not enforced through military rule or imposed by the backing of outside parties."
    Chavez was elected twice... how "democratic" that process was is up for debate. But that is old news.
    I am more concerned about the new consitution he wants to implement, which is highly UNdemocratic, no matter which way you slice it.

    As far as reading about U.S. involvement in Latin America. I have. In college. Where most lefty reading is done.
    How about this, when you ACTUALLY LIVE in a lefty country, then we will talk.

  • Juan||

    The facts are:

    By the way if you want to talk about poverty...poverty absolutely exploded under Pinochet in Chile, free market reforms did not make poverty decrease

    Chile has less poverty than the rest of South America, and is reducing it faster.

    Or Argentina, who followed the free-marketism most closely, it was a disaster--they participated in the largetst soverign default in history!

    Hmmm... I didn't know that fixing the price of foreign currency (which was at the heart of Argie economic problems) was "free-marketism"

  • ||

    Chile has one of the largest disparities in income distribution in the entire world.

  • Juan||

    Chile has one of the largest disparities in income distribution in the entire world.

    So what? Unequal income distribution has nothing to do with poverty.

    And, income inequality is a region-wide bug, hence going beyond the economic/ideological orientation of each country. Hell, even under your boy Hugo, inequality has gone UP.

  • Juan||

    In another subject, does it really bother anyone else when people defend anything a ruler does just because he was "democratically elected"? Talk about the means justifying the ends. And then some people complain about expanding executive authority...

  • ||

    Help me understand this comment you made James:

    "The U.S. gov't forbids U.S. citizens and companies from trading with Cuba under most conditions, and in 2004 the Bush administration reduced the amount that family members can send back to Cuba and reduced the amount of time that they can travel to Cuba."

    First, the comment is entirely correct. But, so what? The US government has not forbidden, nor can it, other countries or non-US companies from doing business in Cuba. Cuba is free to do business with the rest of the world, and it does. There are no restrictions on what French, British, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, German or Japanese companies can invest in Cuba. You'll note, in particular, that a Chinese Oil Company is engaged in drilling offshore of Cuba.

    So is it your contention that Cuba cannot prosper without US investment? Sure, the US is a large market but the rest of the world is a much bigger market. What's stopping all of that other potential foreign investment? Are you suggesting that only US Companies with experience in capitalism can successfully invest in and grow the Cuban economy into a market based success? While you're pondering that, review the foreign investment in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the former Soviet Union, and the Peoples Republic of China before they moved to a more capitalistic system. What's the common denomination in the poverty?

    Then, consider the example of Zimbabwe. What has happened since Mugabe introduced the same "reforms" that Chavez intends for Venezuela? I'll give you a hint, Zimbabwe was a net exporter with a decent and growing economy; it's now a net importer of food (it's biggest previous export and now mass starvation is the norm), has the highest inflation rate in the world, and has an 85% unemployment rate. Why do you wish that fate on the Venezuelans?

  • ||

    "Cuba is free to do business with the rest of the world, and it does. There are no restrictions on what French, British, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, German or Japanese companies can invest in Cuba. You'll note, in particular, that a Chinese Oil Company is engaged in drilling offshore of Cuba."


    I am glad you brought this up...because what I find pernicious is not the U.S. decision to not trade with Cuba exactly...but with the Helms/Burton Act The United States actually penalizes any OTHER nation if they trade with Cuba!

  • ||

    Sorry James, but the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (what you refer to as the Helms-Burton Act) is merely a continuation of the embargo enacted in 1962 by JFK. The act restricts US investment and travel by US citizens but the European Parliament has voided any punitive measures for EU citizens or companies.

    In short, the act is unenforceable on the world stage. So, again, what's stopping foreign investment?

  • ||

    Of course it can't be enforce on the international stage but the United States can definitly force other nations to chose between trading between the U.S. and Cuba and can punish them unilaterally...now really what the hell is wrong with the U.S. that it passes a law like this?

  • ||

    "but the United States can definitely force other nations to chose between trading between the U.S. and Cuba and can punish them unilaterally"

    Would you care to explain the "how" of the above in our global economy? Would you care to opine on the ramifications from the EU and the WTO if we pursued the above course? And, while you're at it, explain why the act passed in 1996 prevented foreign investment from 1962 to 1996. There's a reason nobody, other than the former Soviet Union, spent money in Cuba and it's not our embargo. It's the same reason foreign investment dried up in Zimbabwe, why it's non-existent in North Korea, and it's the same reason it will stop in Venezuela, and that reason is your ideology.

    It still comes back to conspiracies orchestrated by the evil CIA and other western agencies against the Socialist Utopia doesn't it?

  • atrevete||

    James, the expert who doesn't even know how to SPELL Colombia, but knows all about how the CIA "props up" Uribe.

    When you DO move to a leftist country, James, please make it North Korea. And, uh, call me from your cellphone..

  • ||

    BakedPenguin wrote:
    Not all of them - some are to be blamed on the US's economic "exploitation", meaning the US is to blame because we:
    1) don't trade with them or we
    2) do trade with them.


    This always amused me about Noam Chomsky, he would insist that US not trading with Cuba was killing the Cuban economy but that trade was destroying the working class in the USA and killing the poor workers in other countries.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Just a matter of time 'till communism re-blooms here... especially if one of the Dems gets elected.

    Now, if one of the Repubs gets elected, we'll still be sliding into the abyss - just at a slightly slower rate of descent.

    Ain't it grand?

  • ||

    Communism is dead in Russia? If you are referring to the system where a dictator controlled society through intimidation of the populace, it is alive and well. I spent part of the summer in Moscow and St Petersburg, and the aire is rife with intimidation and coercion. Russia may be on a path to democracy, but it still has a way to go.

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  • دردشة عراقنا ||

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