Hugo Chavez Has a(nother) Posse

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In December, Venezuela's president lost a referendum that would have granted him near-dictatorial powers and the chance to become president for life. Yes, he lost it. Not that you could tell.

President Hugo Chávez has enacted a slew of presidential decrees which formalize the creation of a popular militia and further consolidate state control over key areas of the economy such as agriculture and tourism.

Mr. Chávez… published the decrees on Friday, just at the close of a special 18-month period that allowed him to bypass Congress in making laws. But only the titles, and not the texts, of the decrees were released. On Tuesday, the government made the full texts widely available.

The Jose de Cordoba and Darcy Crowe story runs down the changes, although this one stood out for me.

Among the biggest changes—and one which was turned down in December—was the creation of another branch of the military, a "National Bolivarian Militia," which analysts say could challenge the position and role of the traditional armed forces… Mr. Chávez also changed the name of the armed forces, which are supposed to be apolitical, from the National Armed Forces. They are now to be called the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, invoking the title Mr. Chávez has chosen for his self-proclaimed socialist revolution.

Quoth Chavez ally Mario Isea:

Of course there are going to be similarities [to the December referendum.] It's the same person who is legislating.

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  1. Of course there are going to be similarities [to the December referendum.] It’s the same person who is legislating.

    Huh?

  2. Among the biggest changes — and one which was turned down in December — was the creation of another branch of the military, a “National Bolivarian Militia,” which analysts say could challenge the position and role of the traditional armed forces

    This could very well be Chavez’s bridge too far. I don’t imagine the Venezuelan military is going to look too kindly on this.

    It was widely reported that the military’s insistence that Chavez concede the loss of the referendum prevented him from just cheating and declaring that he’d won. They’ve got a lot of institutional strength, sort of like Turkey.

  3. From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now… 16 years old!

  4. Its like he wants to rule over a ruined nation instead of a prosperous nation.

    *M. Night Shymalan voice*

    What a twist!

  5. Next thing you know, he will be proposing a 55% “estate tax” on everybody with more than $20M equiv. in holdings.

  6. Its like he wants to rule over a ruined nation instead of a prosperous nation.

    Fixed that for you.

  7. I’m not really going to be all that interested in Chavez until he gets to that “wears a tracksuit and sunglasses everywhere” phase of dictators. A suit has never really said “Latin American strongman” to me. Don’t get me wrong, he rocks the nylon windbreaker pretty hard (much better than that cheap Wal-mart Members Only jacket knock-off Ahmadinejad looks so swallowed up in,) but it’s not a nice matching tracksuit.

    And he should keep the Che beret. It’s good that he let’s you know exactly where he’s taking his sartorial cues–a link to the past, if you will, that points the way to the future.

  8. One of the decree laws passed includes centralizing the tourist industry (driving out private business)…
    Now the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (with the second highest inflation rate in the world and possibly murder capital of the world) will be a real tourist magnet!!
    Anyone want to come down and visit me? 😉

  9. Among the biggest changes — and one which was turned down in December — was the creation of another branch of the military, a “National Bolivarian Militia,” which analysts say could challenge the position and role of the traditional armed forces..

    This is a fairly standard practice of despots regardless or supposed political orientation. The ultimate power of the state resides in the military and dictators needs a means of controlling the military. Creating a parallel military answering only to the dictator serves this purpose nicely. Hitler had the SA and then the SS. Stalin had the NKVD.

    Formation of such a force signals that a leader does not believe they can rely on their formal legal authority alone and must instead rely on brute force. Another good sign is the use of foreigners as bodyguards.

    What is really disturbing is how many people on the left still respect this guy.

  10. Hillary Clinton in a three-piece suit.

  11. What is really disturbing is how many people on the left still respect this guy.

    [lefty whine] But, but… he criticized Bush at the UN! He’s a hero! [/lefty whine]

  12. BTW, we are still waiting for the official and FINAL results from the CNE (Consejo Nacional Electoral) of the December referendum…
    nothing fishy going on there, nope…

  13. rana: Why are you still there?

  14. Was the NKVD ever a private, party organization? Was it even a military organization?

  15. SugarFree,

    Well, for some people on both the left and the right support for foreign leaders, policies, etc. does seem to have something to do with domestic politics.

  16. “Hitler had the SA and then the SS. Stalin had the NKVD.”

    Emperor Palpatine had the Clone Army …

  17. Nigel, good question.
    I may not be here for much longer, though.

    I still hope against logic that things will change for the better… maybe after Chavez is gone (if he ever leaves office)… (sigh).

  18. Was the NKVD ever a private, party organization? Was it even a military organization?

    Well, there was only one party, so it was of course a party org. It was technically a secret police force with arrest and imprisonment powers, but the military/para-military line can get very blurry.

  19. joe,

    No, it was always part of the government from what I’ve read. It also in one form predates Stalin’s period of exclusive reign.

  20. Seward,

    Agreed. But the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” canard was an asinine position in the Cold War, and is no better for it now that the left is doing it.

    (And if this is a Pinochet gotcha, I’ve never said a positive word about that blood-soaked fuckwad. Google to your heart’s content.)

  21. Episiarch,

    Well, there was only one party, so it was of course a party org. One could say the same thing about the Kreigsmarine, but there’s clearly a difference between a military organization that continues to operate after the one-party takes over, and one that starts out as a party militia and is then elevated to official military status. The latter are usually kept around and given individual standing, rather than incorporated into the existing armed forces, for the purpose of checking the power and opposing the longstanding military, providing enough firepower to prevent a military coup.

    I’m not sure the NKVD quite fits here.

  22. I’m sure we’ll see Reason condemning this Hugo Chavez donation, that one to a U.S. group.

    I’m sure the patriotic libertarians at Reason will join with a thinktanker in expressing concern about Chavez being “committed to creating this constituency in the United States and also to embarrassing the United States”.

    Oh, wait: Chavez gave the money to a group that supports the same thing as Reason does, and some things are just more important.

  23. “National Bolivarian Army”? Why not just call it what it is, the “Chavez Youth”, and be done with it?

  24. Now the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (with the second highest inflation rate in the world and possibly murder capital of the world) will be a real tourist magnet!!

    The US dollar may be inflating, but I bet it goes pretty far in Venezuela.

    rana, I’m sure you will be happy to know that Venezuela is contributing $1.5 million for immigrant job training in the US.

  25. Ouch! I made the same point as OLS.

    In my case, I think it is a good thing. I’m delighted he is helping immigrants find better jobs. It helps the US economy. I hope he will help me pay my heating bills this winter too.

    Venezuelans may have a different perspective though.

  26. How is lonewacko any different than a spammer? That’s an honest question, I’m not trying to be cute.

  27. stuartl: Actually, you did a good job. The link you provided isn’t as bad as it could be (even U.S. far-lefties have limits), even though it doesn’t provide as much background information as I do seeing as I’ve been familiar with the group for a few years and I have about a dozen entries on them.

    Plus, you also reinforced my sarcastic use of the phrase “patriotic libertarians”.

    So, you did a good job.

  28. This could very well be Chavez’s bridge too far.

    For Venezuela’s sake, let’s hope so.

  29. Bob A,

    Great movie. And it’s Stallone’s best work to date.

  30. Plus, you also reinforced my sarcastic use of the phrase “patriotic libertarians”.

    You are absolutely correct, I am extremely patriotic. I am proud that much of the dynamic US culture and economy comes from hardworking immigrants. Three of my four grandparents were immigrants. I volunteer in youth athletics, it is great to see the hardworking immigrant kids fulfilling their parents dreams by doing well and going to college.

    Can you believe there are some xenophobes that don’t get this?

  31. “The US dollar may be inflating, but I bet it goes pretty far in Venezuela.”

    It does. The official exchange rate is Bs2,150/US$1 but the black market gets you about Bs3,500 (In December it went as high as Bs7,000). But as you may understand, this sucks for those of us earning in Bolivares.

    “rana, I’m sure you will be happy to know that Venezuela is contributing $1.5 million for immigrant job training in the US.
    Venezuelans may have a different perspective though”

    Most Venezuelans heavily critize Chavez for giving away much-needed money. Venezuela is a mess: poverty, crime and corruption are rampant; government spending is out of control; there are food and housing shortages; roads, hospitals, schools are falling apart… the list goes on.

  32. I’m sure that any minute the pure scientific rationality of socialism will kick in and Venezuela will be on the road to happiness and prosperity.

    After all, Cuba’s on the verge of its miracle. Any day now, so I’m told.

    You naysayers need to learn patience.

  33. SugarFree,

    Agreed. But the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” canard was an asinine position in the Cold War, and is no better for it now that the left is doing it.

    I agree.

    (And if this is a Pinochet gotcha, I’ve never said a positive word about that blood-soaked fuckwad. Google to your heart’s content.)

    I’m glad of that, but that wasn’t what I was getting at. I was just more broadly affirming your original statement.

  34. stuartl: it’s not (yet) a requirement of patriotism to read the link, but if you had read my link and what it links to, you’d find out that the group that got the money – and especially their leader – does not in any way match your delusional fantasy. They advertise online on behalf of people who may be in the country illegally, undercutting U.S. citizens. That doesn’t fit my description of patriotic, but libertarians – like the, pardon me for saying it, Rosenbergs’ defenders – have a different definition. Their leader attended a “RevolutionInTheUS” conference, and that doesn’t sound too very patriotic to me. Further, they’re “protected” (meaning, in the negative sense) by the local Dem machine, which seeks to profit from illegal activity: all those IllegalAliens form a power base for them.

    The sarcasm stands.

  35. What mystifies me is why anybody in the US gives a fuck about a third rate dictator of a second tier Latin American country? Especially since he can’t even pull off the dictator part effectively.

  36. shecky,

    1) Some people in the US are cosmopolitans, meaning that they care about the welfare of people, regardless of what make-believe borders they happen to live between.

    2) Some people in the US are ideological fellow-travelers of Mr. Chavez, and they want to see his brutal dictatorship grow even more powerful so that he might improve equality and democracy in Venezuela, making it a shining example to the rest of the world.

    3) Venezuela sits atop a large reserve of crude oil. As is the situation with many tinpot dictators in godforsaken third world shitholes, this makes him extremely interesting to some people in the US.

  37. Joe,

    The origins of the security group do not matter. Only its dependence solely on the authority of the dictator matters. The NDVK evolved out of the old Tsarist security apparatus but Stalin made it something much more than a mere secret police (such as the Gestopo which was really just an extremely ruthless national police force) The NDVK officers have military style ranks (General, Colonels etc) and the up until the late 50’s they had their own heavy weapons such as tanks and aircraft. They were a full fledged military with an entirely different chain of command. Kruschev reformed matters somewhat but the NDVK (then the KGB) continued during the Cold War with an KGB officers holding one of the two launch keys for every nuclear weapon.

  38. Hugh:

    1)Venezuela ranks pretty low on my list of shitty places int he world to worry about. Chavez gets play well beyond his significance.

    2)Big fucking deal. Highlighting the antics of that clown only adds panache.

    3)Now this is a viable concern, though Venezuela’s shittiness still pales in comparison to the some of the shitholes we rely upon as a big oil consumer. Yet again, Chavez gets more airplay than he deserves.

    Basically, this is a regular exercise for libertarianish folks to wag our fingers at a failing socialist, as if it had some real significance to our existence.

  39. “What mystifies me is why anybody in the US gives a fuck about a third rate dictator of a second tier Latin American country?”

    Venezuela, not too long ago, was perhaps the most prosperous Latin American country- the envy of other South American countries. The amount of immigrants in Venezuela is just amazing (Europeans escaping war and people from neighboring countries looking for a better life in Venezuela’s booming economy) While the blame for Venezuela’s “downfall” does not rely solely on Chavez, he certainly is responsible for the dramatically worsening condition over the last 10 years.
    Perhaps people are curious about this change…

    Plus, Chavez is a charismatic character with great influence in LA (thank goodness this influence now seems to be weakening). Venezuela’s proximity to and oil business with the U.S. make him a topic of conversation as well. Add to this the fact that he constantly goads the U.S. and relates with other unsavory dictators (in my opinion, just to be contrary), well, he is trying his best “look at me!” “pay attention to me” and people do.

    You may be right about him not deserving the attention, but its like driving past a car wreck and not rubbernecking.

    “Basically, this is a regular exercise for libertarianish folks to wag our fingers at a failing socialist, as if it had some real significance to our existence.”

    Ouch.

  40. Shannon,

    Interesting info – I didn’t realize the NKVD ever had armor or aircraft.

    Still, the point I thought you were making was about the incorporation of a pre-existing “private army,” such as the SD, into the armed forces as a personally-layol counter to the existing military/security forces.

    Stalin didn’t seem to do that, like Hitler did. Instead, he seems to have been more interested in making existing institutions (the secret police, the army) into loyal bureaucracies themselves.

  41. I wonder how many comments we will get from joe assuring us that Chavez is a freely-elected democrat?

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