It hasn't taken very long, but Venezuela's elected president Hugo Chavez is on the verge of becoming a dictator. He's been able to do it by helping the disadvantaged and poor to lead a life of greater comfort, but also by getting pro-Chavez people to dominate the National Assembly.
[George W. Bush] has just about everything a president could want: popular support, a marginalized opposition, congress firmly on his side and a booming economy as he starts his new [four]-year term.
Now, he's about to become even more powerful — the all-[Bush]ista [Congress] is poised to approve a "mother law" as early as Wednesday enabling him to remake society by presidential decree. In its latest draft, the law would allow [Bush] to dictate measures for 18 months in 11 broad areas, from the "economic and social sphere" to the "transformation of state institutions."
The above were the opening paragraphs to a CBS news article about Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez. We wouldn't approve of it if it were happening to George W. Bush--so do we approve of it--aside from whether we agree with him about George W. Bush--now that it's happening to Chavez? Or do we care? Or should we care, because after all it's not our country?
I wonder where Hugo Chavez would be without burgeoning oil revenues. He's got a booming economy, and a predominant majority loves him, most because they have found a life of greater comfort as he has shared the country's gigantic oil wealth.
It sounds great at first blush, as Chavez has created Community Councils, to which he has given the authority to decide how the money earmarked for their communities will be spent. But how long with this partnership last? What happens if the oil revenue dries up?
"I don't really know what all the coming changes are, but I don't think it's the best idea to give all the power to a single person for him to decide on my behalf," says [Henry] Krakower, the son of a Spanish immigrant and a Polish concentration camp survivor who found a haven in Venezuela after World War II.
I understand some of the historical semantics that have brought Chavez to power. The divide between rich and poor in many places in South America is immense. But to cede that much power to one man is unthinkable in the United States. A great and healthy uproar has originated around the Bush administration's attempt to hornswoggle the public regarding pre-Iraq-war intelligence, and about the President's statement on at least one occasion that the Constitution is "just a [blankety-blank] piece of paper." A similar dialectic does not seem to be occurring in Venezuela.
Wikipedia says the following about the Venezuelan National Assembly (emphasis added):
...Chavez was first elected in December 1998 on a platform calling for a National Constituent Assembly to be convened to draft a new constitution for Venezuela. Chávez's argument was that the existing political system, under the earlier 1961 Constitution, had become isolated from the people. This won broad acceptance, particularly among Venezuela's poorest classes, who had seen a significant decline in their living standards over the previous decade and a half. The National Constituent Assembly (ANC), consisting of 131 elected individuals, convened in August 1999 to begin rewriting the constitution. In free elections, voters gave all but six seats to persons associated with the Chávez movement.
I agree with Mr. Krakower. I feel a hurricane brewing.