Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What America Risks in Venezuela

This isn't Palin-specific, but it's a very important issue and this article by Michael Rowan on the Corner this morning is very good. This is exactly what I studied in college - Democratic legitimacy, the tactics dictators use to get to power and how dangerously close we could be to experiencing it.

This is about Chavez, his rise to power and the threat of it to the United States. Since we're so dependent on their oil, our hands are somewhat tied to do anything. This is a very dangerous situation that we all need to be aware of. The scary thing is we can see it unfold before our eyes.

What America Risks in Venezuela [Michael Rowan]

Since 2004, Chavez has had the capability to rig the elections. That capability includes control over the voting roll, the electronic voting machines, and the centralized count, none of which has been independently audited in five years (while the roll increased from 10 million to 17 million names); direct or indirect employment of five million jobs; direct threats to fire employees who do not vote for him; using billions of dollars of government funds to buy votes — openly; using, sometimes with plausible deniability, the police, military, and roving gangs to intimidate or murder opposition or media nuisances; and restricting freedom of speech and assembly of the few remaining opposition groups, e.g., gassing the students or denying their permits to march.

This has happened elsewhere (Zimbabwe, etc) where the U.S. declared sanctions. But the U.S. does not sanction Chavez for anti-democratic behavior for the same reason it does not declare him a state sponsor of terror when all the intelligence on the FARC, Iran, Hezbollah, & Hamas requires them to do so: because of the oil. The U.S. is a lily-livered chicken. The OAS is a purchased coward. The EU is all words and no action. And the U.N. is controlled by forces that want the war against America to succeed: Russia, China, the Muslim world, and some in the "bottom billion" living in failed states that Paul Collier writes about.

The U.S. does not appear to realize what is at stake here. Our American Founders had a great distrust of executive power and placed checks and balances everywhere so that dictatorship would not reappear here (they might be surprised at how presidents can conduct war through executive privilege, I suspect). Likewise, we must be extremely wary of dictators who use democracy as a cover for their violence against it, as occurs in Russia and Iran, for example.

By accepting the results of sham elections because of fear or cowardice in the face of an oil bully, the U.S. is showing to the world that it does not know or care what democracy is, according to its own Founders. No achievement in prosperity will counterbalance that fatal flaw. While the media (the New York Times is typical) accepts Chavez as a legitimate democrat and while the U.S. government looks the other way, the fundamental raison d'etre of America itself is put at risk. This story is not about Venezuela and Chavez, or Zimbabwe and Mugabe, it has always been about democracy — our democracy. What America is risking here is itself. How President Obama comes down on this issue is profoundly important.

— Michael Rowan is a political consultant with experience in most of the states (for Democrats) and in 14 nations in the last 30 years. The former president of the International Association of Political Consultants, he lived in Venezuela from 1993 to 2006. He was the strategist for Manuel Rosales in the 2006 Venezuelan presidential campaign and with Douglas Schoen authored The Threat Closer to Home — Chavez and the War against America.

02/17 09:30 AM

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