Is it any wonder The New York Times’ subscription numbers are dropping like a rock, when they have columnists either dumb enough or mendacious enough to argue that Venezuela’s recent elections show it is more of a democracy than the United States?
I salute you, Hugo Chávez.
Those are words I never thought I’d write. But nor did I think it possible that a Latin American strongman, issued from the barracks, accumulating power through threats, slandering opponents as “traitors,” buying support with $150 million a day in oil money, and bent on a socialist revolution, would accept a marginal electoral defeat.
No, if it came to the humiliation of a 51 to 49 percent rejection of his proposal to end term limits and undermine private property rights and centralize authority, he would surely use a controlled Election Commission to tweak the numbers for Venezuela’s glorious march to socialism.
And yet, there was a glum Chávez declaring in the unadorned language no totalitarian system can abide that: “The people’s decision will be upheld in respect of the basic rule of democracy: the winning option is the one that gets most votes.”
The United States might ponder those words — not just because of what happened in the presidential election of 2000; not just because the arithmetic of voting has proved unpalatable in Palestine; not just because of the past U.S.-abetted trampling of elected Latin American leaders in Chile and elsewhere — but because democracy was alive and vital in Venezuela on Sunday in a way foreign to President Bush’s America.
What a fatuous twit. Tell me, Roger, in George Bush’s less than democratic America, where were the tanks on the streets on November 8th, 2006, after the Democrats thrashed the Republicans and took control of both houses of Congress? Where were the arrests of opposition leaders? How many hostile newspapers (including your own) were suppressed? Was CBS taken off the air, like Venezuela’s Radio Caracas? Did you write this column from some secret safe house, fearful that a knock at the door would mean Dick Cheney was there to take you hunting?
And don’t peddle this “let’s forget about the 2000 election” garbage. You reactionary lefties have obsessed over it ever since Al Gore proved to be such a poor candidate that he couldn’t even win his home state. Face it, the rules we operate under give the election to whomever wins the most electoral votes, not popular votes. All recounts conducted under generally accepted rules showed George Bush won Florida and thus the presidency. Deal with it.
But to get back to that living, vital democracy in Venezuela — what have you been smoking? Chavez has been beating Venezuelan democracy with a tire-iron since he was first elected. You even catalog many of his faults:
Let’s be clear: Chávez is a caudillo. His “socialismo” equals “Hugoismo.” He’s a menace. He’s about to introduce a new currency, the strong bolívar, with monetary policy in chaos, inflation rising toward 20 percent, and his crony bankers pocketing millions by arbitraging the disparity between the official and black-market rates.
Crime and drug-trafficking are thriving. He’s still a believer in building socialism through local councils for which the Russian translation would be “Soviets.” He accused his opponents of a “Pyrrhic victory” and vowed not to change a “comma” of his rejected reforms.
And yet you still honor him? Come back to reality; you clearly could use a dose of it. The victory of the “No” vote in last weekend’s election wasn’t a resounding victory for vital democracy: it was a last, desperate clawing at the face of the man who’s raping and killing it. Do you think Chavez genuinely gracefully accepted defeat, when his military forced him into it?
“I think the opposition has nothing to celebrate,” Chávez said. “We didn’t lose anything. Prepare yourself because a new offensive will come with a proposed reform — that one, or transformed, or simplified.”
Chávez said Venezuelans have flooded him with letters of support. He said that with enough signatures, he could propose another referendum, “in other conditions, in another moment.” Addressing his foes, he added: “I wouldn’t sing victory, opposition misters.”
The comments came after Venezuelan newspapers reported Wednesday that Chávez ceded to his foes in the pre-dawn hours Monday only after high-ranking military officers pressured him to do so. Venezuela has been rife with rumors about such a scenario because it had taken the National Electoral Council hours to announce the results, though voting in Venezuela is tallied electronically.
I’d tell you not to fool yourself, Roger, but it’s too late for that.