Oh, my gawd. What is it with Time magazine’s attitude toward Hugo Chavez? They couldn’t make him their Person of the Year; that privilege is reserved for actual dictators and nonentities like “you”, not admirable democratic socialists out to change the world for the better. But at last, they searched their groins and found the gonads to print something somewhat true about him, although you’d never know it to look at the title: “Is Chavez Becoming Castro?”
To read the opening paragraph, you’d swear the answer was a resounding yes:
Hugo Chavez has gone through more chiefs of staff than Venezuela has had Miss Universes — which is quite a few. So when the Venezuelan President tapped his older brother Adan for the job last year, few outside Miraflores Palace took notice. They should have. Adan, since then appointed education minister, is Hugo’s chief Marxist consultant — and a driving force behind Chavez’s harder-than-usual left turn since his re-election last month. Chavez has announced plans to shut down an opposition-run TV network and nationalize Venezuela’s largest telephone and electricity firms, while pushing his rubber-stamp Congress to allow him to run for re-election indefinitely and rule by decree well into 2008. It’s no wonder Chavez watchers compare Adan to Latin America’s other conspicuous First Brother, Raul Castro, who would succeed Fidel.
To many in Washington, the emergence of Adan is one more reminder of Chavez’s autocratic urges — and of the possibility that Chavez himself is Fidel Castro’s real successor in Latin America. His nationalization scheme evokes the seizure of private businesses in Cuba after Castro’s 1959 communist revolution: it ousts U.S.-based companies like Verizon, part-owner of the Venezuelan telecom giant CANTV, and the AES Corporation, which controls Venezuela’s main power utility. Chavez asserted this week that while he’ll compensate both U.S. firms, he won’t pay them a market rate. And when the Bush Administration raised concerns about his burgeoning presidential powers, Chavez replied, in his usual charming fashion, “Go to hell, gringos!”
An impression hardly contradicted by the sidebar links, either:
Stifling Dissent in Venezuela
The outgoing Central Bank director disputes Chavez’s nationalization policies. But he’s one of the last willing to speak out
Chavez Extends His Grip
The Venezuelan strongman lurches even closer to one-party — and one-man — rule, roiling democratic waters and spooking the stock market
Venezuela’s Opposition Concedes: Chavez Is Here to Stay
How big was the leftist leader’s reelection victory? So big his opponents didn’t even cry foul
Got a slight case of the schizo, have we? I mean, how else to explain a “strongman” who still manages to get himself so cleanly elected that his opponents “don’t even cry foul”, even though he’s “roiling democratic waters and spooking the stock market”? (As if the stockmarket were an arbiter of democracy. Boo fucking hoo!)
And it’s a mystery to me how a bank director can “dispute Chavez’s nationalization policies” and still be an example of “stifled dissent”. I mean, Time managed to talk to him and find out that he disputed a policy. How stifled is that?
Where was I? Oh yeah, Time searched its ass and finally found its brain–sorta. You’ll have to look three paragraphs down and ignore that stupid sidebar before you get to it:
Yet, by objective standards, Chavez is still not Castro. Says one Chavez official, “We’re a hell of a long way from a [Castro-style] regime.” Chavez gushingly admires and subsidizes Castro. But many officials in Caracas, especially younger ones, wince when you equate the two. They insist their democratically elected commandante is hardly poised to snuff out free speech and free enterprise or stoke armed revolution abroad. Chavez may control the hemisphere’s largest oil reserves, but they believe he can’t afford to squander a more valuable commodity — his democratic legitimacy, something Castro never had and which gives Chavez the ability to blunt U.S. efforts to cast him as the Caribbean’s new communist caudillo.
Even if Chavez were to turn Caracas into Havana, there is little Washington could do. The U.S. depends on Venezuela as its fourth largest foreign-crude supplier, which all but precludes swinging the trade embargo stick Washington has used against Castro for 45 years. Political isolation is a weak bet, too. In a region with the world’s widest gap between rich and poor, Chavez’s gospel of Latin American self-determination has spawned a resurgent left and unusually coordinated anti-Yanqui sentiment, evidenced by the region’s rejection of President Bush’s hemispheric free-trade proposal. Warns Luis Vicente Leon, head of the independent Caracas polling firm Datanalisis, “Every time the U.S. tries to demonize Chavez, it makes him larger than he really is.”
I did say they were reluctant to give the man his due, did I not? Well, here’s an example of just how reluctant. They admit that he’s no Castro–but then turn around and assume that like Castro, Chavez’s success at home must be due to his demonization by the Yanks. Or his demonization OF the Yanks. Neither of these is the case. The real reason probably has a lot more to do with the fact that the economy is booming (even in the non-oil sectors) and that people have it better now than they did in the 40 years of faux democracy that preceded Chavecito. Oh, and of course, there’s the little matter of a growing independence from gringo rule, too; you can rest assured that even if the economic imperialism in the region came from the Brits and the Dutch, as has been the case to a lesser extent, the people would be against that, too. No Yanks necessary.
Of course, the fact that the Yanks are omnipresent, especially when it comes to backing actual dictators, is one which somehow escapes the closer scrutiny of the Newsmagazine of Record. No, better to keep the focus tight on Chavez and his alleged democratic deficits. The fact that they’re all imaginary and that the proof of his “autocratic” tendencies is strangely thin, is of no consequence. Even now, as the truth slips out, Time must still adhere to its official line that Chavecito is “anti-American” or face the wrath of the government censor. Time, like so many other US media outlets, has been a blatant cheerleader for the anti-Chavez forces–even when it’s evident that they haven’t a democratic bone in their carcasses.
And when it hasn’t been cheerleading for the US’s wealthy Venezuelan toadies, Time has been actively blowing smoke, trying to confuse the reading public into an irrational fear of Chavez. (I refer you once more to the schizophrenic sidebar above. Confused? I would be too, if I didn’t know better than to take such things seriously.)
The real question is not how much longer the Venezuelan people will tolerate Chavez in power; they’ve already demonstrated repeatedly that they like him enough to keep him in for as long as he’s willing to stay. Rather, it is how much longer Time magazine will keep backflipping and waving the pompoms for a cause (foreign investment as the cure for all domestic evils) that was actually lost long before Chavecito came to power.
“Perhaps if we don’t treat Chavez like Castro, the new theory suggests, the Venezuelan leader may be less compelled to become Castro”, goes the last line in the piece–but it misses the fact that if Chavez really wanted to be Castro, he could have done it long ago. The fact that he hasn’t, shows that he’s learned from the Maximo Leader’s self-admitted mistakes. He’s prepared to give the people what they really want, not to mention the means to achieve it for themselves. The region, let’s face it, is out of Washington’s hands, and looks likely to remain so for good, because they’re fast developing a taste for real democracy (especially since it works).
Now, when will Time learn from its own mistakes, acknowledge the real facts up front, and stop publishing gobbledygook?