♠ Posted by Emmanuel in Latin America at 2/03/2009 09:18:00 AMWell, well, well--this is no surprise to me, really. What we have here is further evidence disabusing leftist Hugo Chavez sympathizers who view the world through rose-tinted glasses. Student activists who once supported Comrade Hugo turned against him during his last attempt to become a Castro-style president for life. Venezuela's maximum leader failed at his last bid in no small part because the previously loyal student activists saw through this power gambit. This time around, Comrade Hugo is not playing nice guy. TIME reports that Chavez is unleashing his goons on the Venezuelan youth to ensure that he gets his way:
Up till now, the only people who have figured out how to beat Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez have been kids. Since first winning the presidency in 1998, Chávez had never lost an election until December 2007, when he was stunned in a constitutional referendum that he had hoped would eliminate presidential term limits and greatly expand his socialist project. But his nemesis in that plebiscite wasn't Venezuela's feckless political opposition. It was a broad and unexpected university-student movement that took to the streets, mobilized the victorious "no" vote and flummoxed Chávez.Chavez is just a thug with basically no grasp of economics. As that capitalist roader Springsteen sang, the highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive. The glory days of Chavez may last a while longer, but never let it be said they were extended democratically. You know the rest of what the Boss sang about tramps like Chavez. And yes, I do believe Venezuela would be better off if Miami Steve (or Nils Lofgren) was its leader.
Chávez seems confounded no more. He has called yet another national referendum, for Feb. 15, to revisit the term-limits question. And this time he's doing a more effective if controversial job of thwarting the youths who once thwarted him. "If they block a street, tear-gas them good," he has urged the police. With the students neutralized, and with the regular opposition parties still unable to challenge Chávez on a national level, the leftist revolutionary looks likely to win this new bid for indefinite re-election. Chávez "is playing a more effective role against us," concedes student leader Juan Mejia, 22, an engineering major at Simón Bolívar University in Caracas. "But he's doing it mainly by criminalizing us..."
Student leaders say Chávez's offensive against them is a sign of his desperation, since polls show the "yes" and "no" votes in a dead heat. "It's the government that wants to make us fall into violence, not the other way around," insists Mejia. "We're the ones being threatened and harassed." He points to a phone call between two students that was recorded by the government and broadcast on state-run media, as if to show how closely the opposition was being tracked. More disturbing, however, is the violence allegedly visited on anti-Chávez students by pro-Chávez thugs like La Piedrita, a sort of urban paramilitary group that Chávez has denounced but which the students complain hasn't been restrained. Last week, for example, the car of anti-Chávez student leader Ricardo Sanchez was torched in Caracas.
[Readers wanting to know more about Venezuela's political economy are encouraged to visit Miguel Octavio's blog on Salon. The subtitle explains the offputting but essentially correct title of his blog: A famous Venezuelan, Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo, referred to oil as the devil's excrement. For countries, easy wealth appears indeed to be the sure path to failure. Venezuela might be a clear example of that.]