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Monday, December 03, 2007


venezuela is still a democracy -- for now

people in the united states have been bombarded constantly with the assertions of american government regarding the danger and malice fomenting in venezuela under hugo chavez, the country's socialist authoritarian leader. through a series of events, chavez -- whose intentions remain highly questionable and very probably insincere -- has moved the country's democratic institutions further toward state socialism in an effort (he claims) to relieve the oppressive poverty of rural venezuela. in debased american media, this has been portrayed hyberbolically in line with the machinations of every violent despotic state in history, from saddam hussein's iraq to nazi germany.

but this weekend comes news that in fact venezuela is still a democracy, and chavez (at least for now) acknowledges a constitutional limit to his power.

Chavez had warned opponents against inciting violence before the vote, and threatened to cut off oil exports to the United States if the Bush administration interfered.

Chavez, 53, also suffered some high-profile defections by political allies, including former defense minister Gen. Raul Baduel.

Early Monday, Baduel reminded fellow Venezuelans that Chavez still wields special decree powers thanks to a pliant National Assembly packed with his supporters.

"These results can't be recognized as a victory," Baduel told reporters,

Baduel, who as defense minister helped Chavez turn back the 2002 putsch, said Venezuela can only be properly united by convening a popularly elected assembly to rewrite its constitution.

Chavez has progressively steamrolled a fractured opposition since he was first elected in 1998, and his allies now control most elected posts.

At opposition headquarters in an affluent east Caracas district, jubilant Chavez foes sang the national anthem.

"This reform was about democracy or totalitarian socialism, and democracy won," said opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said.

"At least now we have the guarantee that Chavez will leave power," said Valeria Aguirre, a 22-year-old student who had braved tear gas during street protests.

Lucena, the electoral agency chief, called the vote "the calmest we've had in the last 10 years."

this should offer context for the complex reality of not only venezuela but iran, russia, palestine and many other forms of government around the world in regards to which american society has presumed the hubristic habit of demonization at every remotely non-compliant outcome. democracy can give results that are not to one's liking and still be quite democratic -- whereas in the united states one gets the feeling that "democracy" has become code for "obediant".

this is not to say chavez's designs are altruistic -- surely, they are not. but it is to say that americans are not receiving anything like a truthful image of events in their minds; instead, events are being misshapen through their own unique interpretative lens of spartan national militancy, which has become sadly primary in our decaying culture.

arthur silber has of late written a series -- parts one, two, three and four -- which try to outline the shape of the deeply paranoid mindset that colors these perceptions of "the other" and what they mean for our social and political health. the answers are, of course, not pleasant.

what is good for the goose is good for the gander -- what is transpiring in places like venezuela and russia, which are outposts of western civilization as well as the united states, is a reflection of cultural trends that overrun the limitations of mere nationalism. britain is becoming an ever-less-lawful society as well, as obviously so is the united states. in all these cases, the force of law is crumbling before an assault by powerful men who see themselves as heroes in a desperate struggle for greatness who cannot be bound by "outdated" mortal proscriptions but only by their own judgment.

they are wrong, and their hubris will eventually end in their destruction as it always does. the only question is how much suffering they will perpetrate on mankind before they fail.

unfortunately, it seems that, as the current of western civility ebbs and wanes, such men are being met with gradually faltering resistance.

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I can't help but wonder if this news gave Rudy Guiliani some pause this morning.

I have no doubt that Chavez considers this merely a temporary setback, but it is still welcome news.

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