However, I really should deal with this, so (from here)…
This buffoon (Chavez, in case you hadn’t guessed) has maneuvered to monopolize power in every branch and level of Venezuelan government. He has nationalized much of the economy, including the oil, power-generation, telephone and banking sectors, along with most of the media. His Cuban-trained state police bully the opposition.Little Ricky goes on to point out that Chavez is replacing “legitimate popular elections” (interesting, given this item from about a year ago) and is “(using) his petro-dollars to help achieve what the impoverished (Fidel) Castro never could: Marxist regimes in Nicaragua and Ecuador, and working relationships with Argentina and Brazil.”
Somehow I don’t think the voters in those countries care whatever label Santorum attaches to them, be it Marxist or something else, when you consider the following from this article…
Latin America is emerging from a long period of failed economic reform policies, known as "neoliberalism" there, which resulted in the worst economic growth performance in more than 100 years. From 1980-2000, regional GDP (gross domestic product) per capita grew by just 9 percent, and another 4 percent for 2000-2005. By comparison, it grew by 82 percent in just the two decades from 1960-1980. As a result of the unprecedented growth failure of the last 25 years, voters have demanded change in a number of countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Uruguay.Now I realize that the Weisbrot piece was written in April of ’07, and circumstances may have changed since then. I say this because Santorum notes that Chavez has met with Ahmadinejad of Iran, with the latter saying that he and Chavez are “brothers” (cue scary sounding incidental music and “Terra! Terra! Terra!” bold type all over the place).
Venezuela has loaned more than $3 billion to Argentina, and has loaned or committed hundreds of millions of dollars to Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and other countries. It also provides subsidized credit for oil to the countries of the Caribbean, through its PetroCaribe program, and provided many other forms of aid to neighboring countries. These resources are provided without policy conditions attached – unlike most other multilateral (IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank) and bilateral aid. By providing these resources, Venezuela is helping other countries to bring their policies more in line with what voters have demanded, and greatly reducing the threat of economic crises in the process of doing so.
For example, before the Nicaraguan elections last November, US government officials made many threats to the voters of that country that if they elected Daniel Ortega, they would suffer greatly from cutoffs of loans, aid, and even the remittances that many Nicaraguans depend upon from their relatives in the United States. None of these threats have been carried out. This is partly because Washington knows it would be useless and counterproductive to do so, since Nicaragua would simply replace US-controlled funding sources with more borrowing from Venezuela. The same is true for Bolivia, which has vastly increased its hydrocarbon revenues, and is in a stronger bargaining position knowing that it has an international lender that will not try to interfere with its domestic political agenda. The new progressive president of Ecuador, who faces a number of important political battles to deliver on his promises of governmental reform, pro-poor and pro-development policies, is also strengthened by having Venezuela as a lender. When the Argentine government decided to say goodbye to the IMF in January of 2006 by paying off their remaining $9.9 billion in debt, Venezuela’s loan of $2.5 billion helped that government to avoid pushing its reserves down to dangerously low levels.
No other government in the region accepts the Bush Administration’s charge that Chávez is a threat to regional stability – not even President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, which shares a 1300 mile conflict-ridden border with Venezuela. When Uribe met with members of the US Congress last year, he refused to criticize Chávez– reportedly even in private. The vast majority of Latin American governments also supported Venezuela’s bid for the UN Security Council last year, even after he called President Bush "the Devil" at the UN, and despite all the pressure that the United States – whose economy is 67 times the size of Venezuela’s – brought to bear on them.
The only place I have seen reporting about this is the Los Angeles Times by Chris Kraul and Sebastian Rotella, and though I have no reason to doubt the authenticity, I get a little suspicious when I hear about plots to abduct Jewish businessmen in South America and abduct them to Lebanon without actual proof (cited by Thomas A. Shannon of the State Department in this story).
Is Chavez using his petrodollars on behalf of people we don’t like? I’m sure he is, but I haven’t seen evidence that he’s doing so to cause an insurrection in this hemisphere.
As for our government, Weisbrot tells us…
What should the Bush Administration do about the non-threat from Venezuela? It could start by acknowledging that it was wrong to support the April 2002 coup that overthrew Chávez. The US Congress should have a real investigation of this involvement, as it did for the US-sponsored coup against the democratic government of Chile in 1973, which yielded volumes of information. The documents that we have so far on the Venezuelan coup from the State Department and the CIA show that the Bush Administration paid some of the leaders of the coup, had advance knowledge of it, and tried to help it succeed by lying about the events as they transpired. The administration also tacitly supported a devastating oil strike that tried to topple the government in 2002-2003, and funded opposition groups through the 2004 failed recall attempt and beyond. In fact, the US Agency for International Development, which is not supposed to be a clandestine organization, continues to pour millions of dollars into Venezuela, Bolivia, and other countries for activities and recipients that it will not divulge. This, too, needs to be made public.Also, Little Ricky tells us (reiterating what I said earlier)…
Recently, the brotherhood of Iran and Venezuela announced a $4 billion joint venture in oil production. (We should) strike…at this alliance and the heart of Chavez's power.You mean, “recently” as in October of 2007 (here)?
And oh yes, let’s put Venezuela on a “Terra! Watch list” or something and impose sanctions, making the economy crumble to the point where the people are destitute and rise up in rebellion (which won’t happen anyway, given that Chavez has enough dough to spread around the continent already), loving us even though we inflicted misery upon them (oh, and P.S. – this NEVER happens).
Another thing - let's not forget this act from the "boogeyman" Chavez that Buscho was unwilling to extend to our neediest citizens, which, as far as I'm concerned, is a truly embarrassing commentary on our political "leadership."
Also, Santorum said we should ratify the Columbia Free Trade Agreement as a response to Chavez in Venezuela….?????
Does Chavez pose a threat? Probably, partly due to our ham-handedness in South America. However, the way to respond to him is through diligent surveillance and intelligence-gathering, as well as working with international law enforcement against him when there is a case to be made. This is what adult leadership does, as opposed to Bushco’s typical bombast, half-truths and empty threats (helped in no small part by Santorum and his ideological playmates).
Update 11/25/08: Based on this New York Times editorial, it sounds like the people of Venezuela are rising up against Chavez just fine without our help - we'll see.