Sad News from Venezuela

Recent reports indicate that President Hugo Chavez has been forced to resign by a group of military generals. This follows protests during which unknown parties fired on the crowds, killing 10-13. The troubles started when the management at the national oil company provoked a strike. Chavez has widespread support from the poor in Venezuela, and although he has been an ineffective leader, he at least represented the interests of the majority instead of the ruling elite. He was democratically elected, and now the military is taking over. People have been predicting that the US government and the CIA would go after him sooner or later, given his socialist rhetoric and defiance of US hegemony. Venezuela is the fourth largest producer of oil and the third largest supplier for the United States. It smells a bit like Chile in 1973.

:frowning: :frowning: :mad: :frowning: :frowning:

AP Story

Found another link:
BBC News

I don’t know how long will the URL work, I hope it doesn’t change…


That may have been true until last year (he handily won an election in 1998), but in the last several months, his popularity among Venezuelans has been dropping precipitously.

I can’t say I’m really happy with the violation of democratic norms. But the ironic thing about this, of course, is Chavez’s own well-known disdain for democracy. He led a coup attempt himself against a democratically elected government in 1992 (and given that, I never quite understood why he was at liberty to run for president subsequently - by all rights, he still should have been in jail for treason). And throughout his presidency, Chavez always chose confrontation with his opponents, rather than trying to negotiate with them.

The Venuzuelan people, I think, made a major mistake by electing such an anti-democratic demagogue in the first place. If the military had not booted him, I think it almost inevitable that Chavez would have eventually staged a Fujimori-style autogolpe to seize power himself. He was making a lot of noise that pointed that way.

While I agree that U.S. policy in Latin America has often been highly reprehensible (in Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama, among others) I don’t have the sense in this case that U.S. pressure was a major factor compared to Chavez’s own incompetence and belligerence against his perceived domestic opponents.

I visited Venezuela in 1991, and I remember the guns and the feeling of danger. I also remember the wonderfully friendly people, their generosity and humor. The Caracas subway was spotless (“no eating, no water” was the warning we received). Soldiers were everywhere, as is true in most parts of the third world.

One of my all-time favorite travel days happened there. We ended up on a day trip with a group of Venezuelans (no other Americans), jeeping through the jungle and down to the beach. We overcame the language barrier somehow, and laughed while eating fresh fish and drinking ice cold Polar beer. We swam under
a waterfall, and the Venezuelan men all dove off a cliff to show us
how brave they were. I have a picture of me with one of the guides, we are standing in the jungle and he is holding a machete
to my throat and smiling. I outweighed him by about 30 pounds, if I recall correctly. He was just a boy, I wonder where he is now.

I wish only the best for Venezuela and its people.

Makes you think twice about the hubbub we give here about a President lying about an affair or having used cocaine in the past.

I’m not trying to start a Republican/Democrat bashing. Just think about our scandals versus those in so much of the rest of the world.

My sister lives in Tbilisi, in the Republic of Georgia. They still have shellholes in their parliament building, for chrissake.

I think you have stated it well, Colibri. His incompetence was the primary factor in his downfall. But I can’t help but notice that the forces that ousted him (military, oil management, etc.) have close ties to the US. I imagine the CIA checked out the situation and said, “We don’t need to get involved - this guy will self-destruct.” Even if you hate Chavez, I don’t understand how anyone can believe having the military run the country is a better option.

I have spoken to friends in Venezuela, who were Chavez supporters. People in Chavez’s administration are being rounded up. My friends are hearing rumors that the police will come after them, since they were publically critical of the recent events (though they were also critical of Chavez). It sounds like the situation is relatively calm. But I’m worried.

Sounds about right to me.

Although Chavez was elected, he was ex-military and he himself tried to run things in an authoritarian way. I see this almost as one faction of the military ousting a different faction.

I traveled for a few weeks in Venezuela in early 1998, after Chavez came to power. I drove down into Bolivar state, around Caracas, and into the Llanos. I was really struck by the very heavy miltary presence at the time, quite strange for a country that did not have major external threats or a major internal insurgency. It was worse than any other place in Latin America I have been except Panama during the Noriega years. One of the most annoying things was that soldiers kept flagging me down at checkpoints to give them lifts, sometimes for hundreds of miles. I wasn’t about to refuse.