“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Chávez containment. Too little and too late.

Some attention to Latin America?

An Answer for Hugo Chávez
By Jorge G. Castañeda Washington Post
Wednesday, March 7, 2007; Page A17

MEXICO CITY -- Each stop on President Bush's upcoming swing through Latin America has its own mini-agenda: ethanol and the Doha round with Brazil; a Trade Framework Agreement in Uruguay; Plan Colombia and drug enforcement in Bogotá; immigration and security with Mexico and Guatemala. But there is an overall agenda for which this trip may well represent too little, too late: Chávez containment.

The balance of forces in the region has shifted. Not only has the leftward tilt persisted -- with electoral victories in Nicaragua and Ecuador, unprecedented near-misses in Mexico and Peru, unexpected advances in Colombia -- but the Venezuelan president's influence has expanded. Hugo Chávez has found his sea legs and assembled an impressive array of tools to seduce the region. His "21st-century socialism" is a strange blend of a state-run economy, blanket social subsidies, a perpetual presidency, government by decree, and authoritarian theory and practices, as well as endless quarrels with Washington.

Thanks to unlimited oil revenue (for now) and an endless stream of Cuban doctors, educators and security personnel -- and soon, bountiful supplies of Russian arms made in Venezuela -- the new Caribbean caudillo is on a roll. Chávez has skillfully exploited the disappointment of the region's poor with the economic reforms of the past two decades; he is (for now) delivering the goods: bare-bones health care, literacy campaigns, price controls on food staples. Chávez has extended his reach to Bolivia, where Evo Morales worships him; to Argentina, where he and his populist colleague Néstor Kirchner are preparing a massive anti-Bush rally to coincide with the American president's arrival across the bay in Montevideo; and increasingly to Ecuador and Nicaragua, through generous handouts. Guatemala and Paraguay could be next.

While much of Chávez's socialism is either rhetorical or rooted in economic policy, it entails serious backsliding on human rights and representative democracy. Ultimately, if Chávez wants to wreck Venezuela's economy, that is the Venezuelan people's business; but if he seeks to extend his concentration of power in Venezuela or elsewhere, that is everybody's business. It is time for others to say so and to undertake the necessary ideological and political struggle to check Chávez and Havana, both rebutting their populist fallacies and failures and vaunting the merits of the democratic alternative, a globalized market economy, imperfect as it may be.

George W. Bush is the least appropriate person on Earth for this mission; he is immensely unpopular in Latin America -- not since Richard Nixon's trip to Caracas in 1959 have so many protests been likely -- and since Sept. 11, 2001, he has neglected the hemisphere. Many snicker that if he defends democracy in Latin America as well as he has in Iraq, only God can help Latin American democrats...


  1. Continuing mistakes from 1961 'til now.

  2. A Case of the Shiites

    BERLIN (Reuters) - An 18-year-old man has been detained for repeatedly defecating in front of a cash machine in a bank vestibule in the southern German town of Eggmuehl, police said on Tuesday.

    A police spokesman said man, who left his deposit at the bank eight times, was caught only after the bank installed video monitors to film him in action. A staff worker later spotted the man as he was boarding a local bus.

    She alerted police and they then detained him as he was about to get off the bus. He faces charges of vandalism, the spokesman said.

  3. I just really needed that, this morning, doug, leaving deposits at the bank. ha ha.

    Mexico, over 10% of it's workforce has exfiltrated the country.

    It's all good.

    Surf's up.

  4. Plop plop, whiz whiz,
    Oh, what a relief it is.

  5. If only the Bush Admin was responsible for operations at that bank.
    We'd all be watching it on You Tube within the week.

  6. It would soon be known as the case of 'Scooter' Shitty.

  7. Scooter, the "Looter"
    Good to get him off the street.

    Mr Chavez has been elected, in a landslide. He won with a larger portion of the popular vote than even Al Gore got, when he won the popular election in 2000.

    Danny Ortega, is back in control in Managua, I'm thinking of going back to Central America, myself.
    Back to the 80s, in midlife crisis, for all of us, even Fidel.
    That guy just will not die.

  8. The Germans, having no sense of humor, considered it Shitty Litter.

  9. One man's bank deposit is another's litter.

  10. In Arizona, Indian Trackers vs. Smugglers

    The skills of the Shadow Wolves, a federal law enforcement unit of Indian officers, are in high demand.

  11. Arnold knows that many of the illegal welfare cheats and gang members will soon follow the lead of Ernest Gallo:
    (if they give them $500 at birth)
    Ernest Gallo, 97, Founder of Winery, Dies
    What's the Word?

    Ernest’s parents were saddled with a nonproductive farm and apparently heavily in debt. On the morning of June 21, 1933, in the kitchen of the farmhouse, Joseph Gallo shot and killed his wife and then himself, leaving three sons, Ernest, Julio, and their younger brother, Joseph, then 12.

    That was also the year that Prohibition was repealed and the two older brothers, with $5,900, most of it borrowed from Ernest’s mother-in-law, opened a winery.

    Hundreds of wineries were starting, but as Ernest said years later: “We could do anything anyone else could do, not because I was brilliant or well-educated, but because I was willing to devote as much time and energy as was necessary, regardless of the sacrifice.”

    “We could afford one tractor,” he said, “and there were times when I drove it for 12 hours, then turned it over to Julio who drove it for another 12 hours.”

    The brothers were successful from the start, but in those days were no match for industry giants like Petri, Cribari and Italian Swiss Colony.

    But the company’s introduction of Thunderbird wine would change that. In 1957, the Gallos developed the brand, a concoction of inexpensive fortified white wine with added citrus flavors.

  12. Bobal,
    This guy's name is "Maliki" of the Shiites, no doubt.
    No relation to the Crappers.