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Sunday, August 15, 2004


Michael J. Totten

Medea Benjamin is an extremely shrill person, but I don't see shrillness this time around, at least not in the excerpt. What I see instead is a sucker.

I got suckered by the rhetoric of Chavez. Briefly. Then the facts came in, and it has been years since I've had the time of day for him.

Medea Benjamin reminds me of what I was like when I was twenty years old. That would be fine if she were twenty years old.

Tom Grey

But giving home ownership title of dwellings to people who live in them -- I don't think there's any better long term poor empowerment program. Real ownership, so banks loan money. In the USA, more blacks own their homes then ever before. Great news.
What are the home ownership figures in Venezuela?

Randy Paul

Chávez in my mind is a classic example of why the means to an end are important. While clearly some of Chávez's ends may very well be laudable, the means by which he seeks to attain them are reprehensible, divisive, borderline dictatorial and foster animosity within Venezuelan society.

Compare him to Lula, who despite his flaws has always sought to attain his goals via democratic means and I think that you'll find Chávez coming up short in the comparison. Despite Brazil's numerous social problems and divisions, Lula has not exacerbated them, nor has his leadership led to the polarization of Brazil.

Marc Cooper

Randy.. agreed. Michael.. yes ur right. No shrill but starry-eyed and superficial.

Michael J. Totten


I also agree about Lula. I think the right's attacks on him are way overblown. But if he turns into a Chavez, I will note it and thrash him for it.

Michael Turner

"As Shifter pointed out in the Times, dispensing pork from the state coffers into the shantytowns during election season is a long entrenched tradition of the most corrupt of Latin American regimes-- perfected to a veritable art form by the Mexican PRI."

There's a big difference between pork and job training, between pork and upgrading people's health, between pork and conferring property titles.

Tom Grey sounds interested in that last, and for good reason: a common pattern across Latin America is a lack of formal ownership of assets, depriving potential smallholders of assessable fixed capital against which loans can be collateralized. A huge economic potential goes wasted as a result. In many countries, it can take the better part of a year to get a business license - so many small businesses simply do without. Many small businesses see expansion opportunities they can't take advantage of, because the banks won't look at them without some recognized collateral. Many homes can't get water, sewer or telephone hookups only because you to show title to property and run your application through a ponderous bureaucracy. You can live for two generations in a shantytown built on 'government property', but you don't get any of the financial privileges of ownership.

Chavez may be doing a lot of things wrong, but that's no reason prejudge some of the things he's doing right as being mere fodder for leftist propaganda guns.

As for Chavez's import of medical expertise from Cuba - Cuba isn't short of people who can do this kind of work, as far as I know; the limitations have more to do with outdated equipment and lack of cash to buy pharmaceuticals. The net result of Chavez's effort might be to bypass the embargo to some extent - funneling some Venezuelan oil wealth into the Cuban medical system. WILL that be the result? I don't know. But until somebody has more data, I'm not going to jump to the conclusion that Venezuela's health care is being improved at the expense of Cubans.

A final note on Chavez-bashing: call him a thug if you like, but maybe he's just a lightning rod for your abuse. As I read the chronicles of the Coup of '02, it seems likely that what we have in Venezuela is really more of a shadow military junta. It's hardly unprecedented for such forms of government to be more reformist than the weak democracy they replace - in Nigeria, Peru, and quite a few other countries, overt military coups taking out 'democratically elected' governments have at times been greeted with a sigh of relief by the corruption-taxed populace. And it's hardly surprising either - in many of these countries, the military is the main route of upward social mobility, hence more 'democratic' in some sense than any other institution. What you get is a cycle: democracy, disgust, coup, junta, then another try at democracy. Thus, calling Chavez a 'thug' may amount to little more than spraypainting graffiti on the stem of a submarine's periscope - the military machine cruises on.

Michael J. Totten

Michael Turner: "call him a thug if you like, but maybe he's just a lightning rod for your abuse."

He's a lightning rod because he's a thug. It really is that simple.

Patrick Lasswell

"There's a big difference between pork and job training, between pork and upgrading people's health, between pork and conferring property titles."

Actually if the disbursal of benefit is dependant on maintaining the same politician in office, there is no difference. Hugo Chavez is doing his very best to use to stay in office and is not providing a sustainable benefit. The 13,000 Cuban medics are entirely contingent on Chavez remaining in power. If Chavez had made Venezuela a place where another 13,000 highly competant medical professionals could practice regardless of the vagaries of the political process, he would have done his country a great service.

As it stands, Chavez has created a situation where Venezuelan doctors cannot afford to practice medicine, let alone provide charity. This is not an accomplishment.

marc cooper

Too bad about Chavez-- the guy deserved the boot. But to beat this thread to death for a moment, I wold say to Michael Turner to think about what ur saying for a moment regarding the Cuban doctors. If there;s a shortage of medicines (which there is) then how in the world could there be a surplus of doctors????? I would imagine you would need MORE doctors in that case. Unfortunately, in Cuba, where all doctors are employees of fidel castro and not of "the people" Castro can dispose of them how HE pleases. I assure you the Cuban people were not consulted on this. Venezuela is currently the only So American country with warm relations with Cuba so Fidel has "invested" 13,000 doctors in the deal. The doctors may or may not be "volunteers."But by volunteering for service in Venezuela they not only get out of Cuba for a while but they also get access to some hard currency. It's all very very sad and sordid. The Left ought to do better.


"Too bad about Chavez - the guy deserved the boot."

This is where you start to lose me. Chavez has many flaws, and they are worthy of criticism. But to suggest or imply that it would have been better if the opposition had won is perfectly ridiculous. Had their will prevailed, there would be no constitution allowing a referendum, no elections, and the poor would probably be in an even worse state than they are today.

It is mysterious, to me at any rate, why you should wish to replace bad with evil.

Marc Cooper

Lenin, my old pal, funny seeing u here. Last time I saw u , u were safely entombed under Red Square. I believe that in the long run Chavez will have the same deleterious effect on his country's politics as Peron had on his. I am no fan of his opposition.. but I am convinced Chavez chokes off all open political space. Space.. only space.. is what have been won in defeating him, no panaceas.


He's a lightning rod because he's a thug. It really is that simple.

--what's wrong with thugs? scoop jackson thought highly of many thugs, no?


Then again, I suppose, if you have no medicine to dispense why not ship your doctors overseas?

--if only Castro would privatize medicine, then everyone could get medicine real cheap, like in neighboring haiti or the dominican republic.


Medea Benjamin reminds me of what I was like when I was twenty years old. That would be fine if she were twenty years old.

--translation: anyone who disagrees with michael totten is immature.


Roper, read and weep:



read and weep 2:


This is what I read, with now even the anti-Chavez Washington Post admitting the victory was real:

Penn, Schoen & Berland had members of Sumate, a Venezuelan group that helped organize the recall initiative, do the fieldwork for the poll, election observers said.

Roberto Abdul, a Sumate official, acknowledged in a telephone interview that the firm ``supervised'' an exit poll carried out by Sumate. Abdul added that at least five exit polls were completed for the opposition, with all pointing to a Chavez victory.

Abdul said Sumate - which has received a $53,400 grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, which in turn receives funds from the U.S. Congress - did not use any of those funds to pay for the surveys.

The issue is potentially explosive because even before the referendum, Chavez himself cited Washington's funding of Sumate as evidence that the Bush administration was financing efforts to oust him - an allegation U.S. officials deny.

Venezuelan Minister of Communications Jesse Chacon said it was a mistake for Sumate to be involved in the exit poll because it might have skewed the results.

``If you use an activist as a pollster, he will eventually begin to act like an activist,'' Chacon told The Associated Press.

Chris Sabatini, senior program officer for the National Endowment for Democracy, defended Sumate as ``independent and impartial.''

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