Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’

Reporter shackled, caged, denied a phone call

October 30, 2019

This is disturbing.

Max Blumenthal, the editor of the news site The Gray Zone, was arrested on the morning of October 25 on a fabricated charge related to the siege of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC that took place between April and May.

A team of DC police officers appeared at Blumenthal’s door at just after 9 AM, demanding entry and threatening to break his door down.  A number of officers had taken positions on the side of his home as though they were prepared for a SWAT-style raid.

Max Blumenthal

Blumenthal was hauled into a police van and ultimately taken to DC central jail, where he was held for two days in various cells and cages.  He was shackled by his hands and ankles for over five hours in one such cage along with other inmates.  His request for a phone call was denied by DC police and corrections officers, effectively denying him access to the outside world.

Blumenthal was informed that he was accused of simple assault by a Venezuelan opposition member. He declared the charge completely baseless.

“This charge is a 100 percent false, fabricated, bogus, untrue, and malicious lie,” Blumenthal declared. “It is clearly part of a campaign of political persecution designed to silence me and the The Gray Zone for our factual journalism exposing the deceptions, corruption and violence of the far-right Venezuelan opposition.”

The arrest warrant was five months old.  According to an individual familiar with the case, the warrant for Blumenthal’s arrest was initially rejected.  Strangely, this false charge was revived months later without the defendant’s knowledge.

“If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arraignment. I have nothing to fear because I’m completely innocent of this bogus charge,” Blumenthal stated. “Instead, the federal government essentially enlisted the DC police to SWAT me, ensuring that I would be subjected to an early morning raid and then languish in prison for days without even the ability to call an attorney.”

Source: The Gray Zone


Who’s to blame for Venezuela’s economic crisis?

June 8, 2019

There are two explanations for Venezuela’s economic crisis.  One is that Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro mismanaged the economy.  The other is that the United States economic warfare ruined the economy.

Greg Wilbert of The Real News Network said it’s true that Chavez failed to adequately prepare for falling oil prices and Maduro failed to adequately cope when oil prices did collapse.

He said Venezuela’s economic crisis was not caused by the United States, but U.S. sanctions, which began under President Obama, made matters worse and prevented corrective action.

 I don’t think a new U.S.-imposed government would do better.

[Revised 6/9/2019]

Who will resist new regime change wars?

June 8, 2019

How Liberals Came to Embrace War As the Only Option by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela by Teddy Ostrow for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

Trump’s Venezuela War Hawks Are Freaking Out Congress by Matt Laslo for VICE News.

If the US is going to war with Iran, Congress needs the evidence by Steven Simon and Richard Sokolsky for POLITICO.

Senate fails to override Trump veto on Yemen by Marianne Levine for POLITICO.

Tulsi Gabbard Pushes No War Agenda – and the Media Is Out to Kill Her Chances by Philip Giraldi for Strategic Culture.

Democrats Running for President Waking Up to the Danger of War With Iran by Alex Emmons, Akela Lacy and Jim Schwartz for The Intercept.

How did we come to accept regime change wars?

June 8, 2019

We Americans have come to accept “regime change wars” as normal.  But they aren’t.  They are what the United Nations Charter and various UN resolutions define as wars of aggression.

I remember the Cold War and how we thought of the Soviet Union as the aggressor nation that scoffed at international law.

Click to enlarge.

Now our government is the one that thinks it has the right to attack or overthrow governments that displease us and improve our version of “democracy”—a democratic government being defined as one that supports U.S. policies.

The U,S. government is waging economic warfare against Venezuela and Iran while threatening military attack.  The purpose is to make Venezuela accept a President chosen by the United States and to make Iran unilaterally disarm.

Neither government has threatened or harmed Americans.  Their offenses are to oppose U.S. policy in Latin America and the Middle East, and to keep the world’s largest and third largest oil reserves from being controlled by the United States.

Yet this has somehow come to be accepted as normal.  Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is regarded as an eccentric, or worse, because she is one of the few who opposes making war against countries that haven’t harmed us.

The Charter of the United Nations, which was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1945, declares military aggression to be a crime. Article 2 said, “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat of force against the territorial integrity of any state or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg stated that aggressive war was “the supreme international crime.”

In 1950, the UN General Assembly condemned “the intervention of a state in the internal affairs of another state for the purpose of changing its legally established government by the threat or use of force.” It also resolved the “any aggression, whether committed openly or by fermenting civil strife, in the interest of a foreign power or otherwise, is the gravest of all crimes against peace and security throughout the world.”

I think most Americans thought these resolutions were aimed at the Soviet Union, which we thought was the world’s main aggressor.

The two main wars fought by the United States during the Cold Wa era were in Korea, where U.S. forces defended the Seoul government against an attack from without, and in Vietnam, where U.S. forces defended the Saigon government against a revolutionary movement supported from outside.

Secretly, of course, and sometimes not-so-secretly, the Central Intelligence Agency plotted coups in Iran, Guatemala, Chile and many other countries.


What’s at stake in Venezuela

May 6, 2019

The unlabeled country at the bottom center is Nigeria; the one at the upper right is Kazakhstan.  Click to enlarge.

What’s at stake in Venezuela is which oil companies get to control the world’s largest national oil reserve.


Venezuela and Binary Choice by Craig Murray.

Venezuela: Forensics of a Clownish Coup by Moon of Alabama.

The Making of Juan Guaidó: U.S. Regime-Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader by Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal for Consortium News.

Where are the liberals on Venezuela?

February 27, 2019

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Ilhan Omar and Ro Khanna are among the few liberal Democrats who unequivocally oppose the Trump administration’s economic and covert war against  Venezuela, but they are isolated.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other top Democrats support Trump’s plan.  Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are on the fence. They oppose direct military intervention, but they accept the pretense is that the U.S. government is concerned about the democratic process in Venezuela.

In fact the U.S. gets on very well with the governments much less democratic than Nicolas Maduro’s.  Only the naive think the U.S. government is concerned about anything except Venezuela’s oil.

I don’t have an intelligent opinion on how much of Venezuela’s plight current is due to bad policies of its government, and how much is due to continuing U.S. economic warfare and political subversion.  The only way to find out would be to make the experiment of leaving Venezuela alone and seeing what happens.  Venezuela is the responsibility of the Venezuelans.


The ‘deep state’ plan to remake Latin America

January 31, 2019

Evidently the Trump administration’s demand for regime change in Venezuela was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.

It is part of a long-range plan to remake Latin America, along the lines of the failed plans to remake the Middle East.  Other targets are Cuba and Nicaragua.

At best, this will result in increased misery for millions of people who have never harmed or threatened us Americans, and an increased flow of refugees.

At worst, it will result in all these things, plus an increased Russian and Chinese presence in Latin America.

By ‘deep state,’ I mean all the U.S. military, intelligence and covert action agencies that set their own policies and operate out of sight of the U.S. public.


Venezuelan Coup Attempt Part of US Plan to Remake Latin America by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

The Making of Juan Guaidó: US Regime-Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader by Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal for Consortium News.

Sanctions Are Wars Against Peoples by Moon of Alabama.

‘You’re either for us or against us’

January 30, 2019

Every time a U.S. President targets some nation as an enemy, and tries to drag other countries into the conflict, he creates the possibility of a backlash.

“You’re either for us or against us.”  Say that too many times, and the answer is likely to be, “we’re against you.”


Why the push for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela?

January 29, 2019

National Security Adviser John Bolton explains U.S. Venezuela policy.

I think I’ve seen this script before.  The unpopular ruler of an oil-rich country cracks down on the opposition.  The U.S. government sees an opportunity and tries to bring about a change in regime.

What can go wrong?  In Iraq, this led to an inconclusive quagmire war in which thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives.  In Libya, it led to the collapse of civil order, leaving Libyans worse off than before.  In Syria, it led to another inconclusive war, benefitting no one.   The chief result of these wars was the European refugee crisis.

Now the U.S. seems to be playing out the same script in Venezuela—doing the same as before and expecting a different result.

The Trump administration has recognized Juan Guaido, the leader of the National Assembly, as the legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for the overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro.  Guaido is indeed the leader, but that’s because the leadership is rotated among the parties, and the Trump administration’s decision happened on his watch.

To support Guaido, the administration has blocked Venezuela’s oil company from collecting revenue from its oil exports.  Instead the money goes into a blocked account until Guaido takes power.

And if he doesn’t?  “All options are on the table.”

As far as I’m concerned, this is a pass-fail test of political leadership.  Only those who oppose intervention are lovers of peace.  So far Bernie Sanders passes this test, as do Democratic Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Ro Khanna, Ilhan Omar and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.


President Trump and his new axis of evil

September 20, 2017

President Donald Trump said this to say in his address to the United Nations yesterday—

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government.  But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

He went on to say—

Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

I think these would be excellent points, if only he had applied them to the United States as well as the rest of the world.

He called for an intensification of economic and diplomatic warfare against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, his new axis of evil.

How is this in the interest of the American people?  How is this consistent with respecting national sovereignty?   Are not North Korea, Iran and Venezuela sovereign nations?

The United States has paid radical jihadist terrorists to overthrow the government of Libya and is attempting to use them to overthrow the government of Syria—two sovereign states that never have threatened the United States.   The result has been to reduce these two countries to chaos and misery, as the cost of thousands of innocent lives.

President Trump in that very speech threatened another nation with the most destructive weapons known to humanity—

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

He accused the North Korean government of starving and torturing its own people, and various other crimes, which were real though not necessarily current.  But then he threatened an even worse atrocity.

To be fair, it is not clear whether he is threatening North Korea with attack merely if it fails to disarm or whether he is threatening retaliation in the event of an attack, which is different.

This ambiguity may be deliberate on President Trump’s part; he may think keeping others guessing is a good negotiating strategy.   Where nuclear weapons are concerned, this is dangerous.  It may lead the other person to think he has nothing to lose by launching an attack.


The passing scene: January 3, 2015

January 3, 2015

Social Programs That Work by Ron Haskins in The New York Times.

Many social welfare programs fail.  The Obama administration has identified some that succeed.   While this does not change my unfavorable opinion of the President’s policies overall, I think he is entitled to credit for having this research done.

This City Eliminated Poverty and Nearly Everybody Forgot About It by Zi-Ann Lum for Huffington Post.

Between 1974 and 1979, the small city of Dauphin, Manitoba, guaranteed all residents a basic income—employed or not, able to work or not.  What was the ultimate outcome of this radical experiment?  Nobody ever bothered to check and find out.

What’s Wrong With Georgia? by Alana Semuels for The Atlantic.

Scott Walker has failed Wisconsin and Minnesota is the proof by Jimmy Anderson for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Georgia and Wisconsin are the latest American states to discover that a Third World economic strategy—low wages, low taxes, low services and low regulation—is not a successful formula for creating jobs and promoting economic growth.


Another view of Hugo Chavez

March 18, 2013

I’m a provincial American.  I am not widely traveled, and I get most of my information about foreign countries by reading books and magazine articles.  Over the weekend I read a magazine article about the late Hugo Chavez that made me think that his attacks on civil liberties and his mismanagement of the Venezuelan economy were worse than I had assumed.

The writer, Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, a journalist who divides his time between Venezuela and the United States, wrote as follows in the Boston Review.

chavez.bolivarIt did not take long for me to realize that, to Chávez, the country’s future did not have much use for its current middle class: hard-working men and women who were treated increasingly like enemies of the state. Much of my family started to leave Venezuela. The first wave was seeking greener pastures; later they would leave out of fear.

Yet while I may have disagreed with Chávez and disliked the direction he was steering the country, my real, personal struggle against the Venezuelan regime began with the demonstrations of May 2007.  Chávez had closed down Radio Caracas Television, thereby silencing the sole remaining national broadcaster critical of his government.  I joined thousands of protestors, mostly students, who descended on Caracas’s Plaza Brión.  While government loudspeakers warned us to remain calm, police fired teargas, rubber bullets, and water cannons into the crowd.

I staggered away from the chaos.  Although a vinegar-soaked rag covering my mouth and nose staved off total physical collapse, the mixture of teargas and sweat had caused me to expel my contact lenses.  Once the twin adrenaline shots of fear and indignation subsided, I faced a long, largely blind, walk home.  Squinting, crying, and filthy, I was reborn.  At that moment, I hated Hugo Chávez.  He wasn’t misguided, he wasn’t a comical buffoon, and he wasn’t a sign of change.   He was horrifying: a violent and cruel despot who ruthlessly crushed dissent, even from unarmed students, and threatened the human rights of anyone who disagreed with his policies.

Click on The Little That Hugo Chavez Got Right for the full article.

Double click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

The problem with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela was the lack of the rule of law.  That was the problem both with his crackdowns on his enemies, and his expropriations of businesses.  Everything depended on the will and whim of a single individual.   An authoritarian government with extremely restrictive laws is less bad than an arbitrary government which leaves its citizens in doubt as to what is, and isn’t, against the law.

That is why the U.S. Constitution, even before it included the Bill of Rights amendments, prohibited ex post facto laws, bills of attainder and denial of the right of habeas corpus.   That means the government is forbidden to punish you for something that was legal at the time, it is forbidden to outlaw particular individuals or groups and it is forbidden to arrest people without taking them before a magistrate and telling them what law they are accused of violating.

But I think it is necessary to keep Hugo Chavez’s record in perspective.  Nothing happened in Venezuela during his administration that compared with the reigns of terror in Chile under General Pinochet, Argentina under General Videla or the various U.S.-backed Central American dictatorships.  There were no mass executions, no death squads, no “disappearances”.   Daniel Landsberg-Rodriguez continued to write a weekly column for a Venezuelan newspaper.

Venezuela’s economic growth during the Chavez era was due more to the worldwide rise in oil prices than the Chavez government’s expert management.  But many countries have amassed huge oil wealth without improving the well-being of their people.  Chavez’s Venezuela enjoyed not only good economic growth, but reduction in poverty and improvement in education and living standards.

My final thought about Hugo Chavez (for now) is that he was a leader who did good, but who did good badly.

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan not-so-strongman

March 15, 2013

In the early part of the previous decade, I was invited by some friends to participate in a discussion group on issues in American foreign policy.   Our group used background materials on different discussion topics provided by the Foreign Policy Association, an organization of present and former government policy-makers and high-ranking academics, whose stated goal is to better inform the American public on foreign policy issues.

Hugo Chavez in Brazil

Hugo Chavez in Brazil

One of the questions we were invited to discuss was what to do about Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan strongman.  I had never given any thought to Hugo Chavez, but it was explained to me that he was taking on too much power and was a threat to Venezuelan liberty and democracy.  I didn’t see why that was something that I, as an American, should be concerned with.   If Venezuelans thought he was abusing the power of his office, they could vote him out.   They certainly understood their situation than I ever could by reading a few magazine articles.

I thought President George W. Bush was abusing the power of his office, and I hoped Americans would vote him out in 2004.  This didn’t happen, but I don’t think that the situation would have been helped by foreign interference.

I now know why the Foreign Policy Association was so upset with Hugo Chavez.  As Greg Palast and other journalists have shown, it partly because he doubled Venezuela’s royalties on sales of oil produced in that country, but also because he got Venezuela out from under the thumb of the International Monetary Fund and the Wall Street banks.  Chavez withdrew the money Venezuela had on deposit with U.S. and international banks, paid off its IMF debt and used Venezuela’s oil income to bail out other Latin American countries.

Everyone I’ve read agrees that Chavez done a lot to increase the well-being of the Venezuelan people.   The poor and working people of Venezuela are better-fed, better-housed and better-educated than they were prior to 1999, when Chavez became President, and the Venezuelan economy has grown.  His critics say that he has failed to maintain the physical infrastructure of Caracas and of Venezuela’s oil industry—in other words, that he may have invested in Venezuela’s human capital, but neglected its physical capital.

The best rejoiner to that was made, perhaps inadvertently, in an article by the Associated Press business reporter immediately following Chavez’s death.

Chavez invested Venezuela’s oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs.  But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world’s tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.

via Associated Press.

Whatever you may say about Hugo Chavez, he did not waste his country’s wealth on status symbols and conspicuous consumption for the elite, as is being done by the hereditary Arab monarchs of the Persian Gulf.

Chavez was friends with other Latin American leaders, from Fidel Castro, Cuba’s Communist dictator, to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the respected progressive reformer who was then President of Brazil.   Their common denominator was a determination to be independent of U.S. foreign policy and foreign business corporations.

Hugo Chavez election poster

Hugo Chavez poster

While Chavez admired Castro, I don’t think he took Castro for a role model.  Chavez did, it is true, force the Venezuelan newspapers and TV broadcasters, who were unanimously against him, to carry his speeches and broadcasts.  He threatened opposition politicians whom he accused of receiving foreign money.

I don’t agree with this, but I can understand the frustration of a political leader when the entire news media, not just part of it, is in the hands of the equivalent of Rupert Murdoch.  I think it would have been better for the Venezuelan government to create an official newspaper and broadcasting station and let the private companies alone or, better still, to empower labor unions, farm cooperatives, universities and other people’s organizations to create their own news media.   In any case, the opposition press and broadcasters were not silenced.  Chavez had a large and vocal opposition.

He risked his power in contested elections, which Castro never would have done.  Ex-President Jimmy Carter certified that Venezuela’s elections were real elections, not the phoney kind in which the ruler gets 95 percent or more of the vote.

The President of Venezuela, unlike current and recent Presidents of the United States, never ordered the invasion of any foreign country.  He never claimed the power to arrest and torture people, nor to order the killing of people, both inside and outside Venezuela, without any legal process, based on his sole determination that they are terrorists.

If you want to criticize Chavez, it would be for letting things get out of hand, in a way that Castro would not have tolerated.  Venezuela has a high and growing rate of violent crime.  Chavez invited poor people to take over vacant office buildings and unused farm land.  Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker wrote an article about his efforts to find out what goes on inside.  His article implies, though it does not prove, that they are like public housing projects in the United States that have been taken over by criminal gangs.

The American political figure that Hugo Chavez most resembles is Huey Long, a radical populist governor of Louisiana in the early 1930s.  He played brass-knuckle politics and was ridiculed as a buffoon, but he did a lot to curb the power of corporations and improve the life of people in Louisiana.  But Long based everything on the cult of his own personality, and did not build any institutions to perpetuate his achievements beyond his death.

Note: I made a number of small revisions and additions to this post some hours after it was originally posted.


Why Hugo Chavez was anti-U.S. (and vice versa)

March 13, 2013

Above is a report by American investigative reporter Greg Palast was broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corp. on May 13, 2002 about the short-lived attempted military coup against Chavez in 2002.  Below is a report by Palast for the BBC on April 3, 2006, which explains why the oil wealth of Venezuela is important to the United States.

The most important fact about Venezuela, so far as the United States is concerned, is not that it is a major supplier of oil to this country.   It is that Venezuela potentially has the world’s largest known reserves of oil, much more than Saudi Arabia.  Most of Venezuela’s oil is a thick gunk called heavy crude oil, which is too expensive to refine as long as oil prices are low.  Greg Palast said in his 2006 broadcast that heavy crude would be economically viable if world oil prices were $50 a barrel.   He now reports Venezuela’s export price is $100 a barrel.   What do we want—Venezuela’s heavy crude or Canada’s tar sands oil?


Venezuela under Chavez: more numbers

March 13, 2013
Double click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I came across this chart in a report by Jake Johnston and Sara Kozameh for the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.  Click on Venezuela: Economic and Social Performance Under Hugo Chavez, in Graphs for their complete report and more charts.  Johnston and Kozemeh make the point that Venezuela was devastated by a strike in 2002-2003 by workers in the Venzuelan government oil company.  It was only after the strike that the Venezuela economy really took off.


Venezuela under Chavez: by the numbers

March 13, 2013
Double click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

Hugo Chavez, the radical left-wing President of Venezuela, died last week.   What was his legacy?  His admirers say his policies changed the lives of poor and working people in Venezuela greatly for the better.   His critics say he left the Venezuelan economy in a shambles.  I think the figures on these infographics are as close as you can come to an objective answer.

The first infographic is from The Guardian newspaper in England.   It indicates that, during the Chavez administration, there was a big drop in the number of poor and unemployed Venezuelans, and the number of Venezuelan children who died in childbirth.  The overall Venezuelan economy was strong.  The value of oil exports rose, and economic output (GDP) increased.

However, the Chavez government was unable to bring down the high rate of inflation, and the value of Venezuela’s currency, the Bolivar, fell against the U.S. dollar.   Chavez’s worst failure was the rise in violent crime.   The murder rate almost doubled.

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

The next chart is from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.  It basically tells the same story, but puts it in historic perspective, by showing figures prior to 1998 when Chavez was first elected.   Economic growth was less under his predecessors, and inflation was even worse.   The Brookings analysts said he “all but silenced” the opposition, but the charts show the opposition received a substantial portion of the vote in all four elections, and a larger percentage in the fourth than in the first.

The last infographic, below, is from RIA Novosti, the official Russian news agency.  It shows that while Venezuela’s oil revenues increased under the Chavez administration, oil production languished.  Chavez’s admirers say that this was a policy decision, for the purpose of keeping oil prices high (by avoiding a glut on the market) rather than depleting a non-renewable resource.  Chavez’s critics say it was a result of a failure of the government-owned oil company to invest in keeping up oil production, which would bode poorly for Venezuela’s future.  Maybe the truth is somewhere in between.


Are Venezuelans better off under Chavez?

June 19, 2012

Hugo Chavez is running for a third term as President of Venezuela in an election to be held Oct. 7.   Last week Al Jazeera English held a panel discussion on whether the radical left-wing President has done a good job.  The verdict was generally favorable.  One panelist didn’t think Chavez is radical enough—a view I wouldn’t expect to hear on U.S. television.

The panelists concluded that poor Venezuelans have better access to jobs, schooling, health care and housing under the administration of President Hugo Chavez than they would otherwise have.  But they note that Venezuela is troubled by a high inflation rate, a high rate of violent crime and excessive dependence on its oil industry.  Moreover, they say, Chavez’s Bolivarian movement is organized around the cult of Chavez’s personality, and might collapse if Chavez, because of ill health or for other reasons, might leave the scene.

They did not discuss Chavez’s deplorable human rights record, including his attacks on freedom of the Venezuelan press, which he said is controlled by the wealthy oligarchy which seeks his overthrow.  That is a problem in many countries, for which I don’t have a good answer, although I come down on the side of freedom of the press.

The ideal would be to have newspapers and broadcasters with diverse ownership—some owned by corporations, some by labor unions and farmers’ cooperatives, some by political parties, some by universities and the church.  But I don’t see a practical path to that ideal, and I’m not sure how stable the situation would be once achieved.

I think of Chavez as a Latin American equivalent of Louisiana’s Huey Long—a brass knuckle populist and demagogue  who has done a lot to improve the lives of ordinary people, but with little regard for due process of law or democratic procedures.  Concentration of arbitrary power into the hands of a single individual is a bad idea, even when the person uses the power for good, because some other individual can and probably will use that power to wipe out the good the first person has done.  But, like Huey Long, Chavez probably is no worse than his opponents.

Click on World Report 2012: Venezuela for Human Rights Watch’s report on Hugo Chavez’s bad human rights record.