Friday, February 20, 2009

The State Department and Chavez: "chivo que se devuelve se desnuca"?

The State Department gave an initial statement congratulating Chavez for his referendum victory (1). That should not have been necessary since supposedly a referendum matter is something discussed by the people, not an imposition from an individual. But we chalk it on the account that the Obama administration is new, that it does not want to antagonize Chavez while it finds its bearings and that soon enough it will get around to really face Chavez down.

But it turns out that the statement was ill worded, and not rejected so far even though it does not correspond to earlier clearly expressed opinions of Obama on Chavez. I am not in agreement with all that Krauthammer writes, however I cannot remain neutral at what seems clearly the first indications that the new US foreign policy has lost temporary its North Star. Either that or what they found on arrival was so bad that they decided to trim down fast the amount of potential conflicts hoping for the world recession to take care of some of them. That might work for Venezuela if you think of it: kiss him God's speed after the referendum while waiting for oil prices to undo Chavez once and for all.

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1) Clearly, at state they watch only VTV

QUESTION: Do you have reaction to the result of the referendum, the fact that Chavez has won and now he can stay in power almost indefinitely?
MR. DUGUID: Well, it's my understanding that the referendum took place in a fully democratic process, that there were – although there were some troubling reports of intimidation of opponents, for the most part, this was a process that was fully consistent with democratic practice. However, democratic practice also requires that the government govern well and govern in the interest of all of the people of the diverse interests that are present in Venezuela.
QUESTION: But what about the result of the –
MR. DUGUID: It was a matter for the Venezuelan people. And as I said, the process was held consistent with democratic principles. Therefore, we have always sought to have a positive relationship with Venezuela. We will continue to seek to maintain a positive relationship with Venezuela. But their democratic processes need to be taken into account on our part. But also on our part, we look for governments who have achieved a positive democratic result to use that in a positive manner.
QUESTION: Do you think it's healthy to be able to be reelected indefinitely?
MR. DUGUID: I don't have an opinion on the democratic practices of Venezuela. In the United States, we have term limits, but that's our practice.

This small olive branch to Chavez will certainly be welcomed in Caracas, as Chavez takes a victory lap, but one hopes the State Department's tepid response to Chavez's bid for unlimited power and the sad demise of pluralism and individual liberty in Venezuela is not a harbinger of things to come at higher levels.

-The end-

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