Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maria Anastasia O'Grady sees it as I do

Well, thanks to a reader, I got the English version of the WSJ today where Maria Anastasia O'Grady either intuits as I do, or reads my blog :) Since it is subscription I am posting her words below. (H.T.: A.E.)

A Get-Well Card for Hugo Chávez
Venezuela would be better off if the ailing dictator lives and is held responsible for his misdeeds.

As Venezuela's Hugo Chávez convalesces in a Havana hospital, his condition is shrouded in secrecy. The party line is that he had emergency surgery on June 10 for a pelvic abscess. But he has not been seen in public for more than two weeks and speculation is rampant that he is battling something more serious.

His critics ought to be careful what they wish for. While conventional wisdom holds that the demise of Mr. Chávez would set Venezuela free, it may instead make the country more repressive. If there is any justice in the world, he will return to Venezuela to marinate in his own stew—the economic disaster he has created over the past 12 years. A serious illness that takes him out of play would leave Venezuela haunted by the ghost of chavismo much as Peronism has haunted Argentina for the past half-century.

Some Venezuelans think they smell a rat. With living standards steadily declining in their country and popular discontent rising, these skeptics say that Mr. Chávez is looking for a way to revive his image. A triumphant return to Caracas, after he was believed to be near death in Cuba, might do the trick. If his "resurrection" coincides with the July 5 celebration of the nation's bicentennial anniversary, for which a Soviet-style military extravaganza is planned, it would be even more spectacular.

Eva Peron's untimely death in Argentina helped Peronism to live on. Could something similar happen in Venezuela?

For the half or more of the population that opposes the Venezuelan strongman, even the thought of such a comeback is unbearable. They detest his never-ending decrees and manipulation of the law. But what rankles most among those who oppose him are his theatrics, like seizing the airwaves several times a day to sing songs and deliver demagogic rants. A hero's return is likely to heighten this narcissistic behavior. It is also true that he has said he will not leave power even if he loses the election next year.

Still, it is worth considering the alternative outcome. Because Mr. Chávez has destroyed institutions in order to foster a cult of personality, his mortality implies sheer chaos—as well as opportunity for the violent and ambitious. The bloodbath for power would not be between democrats and chavistas. It would be between the many armed factions that he has nurtured. Once victorious the winner will try to inherit his power by insisting that the nation worship his memory. Since none of his likely successors shares his charisma, repression is likely to get worse.

Cuba will be ready to help. The Castro brothers have long provided the security and intelligence apparatus that Mr. Chávez uses to stifle dissent. In exchange, Mr. Chávez funnels at least $5 billion annually to the island regime. The survival of that symbiotic relationship would be a top priority for the Cuban military dictatorship.

That a recovered Mr. Chávez would organize a welcoming committee for himself there is no doubt, and he might even get a bump in the polls from it. But he will also have to take responsibility for a host of Bolivarian-made problems.

For starters, he will have to confront the heavily armed mob that has taken over the El Rodeo prison in the state of Miranda, and the families of nearly 2,000 inmates whose lives are at risk. These are his constituents and he has promised to make the prison system more just. But things have only gotten worse during his presidency.
The Americas in the News – Prisons in Venezuela

The nongovernmental organization, Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP), estimates that facilities built for 14,000 inmates now hold more than 49,000. It also says that almost 46% of those detained are in "judicial limbo" and do not know "the status of their case." According to the OVP, there was a 22% increase in prison deaths in the first quarter of this year over the same period last year. Since 1999 over 4,500 inmates have died.

El Rodeo is emblematic of a wider problem for Mr. Chávez: The most vulnerable Venezuelans are still waiting for him to deliver on his promises of a better life. Until now he has bribed them with subsidies and rhetoric. But near 30% inflation is destroying their income and his words are getting old.

The 30,000 families who lost their homes in the floods last fall were supposed to be a priority for his government. But they are still without shelter, and their protests are growing louder. Mr. Chávez has pledged to build 153,000 new homes this year, but in the first quarter only 1,600 were completed.

Add to this food shortages, electricity blackouts, capital flight and one of the worst crime rates in the hemisphere, and it's not surprising that the economic outlook is so bleak. Oil and drug trafficking have kept the military satisfied until now. But the patience of the masses will one day hit its limit. When it does, they ought to have the opportunity to direct their wrath at the architect of their misery.


  1. One truth does not mean the only truth.Every happenstance contains many truths and many possible solutions.

    Thank God and the stars ;)that.....

    Many truths are possible, and it is up to the opposition to chose the right one.

    I disagree with her on one IMPORTANT thing: the death of Chavez.While her scenario could come to pass, it could ALSO be a way to produce a shock that could serve as an opening for a diversion to arise and for something else to happen.The Venezuelan people are way too passive aggressive and complacent otherwise, and we will just continue down the same ol' same ol' where "elections" are making no difference whatsoever.

    Venezuela is no Argentina.The peoples and situations are different.

    Thinking too much on blurred History and not enough on future possibility and present differences makes for a gloomy, heavy,and uninspiring outlook.Sorry, have to say it like I see it.

    There is always a choice.It depends on how the opposition responds, and not on what Argentina did or did not do.

  2. 1600 homes in one quarter? Why doesn't the opposition start building homes? It'd be a great way to humiliate the PSUV by building more homes than the Chavista apparatus.

  3. 1979 Boat People5:13 PM

    Need money and...permission from the goverment... to build homes.:)

  4. Another truth that might be more amenable to a viable plan:

    There are important differences between between Chavez and Peron.Both Juan and Eva Peron were charismatic figures in their own rights and formed a powerful team.There is no charismatic figure to carry on after Chavez's death. Eva's love for the "descamisados" made her into a myth that was magnified by her death and then exploited by the charismatic Juan Peron.Adan Chavez is no Juan or Eva -He cannot carry on a myth if he himself is totally un charismatic and does not move the masses.

    I think there are many folks who should study the qualities of what makes up charisma and the relationship it has to pathology.This would work in our favor with a change to Adan.

    There is an implication that if Chavez dies he avoids receiving the fruits of his negative labor however the choice here is not between Hugo Chavez or the opposition any time soon.Adan Chavez has already drawn a line in the sand and it's could possibly take years of wearing down Chavez's successors before the opposition has any chance of taking power.So the ones who will have to deal with Chavez's legacy will be his Chavista successors who can hardly pretend to disengage themselves from what Chavez has been doing or even blaming him for their difficulties.The previous government messed up excuse is not going to work here.So we might end up having Chavista results without the simpatico Chavez to seduce the masses with his cafecito and intimate conversation.Many do not approve of Chavez's result nor policy but still support him because they feel his " love" for the people.

  5. jsb

    the states could so so but the regime has managed to reduce their budget dramatically. they can barely afford payroll and basic services. and yet they do manage to build a few homes here and there.

  6. Boludo Tejano8:55 PM

    From the WSJ article:
    Eva Peron's untimely death in Argentina helped Peronism to live on.

    I have some disagreement with that. My take is that Evita constituted a big part of Juan Domingo's power. With her death, Juan Domingo lost touch, and lost power. Had Evita lived a long life, I doubt Juan Domingo would have gotten ousted in the 1955 coup. Had she lived into her 70s, there would have been no 18 year exile. Juan Domingo would have died in office after a 3 decade reign, and Evita would have ruled for a decade after that as his successor. That is my alternate history. (My link goes into more detail.)

  7. Boludo Tejano9:50 PM

    From the WSJ article:
    Eva Peron's untimely death in Argentina helped Peronism to live on.

    Juan Domingo's death in 1974 definitely helped Peronism live on. Peron had reached power in 1973 with his old labor base and also with the help of far leftist youth- whose acts included killings, kidnappings, and bank robberies. This base of support was a bit like trying to square the circle. The shootout at Ezeiza, when Peron arrived from exile in Spain, was a logical consequence of this.

    Peron had started to crack down on the far leftists who had supported him, once he got into power. While the far leftists were useful to him in his returning to power - wink wink- he turned on them - which they correctly saw as a double cross- after he was in power. Isabel inherited this conflict, a conflict that was not up to her abilities. When he died in 1974, things had not disintegrated to the degree they had by the time the Junta took over in March 1976.

    Peron is remembered for 1974,when things were not so bad. The seeds of Isabel's ouster- the runaway inflation and the war with the leftist guerrillas- were already in place when he died. The inflation speaks for itself. Having accepted an alliance with the leftist guerrillas to regain power, and then having turned on them when he had acquired power, Juan Domingo shares a great deal of the responsibility for the chaos after his death.

    But the Peronistas forget that. Bad milicos, good Juan Domingo. Yeah, right. A pox on both their houses.


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