Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nonplussed by US election

I have to admit that I am watching with little interest the US election this time around, even though it would be more momentous in its consequences than any in the last couple of decades.  The thing is that watching it from Venezuela we must conclude that the US really does not care about what happens here.  True, they should, they lost what should have been their main ally South of the Border.  But no one ever accused the US policy makers of actually caring about what happens south of the border as long as the help is cheap and docile.  there were some heartfelt attempts, by Democratic presidents mostly.  But where are the traces today as Brazil and China have no problems growing their influence in the area?  Let's look at the recent record with Venezuela, with pre-apologies on gross simplifications.

Dem-Clinton. Chavez caught him at the end of his rule and wisely he deferred the solution to whomever came next. Still, in retrospective, had he invited Chavez to the White House he could have seduced him the way Castro did.  Or at least moderated him somewhat since the only thing Chavez ever wanted, besides play ball, was to have his picture taken in the Oval Office. Otherwise how can you explain this hatred against a country of which Chavez personally had nothing to complain of?

Rep-Bush. His idiotic adventure in Iraq has changed our world.  Had he stuck to Afghanistan only maybe he would have accomplished more.  In retrospective, we cannot tell whether the US invasion of Saddam's Iraq sped up or slowed down the Arab spring. The fact of the matter is that the US needed its secure oil supply and the Bush administration was only to happy to accept any insult from Chavez as long as Venezuelan oil kept finding its way North.  Even in the pseudo 2002 coup, the US alleged involvement was so diffident that it is almost as if they had wished Chavez to remain, least oil supplies would be perturbed.

Dem-Obama. Besides his forced upon hand shake with Chavez Obama has studiously avoided further contact.  His policy was rather successful in treating Chavez as a non entity, the more so that Chavez errors finally started catching up with him. In fact, to his credit Obama's administration has encouraged a diminution of oil imports from Venezuela. We do not know whether it was due to Venezuela being a less reliable oil producer of natural antipathy, but regardless of the reason it was a wise move. Then again Obama blew it by declaring that Chavez is not a threat even though all the evidence is to the contrary, from Venezuelan having become a narco state to its support of FARC guerrilla and other assorted "insurgency" here and there. Never mind its alliance with Iran!

Rep-Romney? I put a question mark because if Obama is reelected we know that nothing will happen vis a vis Venezuela. A H. Clinton presidency could have been more dynamic on this respect. So, what has Romney said?  Nothing convincing, nothing that shows he is truly informed, nothing that indicates a plan, all for strict electoral purposes. That the republicans are not as informed as one would wish them to be can be reminded to us regularly when we read idiotic declarations like the ones of Jon Voight, comparable only to the idiotic ones of the likes of Sean Penn. Of course, one thing is the campaign, another who Romney would appoint at State.

So you will forgive me if I am skeptic about any future role of the US in Venezuela, for good or bad, and if I am sitting this one out.  Though watching recent Republican positions on abortion and gay rights I have to consider that an Obama reelection is probably the lesser evil as far as Venezuela is concerned. At least under Obama it would be easier for me to find a political refugee status in the US....  Not that I need it, mind you, I have a EU passport.  Just talking.....

Hat tip Juan Nagel

Actor Jon Voight says Obama controls US media just like Chávez does in Venezuela. Um, not quite. 


  1. The US election this year is the most boring in decades. Obama is one lucky guy.

    1. Indeed. I did not want to be as crude as you are, but this year campaign makes one look at the Bush Gore campaign as a founding father debate.... Makes this Liberal miss Reagan :)

    2. Anonymous2:30 AM

      I am in Ohio...and this state is critical for Obama to win. I would say that the view inside is quite different to what you guys described. For me the biggest issue personally is health care and women rights. If the Republicans win we will go backwards...but I know I am only a minority woman, so those are not big issue for the tipical "white, uneducated american",which is the population that most likely to vote Republican.

    3. Anonymous XX (you are a woman, I guess)

      Neither Juan nor I would dare to go in deep as tot he motivation of the people. We see US elections as what it means for us, from outside. And as such it is boring because we know nothing will change for better or worse as far as we are concerned.

      Now of course if one had to decide between heath care and lower taxes things woudl be different, I certainly understand that.

    4. As far as I'm concerned, Obama has had a rather bad policy towards the Latin American countries. I would take it that they are so engulfed in our border conflict that nobody else is paying attention to South America as a whole. Obama was really wrong in saying that Venezuela is not a threat. Especially when Venezuela is still significantly important in our hemisphere, and this goes beyond the oil.

      Also, (I could be wrong) Obama didn't really have much to do with the US buying less oil from Venezuela. The US just happens to be in another mini oil boom in the northwestern states, which decreased demand to import quite significantly. States such as the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana are suddenly striking big time oil. Those states also have quite a lot of refineries being built and are still close enough near the nations bread basket which (was before this drought) mass producing corn for ethanol.

    5. I forgot when but the Obama administration has called for less oil purchases from unfriendly countries. Mini boom oil or not, the stated objective is to buy as little as possible from venezuela.

  2. Daniel The only thing that I would comment is on would be regarding gay rights and abortion. Really the Republican party doesn't have a position on homosexual issues. Under the US constitution homosexualy oriented people have the same rights as the rest of the population. Really, in the US, non homosexuals rarely if ever give a thought to homosexuality and whatever goes on behind closed doors. Nobody could care less. In my life only on the rarest of occasions has the subject come up. However in the US we have a guarantee of free speech and an open marketplace of ideas. In this marketplace millions of estadounidense practice their rights by expressing a disagreement with so called gay marriage, and abortion. The Republican party does have a position on these two issues. Because a person disagrees with you therein doesn't mean that they are less informed or less enlightened than some one as sophisticated as you. You often come across as elitist, entitled and burgesia.

    1. I have lived for more than a decade in the US as a gay man, with rainbow flag on the bumper sticker included. I know what I am talking about. Thank you.

      This being said, before you start like the other day, this post IS ABOUT the lack of difference between the dem and gop option as far as Venezuela is concerned. Not about the platform discussed in Tampa this week. Thank you again.

    2. Misión Como se Escribe: Los burgueses de la burguesía comen hamburguesas.

  3. Anonymous8:37 PM

    When the U.S. gets involved, Latin America cries "Imperialism", when the U.S. keeps its distance, Latin America whines "They're ignoring us". You can't have it both ways.

  4. Romney is surrounded by neocons. His foreign policy would be much more interventionist than Obama's has been. However, Venezuela is a minor irritation for the US, nothing more.

    No matter who wins the US election, Venezuela will have to get rid of Chavez on its own. This is sad, but it is the reality.

    1. Wich is the main point of the post. However this diffidence of the US comes with a price. Nafta has been confined when today it should have included all the Caribbean countries, a freetrade mare nostrum of sorts but with benefits for all. Instead the obsession of the US in eradicating drug production rather than fight its consumption has left it with a single friend, Colombia, and mess right south of the Rio Grande. The end result of Chavez years may turn out to be that by pretending Chavez did not exist it became like a screen that blinded the US and then made it ineffective in countering the penetration of China and Iran while Brazil started its bid to replace the US as the economic director of the region.

  5. When the US failed to denounce the coup in 2002 they no longer had moral authority according to many Venezuelans plus it is usually a damned if they do damned if they don't with the US as it is an easy target to blame.

    Also there are more pressing matters elsewhere.LA has no nuclear weapons and they are not pumping out terrorists , yet.

    Bush made a mistake with Iraq that made an already difficult position for the States even worse.

    This election is not about bold plans for LA, this is not a deciding factor during the elections,but that doesn't mean that this couldn't change in the future.


  6. As Anonymous 2:07 PM says, there is a bit of "hate us when we are around, blame us when we're gone" towards the US. There will always be this view because you reaaly can't please 100% of the people 100% of the time.

    This is a rather simplistic view however, since the US's role under Obama has been to tread softly and try to reach out as opposed to dictating a la Bush. That Obama has declined to be forceful south of the border is just his approach to what are considered friends, no need to crack heads.

    This election in the US is not so boring if you live here, but what is missing are great statements and grand gestures. It has devolved into attack ads that lack any real substance, financed by cash laden entities that are accountable to no one.

    I suspect the debates will prove to be rather ho hum, but we'll see. Romney has an incredible capacity to put people to sleep, even Republicans, but we may yet be surprised.

    What is at stake is not boring, however. Higher taxes and forced health care versus less freedom in certain areas (gay rights, abortion) along with more deregulation (yet another bubble that will burst and screw everyone, again) will certainly make the issues interesting, even though the actors themselves leave something to be desired

  7. The boring-o-meter registered low levels, last night, when Ann Romney spoke at the Rep. Natl Convention. Sure, there were moments that Saturday Night Live could easily parody. But overall, I think she did an outstanding, if not electrifying job of promoting 'her man'. She was a real asset to the possibility of Mitt clinching 'the job'. It was nice to see Condoleeza Rice in the front audience.

    1. I wondered what Condi was doing there, right next to Romney. What was that message? She was mentioned as a possible VP choice at one point, then it was said she was not conservative enough on women's rights and abortion, etc. so she was dropped as VP pick.

    2. It is called politics. Condi has more to gain by pretending to be a Romney supporter than to pout at him for not being the vp choice.

      She has been high enough in power levels to understand that there are thousands of applicants and only a dozen slots with real power. She has had one of those and she certainly will not take it personally if Romney does not chose her at first.

      Or maybe she is smart enough to think "been there, done that"

    3. Condi Rice for VP? I'm no politóloga, much less on the US, but I would think that Rice for VP would have been too risky for the fragile Republican party, led by a Mormon. In this election year, there's a critical need to present a more conservative face, while projecting a humanitarian angle. Given Rice's background, I just don't quite see her in that public role. But perhaps the biggest reason that Rice was not considered for a high profile job -- por ahora == is the Mormon vote. After all, there's a whole swath of Mormons who grew up thinking that the skin colour of Blacks was a curse from God, and that women's rights should trail those of Blacks. That indoctrination takes a generation or two to completely shake.

    4. Anonymous5:02 PM

      Does Reverend James Wright and his bestowing Louis Farrakhan with an award that praised the racist and anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader for truly epitomizing greatness mean anything to you?

    5. Do you have a problem being direct and to the point?

    6. syd, do not hold your breath-----

  8. Daniel,

    Back to your original point :

    It requires great skill for the US to deal with someone like Chavez in an appropriate manner.If it is too heavy handed, all of LA (especially with so many left wing governments)would close ranks around Chavez.

    It also would make it easier for Chavez to blame the US for all the problems in Venezuela and insist that the opposition is just a tool of the CIA.

    Many Venezuelans don't care too much about the presence of Cubans, Iranians or Chinese,but US influence is looked at with a magnifying glass.

    Let us not confuse strategy with politics here.What politicians say and what strategy is taken are not one and the same.

    The key thing for the US is to have a strategy where it pays close attention to what is happening in Venezuela, and is prepared to react quickly in a crisis situation where the opposition is facing life or death struggle with Chavez which is something that could happen if Chavez tries to disregard a victory by Capriles.


    1. cochonette de feu

      one thing is strategy and another one is principles. strategy devoid of principles eventually lead you to munich and dantzig.

      by being so "strategic" the US is losing what should be its friendly, all get along continent. but the average Us cannot erase its image from its mind, of lazy latins, taking siesta at all hours and eating hot spicy food. this is the heavy price that the US is still paying from its mexican invasions of a century and a half ago, that there are more differences between a mexican and an argentine than between an aussie and a yankee

    2. Daniel,

      It would undoubtedly be good for countries to run on higher principle, but unfortunately NO countries do and for me politics has a lot to do with that; the rest is human nature as the lowest common denominator gets the best of us.

      Strategy on the other hand is not always based on political rhetoric which was my point.

      The best that we can hope for on all sides are relatively benign strategies-or the least bad of all options.

      As for the image of LA in the US I think you are correct just as the image of the US in LA also borders on the ridiculous.Sometimes the opinions I hear expressed are the exact opposite of the way I experience it.

      The image of the US in Europe is also highly flawed as well as is the image of Europe in the US.This is a worldwide phenomena and too many people think they know exactly the truth when in reality their 'truth' is filtered through a biased mindset and a lack of direct knowledge.

      It is hard to understand that which is highly different from one's own personal Universe =Human Nature.

      That being said I agree with Jeffry House.The US has to take care of its own problems first and Venezuela likewise.

      Does the US have to be aware of possible problems in its own backyard? Of course,as should Venezuela, but that does not mean that either country can if if so desired control what happens.

      Maybe in a parallel Universe.

  9. Obamney will win anyway.

  10. I get that this is about the election AS IT RELATES TO VZ, so I'll resist commenting on US specific issues and some of the insulting namecalling on here of people like me for not wanting government healthcare, etc.
    Daniel, I think you're right. Romney is an unknown right now w/ respect to VZ. Most likely, with respect to VZ, they would be the exact same. One question I'd love to hear your input on, someday, maybe a future post when it's relevant:
    -If the US gets involved with VZ or opines on VZ, we hear things like "arrogant, imperialist, butting into others' businss. Leave us alone you arrogant paternalistic #$%holes, and mind your own business! (especially if republican is doing the opining)"
    -If the US stays out of VZ or other Latin Am countries' business, we hear things like this: "The US could use its influence for the sake of helping our freedom, our rights, and calling out our dictators. But they are too busy with their greed and selfish concerns to give a #$%@ about us in Latin American." (Then insert the standard descriptors like racist, superiority complex, greedy, etc etc.)
    So it seems to me that with respect to VZ and LatinAmerica, the US is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn't. Would love to hear whay you personally ACTUALLY want the US to do or not do, to say or not say.

    1. What I would like first is for the US to educate itself. After all, I am rather well educated concerning the US and surely there must be few gringos really educated about latam. The question thus, is why they are not in influential posts. Why is it that cheap politicians are the ones that get to decide how to handle the South of the border folks?

    2. Daniel,

      KS is correct.

      Most of these people in other countries who consider themselves "educated" on the US, are often full of misconceptions,worn out stereotypes, and unrealistic expectations.


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