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What Hugo Chavez Could Learn from Bush

By Alex Beech

08.11.06 | There is no one celebrating the Republicans' defeat today more than President Chavez, who said on Wednesday that the defeat was a "whipping that they've given the US president…which means that US citizens do have a mind and a conscience."

Rather than celebrate, Mr. Chavez could learn a lesson about why many Americans switched their votes to the Democratic party on Tuesday throughout the United States.

For one, a unilateral Congress, at the service of the president, convinced Americans that complete control over the country gave the Republicans too much power on issues like the Iraq War. Chavez, who presides over a unilateral Congress which doesn't move an inch without his approval, should take heed. Over eighty percent of Venezuelans stayed away from legislative elections last December, allowing his supporters to take over the National Assembly. Yet the spirit of abstention is fading away. Venezuelans may, through their vote in December, show Chavez their distate of a unilateral Assembly.

What is it about the Iraqi War which disgusts so many Americans? While I wish the answer were that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in the mayhem of violence, the fact is that Americans are tired of seeing American boys returning home dead, when it's not clear that this war will ever end. Because violence against Americans in Iraq is on the rise, Americans said enough. Violence in Venezuela has been on the rise since Chavez took office. Astounding figures are widely circulated in the media, such as the 90,000 Venezuelans who have died due to violent crime in the past eight years. Chavez, who has done little or nothing to curb the violence in the country, (and has in fact encouraged it by continual call to arms and "battle"), should take heed. Venezuelans are tired of seeing their family members and friends die at the hands of desperate and hungry criminals. They could express this anger through their vote.

President Bush was obstinate in defending those in his inner circle. Calls for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld by senior military officials fell on deaf or arrogant ears. When Americans saw that the White House wasn't even willing to listen to its critics or even to own senior military officers, they punished President Bush at the polls. Important political blunders by Chavez's inner circle have only been praised and emulated. When a videotape was leaked showing PDVSA (state oil company) President Rafael Ramirez threatening state oil workers to support Chavez at the voting booths or else, Chavez praised him, claiming that the state oil company was "red, red" alluding to the colors of his MVR party. Chavez then made a costly mistake – he said the National Armed Forces was also "red, red", violating a sacrosant tradition which has always separated the Armed Forces from politics. While Chavez has purged the most vociferous officers, those remaining may not take kindly to his own brand of the military. Moreover, Venezuelans who do not want a military at the service of a "revolution" or ideology may express their opinion where it counts: in their vote.

Like President Bush, Chavez is at a turning point in his political career. Today, Bush is a weaker president because he wasn't willing to listen. If Chavez continues on the same self destructive path, he might have to step aside in December. Revolutions sometimes happen quietly, in voting booths. The revolutions of red shirts and blood are over.

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