Putin's voodoo doll

Amid monstrous electoral turmoil in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin decided to hold a press conference today in Moscow, with none other than Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. The purpose was to, uhhh, congratulate him on recall referendum victory. And no less than four months after it happened. But don't think this is about Chavez. Putin, as you may be aware, is going head to head with the West over whether his puppet—candidate, who fraudulently claims victory in a tainted election, has the right to assume Ukraine's presidency. Ukranians blocking the freezing streets of Kyiv don't think so.

So what is this really about? Last August 15, Hugo Chavez won a hugely fraudulent recall referendum victory comparable to the nightmare going on in Ukraine. However, the West didn't stick up for clean elections in Venezuela. Instead, it entrusted the matter to Jimmy Carter, who, always the dictator's friend, hastily declared it free and fair, giving Chavez the legitimacy he craves. Western media followed suit, repeating the lie with gusto.

Only Venezuela's referendum wasn't free and fair. And everyone who's watched it closely knows it. The State Department quietly scuppered its own plans to accept the results of the Carter Center report after evidence of its shoddiness (and the aghast reaction in the tropical streets of Caracas) came to light. The EU remained mysteriously silent, refusing to observe the next round of local elections.

But the Chavez fraud was never explicitly challenged by the West, and now it's coming back to bite. With Putin showcasing Chavez in Moscow, it's his explicit message to the West that fraudulent elections are tolerable, fraudulent elections are just part of geopolitical power games, and the West is stunningly hypocritical if it can accept one fraud and denounce another. More to the point, he's making the case that every big power's got a right to tolerate if not commit fraud. And it also shows that he doesn't intend to back down.

If Chavez had not won his recall referendum fraudulently, and if knowledge of this was not the West's dirty secret, there'd be no way he'd be up there on the podium with Putin right now. If the West wants any credibility at all right now in Ukraine, it needs to hold fast on the principle of free elections for Ukraine, and to begin denouncing the electoral fraud that has disfigured Venezuela. Because, like a voodoo doll, Putin's holding Chavez right in front of them.

Amid monstrous electoral turmoil in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin decided to hold a press conference today in Moscow, with none other than Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. The purpose was to, uhhh, congratulate him on recall referendum victory. And no less than four months after it happened. But don't think this is about Chavez. Putin, as you may be aware, is going head to head with the West over whether his puppet—candidate, who fraudulently claims victory in a tainted election, has the right to assume Ukraine's presidency. Ukranians blocking the freezing streets of Kyiv don't think so.

So what is this really about? Last August 15, Hugo Chavez won a hugely fraudulent recall referendum victory comparable to the nightmare going on in Ukraine. However, the West didn't stick up for clean elections in Venezuela. Instead, it entrusted the matter to Jimmy Carter, who, always the dictator's friend, hastily declared it free and fair, giving Chavez the legitimacy he craves. Western media followed suit, repeating the lie with gusto.

Only Venezuela's referendum wasn't free and fair. And everyone who's watched it closely knows it. The State Department quietly scuppered its own plans to accept the results of the Carter Center report after evidence of its shoddiness (and the aghast reaction in the tropical streets of Caracas) came to light. The EU remained mysteriously silent, refusing to observe the next round of local elections.

But the Chavez fraud was never explicitly challenged by the West, and now it's coming back to bite. With Putin showcasing Chavez in Moscow, it's his explicit message to the West that fraudulent elections are tolerable, fraudulent elections are just part of geopolitical power games, and the West is stunningly hypocritical if it can accept one fraud and denounce another. More to the point, he's making the case that every big power's got a right to tolerate if not commit fraud. And it also shows that he doesn't intend to back down.

If Chavez had not won his recall referendum fraudulently, and if knowledge of this was not the West's dirty secret, there'd be no way he'd be up there on the podium with Putin right now. If the West wants any credibility at all right now in Ukraine, it needs to hold fast on the principle of free elections for Ukraine, and to begin denouncing the electoral fraud that has disfigured Venezuela. Because, like a voodoo doll, Putin's holding Chavez right in front of them.