Celebrating Thuggishness

There are many things to celebrate as a result of the razor thin referendum victory for the Venezuelan opposition last Sunday over the attempt by Hugo Chavez to turn that country into a socialist dictatorship.

But Roger Cohen has discovered an angle to the story that few, if any of us would have imagined; giving props to the thuggish Chavez for not fixing the vote:

I salute you, Hugo Chávez.

Those are words I never thought I’d write. But nor did I think it possible that a Latin American strongman, issued from the barracks, accumulating power through threats, slandering opponents as “traitors,” buying support with $150 million a day in oil money, and bent on a socialist revolution, would accept a marginal electoral defeat.

No, if it came to the humiliation of a 51 to 49 percent rejection of his proposal to end term limits and undermine private property rights and centralize authority, he would surely use a controlled Election Commission to tweak the numbers for Venezuela’s glorious march to socialism.

And yet, there was a glum Chávez declaring in the unadorned language no totalitarian system can abide that: “The people’s decision will be upheld in respect of the basic rule of democracy: the winning option is the one that gets most votes.”

The United States might ponder those words — not just because of what happened in the presidential election of 2000; not just because the arithmetic of voting has proved unpalatable in Palestine; not just because of the past U.S.-abetted trampling of elected Latin American leaders in Chile and elsewhere — but because democracy was alive and vital in Venezuela on Sunday in a way foreign to President Bush’s America.
How do you deconstruct such idiocy? Ed Lasky:
His years in Europe and the salons of NYC have done wonders for this columnist's outlook and views of " George Bush's America". I don;t understand how Cohen can characterize the practice of democracy in America as being "Bush's battered and blathering democracy". Cohen does not deign to mention something all journalists have objected to (or should) the supppression of freedom of speech -the closing of nroadcast networks, the closing of printed media outlets, the censorship that Chavez iimposes. I thought democracy depended on free speech to truly flourish.
For the record, Cohen leaves quiet a few pieces of vital information out of his nauseating paeon to Chavez. Human Rights Watch has detailed enormous problems with Cohen's "democracy" in Venezuela including:

* "Onerous" restrictions on the media

* Lack of judicial independence

* Draconian laws that inhibit free expression

* Closing of opposition TV and newspapers

* "Extrajudicial" executions by Chavez police in rural areas

* Restrictions on reporting activities by human rights groups

This doesn't include Chavez cozying up to the North Koreans and Iranians diplomatically, his drive for a "Pan-Andean" confederation that would include Ecuador and Bolivia in his "Bolivarian" revolution, his allowing the Columbian-based drug terrorists in FARC to operate on Venezuelan soil, or his virulent and unbalanced hatred of the United States.

And no mention by Cohen of the rank intimidation of the opposition the night before the referendum: Richard Baehr:

No mention in article of Chavez' s thugs attack on Jewish center night before election. Or that he stole last election on recall, or that he probably lost by 20% this time. Unstated- but obvious to NY times readers- he is holding up Chavez as honorable loser - unlike Bush in 2000, who stole election he lost , as Paul Krugman tells us every few months.
There is widespread belief among the opposition that the vote wasn't even close - that Chavez manipulated the final count to avoid a crushing defeat. Hard to say for sure but it is interesting that the CNE - the Electoral Commission in charge of counting the vote - has yet to issue any other statement on the vote totals since early Monday morning when they declared the opposition the winner. This is extraordinarily unusual. 

Cohen is absolutely correct in saying that the kind of democracy practiced in Venezuela on Sunday night was "foreign to President Bush's America." 

And we can thank God for that.


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