Successive U.S. administrations have proved unable or unwilling to slow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's descent into authoritarianism. . .Agreed--several times.
Despite a tradition of a free press and competitive politics, a cosmopolitan elite and extensive natural resources, Venezuela is increasingly a case study in how to lose political and economic freedom.
The stakes are especially high in light of evidence consistent with an emerging Venezuelan nuclear weapons program. Ironically, Chavez's frequently clownish behavior protects him, camouflaging the seriousness of his potential threat to U.S. security and to democratic societies throughout Latin America.
Washington, under Republican and Democratic administrations, has proved unable or unwilling to slow Chavez's descent into authoritarianism. Unlike coups by prior caudillos in the Americas, the situation in Venezuela today is like a slow-motion train wreck, which makes it all the more frustrating. A lack of international outrage is discouraging pro-democracy Venezuelans across the ideological spectrum. They worry they have been forgotten, especially by an Obama administration that finds foreign policy a distraction. . .
President Obama and other freely elected Western Hemisphere leaders at a minimum need to tell Chavez clearly that his disassembling of Venezuela's democracy is unacceptable. This is very nearly the exact opposite of current White House policy, which attempts to appease Chavez, Castro and other leftists, as it did by joining them against the democratic forces in Honduras.
Unfortunately, with our own elections approaching in November, it is hard to get Obama's attention directed to Latin American affairs, or foreign policy generally. But make no mistake, if Chavez can intimidate his domestic opposition, manipulate election laws and extend his authoritarian control, Venezuela will increasingly be a global menace.
(via reader Warren)