Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’

Faking democracy

May 13, 2019

Kings used to rule everywhere by “divine right.” It was unquestioned. “Democracy” wasn’t even a thing. But in modern times it has acquired such universal moral force that even the most tyrannical regimes feel they must give it lip service. As in “The Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea.” It takes no fewer than three liberal-sounding words to lipstick that pig. They even pretend to “vote” in “elections.”

Is this progress of a sort? Well, at least “divine right” rulers were honest about it. Now, dictators are perfecting the art of faking democracy.

I’ve written recently how Venezuela’s regime practices democratic theater to create a potemkin fiction of popular sovereignty.

Then there’s Turkey. I’d warned that by electing Erdogan president, and then voting him untrammeled powers, they’d politically disembowel themselves. They did it anyway (probably helped by regime ballot rigging).

Yet in March elections, an opposition candidate somehow managed to narrowly win Istanbul’s mayoralty. Erdogan cried foul, claiming vote fraud — with a straight face. Then the regime-controlled electoral authority simply annulled the result, scheduling a revote (whose outcome, observers say, Erdogan will not leave to chance). The legal pretext for this usurpation was transparently phony. Meantime, in numerous other cities, elected opposition mayors have simply been kicked out, and the runners-up installed.

All this Erdogan — still with a straight face — calls a triumph of democracy.

Then there’s Thailand. In 2011, I wrote a post titled “Democracy wins in Thailand.” It was a resounding vote against anti-democratic pro-royalty, pro-military forces. But in 2014 the army stomped in and seized power. Then came the obligatory charade of a “transition” back to “democracy,” with a new constitution blatantly stacked to keep the military chief in power. The army would even appoint the entire upper house of parliament.

The Thai king since 1946, Bhumibol, was revered to excess, supposedly above politics but giving free reign to anti-democratic palace and military intriguers, including 2014’s putschists. But he was literally uncriticizable by grace of a draconian “lese majeste” law, useful for jailing anyone, for any words construable as unflattering toward the monarchy. Bhumibol died in 2018, succeeded by Vajiralongkorn, a vile arrogant self-indulgent creep even more in bed with the military rulers.*

They’ve finally held an “election” under the new constitution, and despite every possible trick to hamstring opponents and rig the result, the military still failed to gin up a parliamentary majority. Or so it seemed — until the electoral authority simply changed the opaque formula for allocating seats, and hence the outcome. For good measure, the leader of one of the biggest opposition parties has been thrown in jail on ludicrous charges.

Then there’s America. Trump has shown his contempt for democracy. In 2016 he said he’d accept the election result only if he won. Now he thinks Congress’s subpoenas for documents and for testimony by administration officials can be simply ignored. If this is rewarded with his re-election, that will be a big step down the road toward joining Venezuela, Turkey, and Thailand, in their sham of “democracy.”

* My setting foot in Thailand would risk imprisonment for those words. Seriously. An Australian writer made that mistake. (His book had reportedly sold one copy.)

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Hugo Chavez: Vile Thug

September 24, 2012

With best buddy Khadafy

There are those who are duped into admiring (or making excuses for) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez* because he blusters about anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, anti-Americanism, socialism, and flaunts supposed concern for the poor. Of course, that gives him a free pass for what actually amounts to the worst sort of fascism and shredding of human rights.

The difference between “right wing” dictatorships and the left wing sort is mainly in the rhetoric; but the leftist ones are actually more dictatorial, in trying to control more of the economy.

Chavez first tried to seize control through a 1992 military coup, for which he was rightly jailed. Winning power in 1998, he keeps it by following the Dictator’s Handbook (which I’ve blogged about): enriching his cronies and followers at the expense of everyone else, while crushing opposition by rigging the constitution, suborning the courts, emasculating stroppy local governments, relentless propaganda and lies, shutting down noncompliant newspapers and TV stations, imprisoning opponents on phony charges, confiscating their property, and otherwise bullying them with plain old violence. All the while posturing a bleeding heart for the downtrodden masses.

During Chavez’s time in office, Venezuela garnered around a trillion dollars in oil revenues, but typical of “resource curse” countries where such wealth serves only to keep bad governments bad, has little to show for it. Its economic growth rate has been lower than for all the other major Latin American nations, and the lowest of all the OPEC countries (which of course includes other resource-curse nations).

With best buddy Assad

But what do you expect from “socialism” which, Chavez or “Bolivarian” style, actually means destroying a population’s wealth-producing capabilities by undermining private property rights and rule of law, and any chance to get ahead except by playing the regime’s dirty game, while replacing competitive industry with state control bent to political purposes?

A recent Associated Press report capsulizes the rest of the story: “soaring murder rates, inflation, crumbling infrastructure, and poor government services. Venezuela now ranks among the most violent and corrupt places on earth.” Chavez has also been caught shipping weapons to the Colombian guerilla movement, actually a drugs-and-kidnapping gang.

Chavez faces voters on October 7. His opponent is Henrique Capriles, who seems capable, smart, decent, articulate, and well-intentioned. Government controlled media has been smearing him, including a strong anti-Semitic appeal (Capriles is Catholic, but with holocaust survivor grandparents). Chavez has probably bought off enough support, and bamboozled enough, that despite wrecking Venezuela’s democracy, economy, institutions, and society, he may yet actually win a fair vote. Though one can well question the fairness of any vote in today’s Venezuela given the many roadblocks faced by the opposition campaign and the climate of intimidation.

With best buddy Ahmadinejad

But Chavez has previously declared that an opposition victory, ending his “socialist” project, will simply not be permitted. Will he follow the playbook of Iran’s Ahmadinejad — one of Chavez’s typically disgusting best buddies — who lost a re-election bid but held onto power by killing enough objectors?

* Including Hollywood types like Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey and Michael Moore, and the usual gaggle of academic and limousine lefties.