Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hugo and the Zinger

Best throwaway line of the week comes from The Economist's wrapup on Hugo Chávez, the duly constituted tinpot dictator of Venezuela.. The big E says:
[T]o many... including this newspaper, he has come to embody a new, post-cold-war model of authoritarian rule which combines a democratic mandate, populist socialism and anti-Americanism, as well as resource nationalism and carefully calibrated repression.

And he zinger:

This model has proved surprisingly successful across the world. Versions are to be found in countries as disparate and distinct as Iran, Russia, Zimbabwe and Sudan. In one way or another, these regimes claim to have created a viable alternative to liberal democracy.

Link. If some latter-day Rip Van Winkle woke up this morning and asked how the world had fared in the 20-plus years since the fall of Communism, this would be a good insight with which to start, except that the E is far too cautious in it approach. I should think they are describing also China, the Central Asian Republics and a whole host of less-noticed governments where a combination of state capitalism and soft police state have coalesced into s viable--well, the E says "alternative to liberal democracy," but I should think that maybe "parody/lampoon of liberal democracy" captures the new reality even better. For more background, look here.


Zap said...

Uh..this is just weird: "authoritarian rule which combines a democratic mandate, populist socialism". These are massively contradictory. Venezuela's constitution provides for near-instantaneous public referendums for removing any politician they don't like. Authoritarian democracy is an oxymoron. Yes, the people love him--democracy, populist and socialist..what's not to like? I continue to fail to see any repression of anything but foreign corporations who have pretty much universally done Venezuelans more harm than good. It's publicly-owned businesses have done a great deal of good for them.

jeff house said...

Zap is typical of people who don't follow Venezuela closely. So he doesn't know that a Presidential candidate has been in jail for "bearing false news"? Or that a judge, Maria Lourdes Afiuni has been in jail for five months for releasing a prisoner on bail, when the Constitution REQUIRED it?

Chavez's popularity is running in the mid-thirties. His candidate lost the election for MAyor in Caracas, the biggest working-class city...etc. etc.

Tracy Lightcap said...

Ah, some of us simply won't be satisfied until all the world is like Connecticut.

Judge Afuni did have good grounds for releasing Cadero. What she didn't have good grounds for is helping him to avoid the cops who had been sent to arrest him again. I don't care what the UN says–and I'm not really sure why that should matter in a Venezuelan courtroom–if you are a judge, you OBEY THE LAW. Even of you think the prosecutors are gaming the system? Well, duh. They do that everywhere. Even in some North American countries we know. As for Hugo going all ballistic on her, see Nixon, Richard on the Mason trial.

Don't get me wrong here; I see plenty of reasons to be apprehensive about the Bolivarian Republic. The big test will come if Hugo's side loses the next election. But this whole flap about Judge Afuni is not a reason to go all "Hugo's an authoritarian dictator! !!!11!1!". Unless, of course, you want to extend the category to include most of the code law countries in the world. Almost all of them have much more lenient pre-trial incarceration standards and are much more willing to bend to executive initiatives then you find here.