Monday, February 16, 2009

Well -- Chavez for life?

You've probably heard elsewhere that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has won his bid to override a two-term presidential limit and let him continue running for reelection for the rest of his life. I've expressed my dislike for this path in the past.

Here's some of what the internet is saying about this:

William Mora at Hands off Venezuela calls it triumph for democracy and a step toward long-term revolution.

Ian Williams at the Guardian says these unlimited terms allow Chavez to continue lazy economic policies and to continue wasting his time with political games to be reelected continuously instead of cleaning up economic messes.

Steve Rendell and Isabelle Macdonald at Venezuelanalysis point out the double standard in U.S. coverage (shocking, I know) of the referendum and coverage of Columbia similar referendum in 2005.

They are right to point out that most major news sources here probably aren't actually concerned about Latin American democracy, and are more about being a "propaganda arm" of U.S. foreign policy. But I don't think that means sincere concerns about this as a threat to Latin American democracy aren't valid concerns...

Now I know there are really complex arguments to be had here about revolution and democracy and sustained progress, but what if all I can really muster at the end of the day is something like, "This isn't what I imagine a long-term revolution should look like..." Call it a vulgar analysis, but it just doesn't feel right.


t said...

I share your worries with having the Bolivarian Revolution firmly hitched to the figure of Hugo Chavez. I am, nonetheless, always tempted to qualify any discussion of this matter with a strong indication of my support for the PSUV and the regime in Venezuela. I feel strongly about this qualification because I think its important to make clear that my interest in critiquing the state apparatus in Venezuela is from the standpoint of the socialist Left. I share nothing in common with neoliberal critics who complain of Chavez's 'thirst for power' and seek to 'prove' once and for all that Left political projects are necessarily wedded to an 'authoritarian' state or 'cult of personality.'

All of this said, I think its a serious problem that there is not a lot of strong leadership within the PSUV aside from Chavez. Moreover, no revolution can be fully carried out from above (and I think it would be a mistake to say that this is true of Venezuela writ large). At least, while Chavez is clearly very self-important, he casts himself as a 'selfless enabler of the Revolution' rather than as an end in himself.

Not that this is a choice we are forced to accept, but I would choose 30 years of Chavez over a revolving door of neoliberal presidencies.

Anonymous said...

I live in Chicago, and I find it very hypocritical of the U.S. press to complain about Chavez's "thirst for power" but not complaining that we have Mayor Richard Daley, whose father was in office for 20 years and would have continued indefinately, if it wasn't for death stopping him, and now the current Mayor Daley will surpass that mark this year, and the only thing that will get him out of power is either retirement or death. I would rather have Hugo Chavez running Chicago instead of the two Daleys.