Here is the latest opinion which should add to the Chavez Watch
Posted on Tue, Mar. 22, 2005
Why Chávez seeks a clash with the U.S.
BY CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER
It's obvious that Hugo Chávez is looking for a confrontation with the United States. He constantly insults President Bush, makes vulgar sexual allusions about Condoleezza Rice, threatens to suspend the supply of crude oil to the United States and wastes not a single chance to associate with the enemies of Washington, be they Iran or Moammar Gadhafi.
At the same time, Chávez funds and helps all subversive movements in Latin America, from Evo Morales' MAS, which is sniping at Bolivia's precarious democracy, to Colombia's communist narco-guerrillas.
Why the irresponsible behavior? It's obvious: Chávez needs a powerful enemy abroad to galvanize his own forces. The chavista leadership -- a gaggle of geese -- is an ill-conceived mishmash of communists, military men lacking in prestige, hot-headed radicals, Cold War zombies like Vice President José Vicente Rangel, and flunkies from the new and official economic class that feeds from the million-dollar oil revenues.
These folks have no ideological spine, no discipline. Neither do their supporters, who are attracted to the polls only through the coarsest populism, for the price of a few alms. They are not militants but clients. They are grateful stomachs.
Besides, Chávez needs to project his image abroad, and he believes that he must prepare himself to take up the role of David vs. Goliath -- splendidly performed by Fidel Castro during half a century of Caribbean tragedy -- as soon as el comandante chooses to die and pass him the torch of anti-imperialism in the midst of a lively wake.
But beyond the instrumental nature of his anti-Americanism, Chávez has decided to speed up the pace toward the Cuban model, that ''sea of happiness,'' as he calls it. And the reason for this is also easy to understand: While chavismo is merely a torrent of hollow verbiage, an endless stream of spit aimed at people who entertain themselves with his Sunday program Hello, President!, Marxism-Leninism is a perfectly articulated system of beliefs and government.
It has a utopia, a vision of reality, a diagnosis, a code of ethics and some objectives. It also has a method to manage the state. It is a very useful off-the-rack dictatorship, suitable for chieftains who wish to perpetuate themselves in power.
The problem is that that type of societal organization has failed always, everywhere and under every circumstance. It failed in Russia and Germany, North Korea and Nicaragua, Mongolia, Yugoslavia and in every historic, geographic, cultural, ethnic or political microenvironment where it was planted. It flopped among Slavic, Germanic, Scandinavian, Latin, Turkmenian and Asian people.
It fizzled in Byzantine-Christian, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Islamic and Confucian societies. In huge states and in tiny enclaves. In nations with a plethora of natural riches and in others blessed with excellent human capital.
Simply put, the theoretical proposition -- Marxism -- was twaddle, and the practice of government -- Leninism -- an enormous and unproductive prison that inevitably led to material backwardness, the cruelest abuses and widespread desperation.
And China? China stopped being Marxist, reestablished private property and, instead of waging war on the First World, now sells it housewares. That's why it prospers. It is still an atrocious tyranny but eventually, guided indirectly by the great Western powers, it will abandon the single-party standard and discover political pluralism, democracy and human rights, as Taiwan and South Korea already have.
Most Venezuelans, with the exception of the top leadership, share this analysis. According to the most reliable surveys, only six percent of them admire Cuba as a valid reference model and 85 percent oppose a reproduction of the Cuban model in Venezuela.
However, the path that Chávez has found to skirt that little obstacle is the path of confrontation with the United States. He assumes that a crisis against Washington, implying the risk (real or invented) of a U.S. Marine landing, will serve as an excuse to brand as traitors to the homeland all those who refuse to defend the revolution.
Within that climate of induced collective hysteria, the caudillo, the armed forces, the homeland and his own party will form a monolithic unit in whose name any crime may be committed and any adversary may be destroyed.
This Chávez-designed strategy of confrontation is so obvious that it becomes impossible to ignore, which forces democratic nations to ask: Is it reasonable to allow ourselves to be dragged by this adventurer into a whirlpool of conflicts and confrontations that can only lead to a violent end, probably within the borders of Venezuela itself?
It is true that Chávez struts through the world carrying a bulging checkbook that he manages mindlessly, but is it worth the trouble, or is it morally justifiable, to access that dangerous dynamic by selling him weapons and warships, or to join him in his chimerical plans to create great, multinational, public enterprises into which he'll sink billions of much-needed dollars?
These are questions that require swift answers. The crisis worsens.