The South American political bully has gone quite far enough.
Hugo Chavez, current prime minister of Venezuela, was both widely supported and elected by landslide in the late 1990s for his socialist platform and has consistently retained both leadership of his country and the affection of his people.
But recently, after his attempt to alter Venezuelan constitutional law, his policies, both foreign and domestic, have been called into question.
Though his domestic economic efforts have largely been successful, Chavez’s hot-headedness and obsession with his public image have led to serious blunders in his policy.
According to a New York Times columnist, Chavez has “spread a form of crony capitalism, dedicated to his greater glory that has imbued the economy with all the resilience of a house of cards.”
Even more frightening is his political ambition. In an almost Stalin-esque spirit, Chavez’s recent trick involved a reform that would remove all limits on presidential re-election, grant him direct control over foreign currency reserves, allow him to censor the media under a state of emergency declarable at his discretion and expand his powers to expropriate private property.
Given his rhetorical rants against the evils of imperialism and fascism, many may be surprised at the lack of a supervenient fall of Chavez’s credibility.
This could be explained, however, by his preceding complete annihilation thereof with his actions in the more publicized international arena.
Chavez loathes the U.S. and its current administration —- this is no secret.
However, his certifiable rants labeling Bush as “the devil” and blaming the administration for planning and executing 9/11, reminiscent of that crazy homeless guy with scraggly hair and an apocalyptic sign on his chest, showed from the beginning that Chavez plays a very different political game.
Chavez’s treatment of his Colombian neighbor remains even more deplorable.
After being named chief mediator between the Colombian administration and the leftist terrorist organization found within its borders, Chavez infuriated Prime Minister Alvaro Uribe by going above his head and speaking exclusively with the chief general of Colombia’s armed forces, with neither the knowledge nor the consent of the prime minister.
Uribe removed him from the position. Chavez, unable to take such blows to self-esteem or self-image, responded furiously by accusing Colombia of being a “tool of U.S. imperialism” and freezing all contacts, diplomatic and economic alike, with the fellow Latin American state.
Finally, we come to Chavez’s treatment of Spain.
In a meeting with the Spanish king, Chavez repeatedly labeled the ex-president of the country, Aznar, a fascist, refusing to let Spain defend itself by running his mouth, proverbially speaking, so quickly and outrageously that not a single word could be interjected. This sparked some uncharacteristically nasty words from the king.
Following said words, in the traditional spirit of Chavez, relations between the two nations were frozen entirely pending a personal apology from the king himself. Chavez is an elementary school bully.
His command of the large oil deposits within the nation’s borders has given him a false sense of omnipotence and the idea that he can demand what he will from any ally. These delusions of supremacy and slights against democratic process could spell a very dark future on the horizon for Venezuela.
Therefore, I am left with no recourse than to repeat the still-echoing words of Rey Juan Carlos, the king of Spain: Why won’t you just shut up?
Phil Elder is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.