Mark Weisbrot on Chavez
From Common Dreams:
It is a mistake to try and demonize or isolate Chavez. He is only the most vocal representative of a broad swath of political leaders and social movements with the same view. Indeed, President Lula's Workers Party of Brazil, along with their largest trade union confederation and leading intellectuals and artists, took the unusual step of publicly expressing support for Chavez in the referendum.
And despite the disingenuous efforts of U.S. officials such as Roger Noriega and Otto Reich to paint Venezuela as another Cuba, the country is as free and democratic as any in Latin America -- as the world witnessed once again in this latest vote. Despite political polarization and class conflict, no reputable international human rights organization would argue that political rights or freedoms have deteriorated under the Chavez government, as compared with either previous governments or others in the Americas.
The Bush team supported a military coup against Chavez in 2002 as well as the recall effort -- which also received U.S. taxpayer dollars from the Congressionally-funded National Endowment for Democracy. But they were unusually quiet as the vote drew near. They do not want to promote any instability that might raise the price of gasoline between now and November 2. But whatever happens in our own election, we are going to need a new foreign policy towards Venezuela -- and the rest of Latin America.