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Monday, November 22, 2004

By W's own definitions, Chavez is not a dictator

I got an e-mail from Mateo at the Venezuelan Information Office requesting that I send a letter to the editor of the Washington Post in response to Saturday's anti-Chavez editorial. (See my earlier post as well.) I haven't, yet, but what follows is part of what I told Mateo:

One thing we may be able to point out is what Bush said last week in a
press conference:
Q: What if the Iraqis come up with somebody who's not friendly to the United States, is not a democrat, but it's peaceful, is this something you can live with?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first of all, if there's an election, the Iraqis will have come up with somebody who is duly-elected. In other words, democracy will have spoken. And that person is going to have to listen to the people, not to the whims of a dictator, not to their own desires -- personal desires. The great thing about democracy is you
actually go out and ask the people for a vote, as you might have noticed recently. And the people get to decide, and they get to decide the course of their future. And so it's a contradiction in terms to say a dictator gets elected. The person who gets elected is chosen by the people. And so I don't -- I'm not --

Q You can be elected and be a tyrant.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you can be elected and then be a strong man, and then you get voted out, so long as you end up honoring democracy. But if you're true to democracy, you'll listen to the people, not to your own desires. If you're true to democracy, you'll do what the people want you to do. That's the difference between democracy and a tyrant.
Now, as usual, I don't fully agree with Bush--I think
democratically-elected dictators are very possible--Hitler being the prime example. I don't think Chavez is anything like Hitler--I think Bush is much worse than Chavez. From what I saw in Venezuela and have read, Chavez has done some things to solidify his position which were of questionable legality--manipulations of the legislature and supreme court and the like (so have most US presidents, to varying degrees). I
saw little evidence of any crackdowns on civil liberties, especially free speech. Most of the TV stations and newspapers attack Chavez relentlessly, and we witnessed huge opposition rallies in the streets.

I do think that all efforts by governments to use their power in order to extend or solidify it, as the Republicans did in redistricting Texas or in the recent rule change allowing DeLay to stay as majority leader, are wrong, and I think that this is the one valid complaint the opposition has with Chavez. But Bush's statement above basically invalidates any other complaints his administration may have with Chavez--he was elected, elected again, and triumphed in the recall referendum. By Bush's own terms, Chavez most definitely IS NOT a dictator. We should hold onto this particular passage by Bush to use the next time he or his administration accuses Chavez of being a dictator. (And the Bushies agreed with Jimmy Carter and the OAS that the recall result was legit.)