Hugo Chavez’s Latest Power Grab

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Can Chavez get away with it?  The Assembly of 165 lawmakers which will be seated on January 5th contains 66 opposition members.  As a result, some of Mr. Chavez’s agenda may be blunted.  More importantly, some laws–such as granting Mr. Chavez “special powers”–require a two-thirds majority in order to pass.  This is undoubtedly why he is seeking a vote prior to the new legislature being seated. Yet given Mr. Chavez’s track record, one has to wonder if such a constitutional restraint itself may soon come under attack.

Newly elected opposition lawmaker, Julio Borges, is convinced the legislation goes against the will of the voters. “As elected deputies, we’re asking for a meeting between the new assembly and the old one, so that people are respected–the voters and the constitution,” he said.  Such a meeting appears unlikely.  Mr. Chavez has announced his intention to seek a vote on the matter as early as Friday, which his critics contend is a move designed get what he wants while most Venezuelans are preoccupied with the Christmas holiday season.

Hugo Chavez was elected president on December 6, 1998 with 56.4% of the popular vote.  His rise to power from revolutionary to the highest office in the country can be traced to Venezuela’s economic rise and fall, all of which centers around their principal commodity:  oil.  According to Venezuela’s Information Office, oil accounts for 75% of their exports, 50% of the government’s fiscal income and 25% of their GDP.  Venezuela is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which, at its most recent meeting in Quito, Ecuador on December 13, voted to keep production in check as a means of ensuring continued high prices.  Venezuela, along with their ally, Iran, took a hard-line stance at the meeting insisting that oil should be allowed to go beyond its current $80-$90-per barrel level, but Saudi Arabia blunted the demand for further production cuts.

It is no secret why Chavez sought the price increases:  despite his efforts, Venezuela’s economy is in dismal shape.  Their currency has been devalued up to 50% and they have the highest inflation rate in South America, which reached 27% in 2009, and now stands at 35%.  Last February, Mr. Chavez enacted a 60-day energy state of emergency due to a drought, forcing businesses there to reduce their consumption of electricity by 20%, or be shut down. Foreign debt has increased by more than 250%, and though its economy is recovering somewhat, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that “Venezuela will be the only country in the region whose GDP shrinks in 2010″ by 1.3%, which they attributed to “severe supply bottlenecks” and a “weak policy framework.”  In addition, Barclays Capital, after meetings with Finance Ministry and central bank officials in Caracas, announced that Venezuela may once again “formally devalue its currency ‘at least’ 15% in early 2011.”

Chavez remains undeterred. He claimed the country has “the luxury of shrinking 5%” even as it remains able to raise salaries and pay for public works. “This is the inverse of capitalism,” he said last August. “There’s no crisis here.”
Actions speak louder than words.  Cables contained in the Wikileaks release indicate Venezuela is courting many of the same oil conglomerates whose appetite for making investments there were soured by Chvez’s nationalization of the industry.  “President Chávez, for his part, is acutely aware of the impact the country’s general economic trajectory has had on his popularity,” said one of the cables.  Yet Chavez maintains his facade stating that the national oil company, PDVSA is “thriving” and more than capable of sustaining the “21 century socialism” which is the centerpiece of Hugo Chavez’s vision.

How far will Chavez go to implement that vision?  This latest move follows a 2009 referendum allowing Chavez to run for a third term in 2012, which superseded a similar attempt that failed in 2007.  And though the new national Assembly is still heavily weighted in his favor, it contains more opposition members than the previous one.
The real irony here is Chavez’s ostensible motivation for becoming de facto dictator of his nation:  he feels such action in the only realistic response to a national “crisis.”

Perhaps one can be forgiven for noticing that such an idea, as in “never let a crisis go to waste,” hardly constitutes original thinking on the part of Hugo Chavez.  Yet the differences between Venezuela and the United States remain stark.  It is virtually beyond dispute that similar “solutions” for our own problems were thoroughly repudiated by voters on November 2nd.  Unfortunately, it looks the Venezuela will continue to learn the hard lesson that would-be socialists across the globe have been forced to endure:  life becomes infinitely more difficult when government “runs out of other people’s money to spend.”

Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website

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  • jemc50

    Wow. This can only be good for Venezuela. Let a crazy man have total control for a year. What a two bit dictator! (/sarc)

  • Cuban Refugee

    Of course Venezuela's economy is in tatters — that's what communism does: it destroys, whether in the 21st century or the 20th the putrid flavor and stench of its product is the same. This lunatic in a red shirt is admired by many in the Obama administration, including one of his "czars," Mark Lloyd, who praised Chavez's "revolution." Reading your article provided a glimpse into the future of our republic — we have already seen the birth of tyranny here, and, if we allow it to flourish, we may as well order some red shirts for our wardrobe.

    • Fred Dawes

      I am sad to say it will flourish for one reason in the last 50 years we have had well over 30,000,000 million third world people come here all want the good life without working for it, and with millions and millions of third world people more will just want and want, " population as a weapon outlined by many people in many books all people can do now is to watch the total take over of total Red Tyranny just like hitler did and what happend to china/ russia/cuban and many other counties.

      and yes order 7 Red Shirts one for each day.

  • Wesley69

    Chavez is the modern day Castro; the new idol of Leftists both here and abroad. He's a Radical Left-Wing dictator dedicated to a state-run economy with a transfer of the wealth. It still amazes me how the American Left could honor such men as Chavez, Castro and Che. Chavez has been quite skillful in his rise to power. The problem is, there are people here that would love for Obama to do as Chavez has done, to rule BY DECREE!

    He has admirers within Obama's administration. Mark Lloyd, Diversity Czar for the FCC talking about Chavez:

    "In Venezuela, with Chavez, is really an incredible revolution – a democratic revolution. To begin to put in place things that are going to have an impact on the people of Venezuela.
    "The property owners and the folks who then controlled the media in Venezuela rebelled – worked, frankly, with folks here in the U.S. government – worked to oust him. But he came back with another revolution, and then Chavez began to take very seriously the media in his country. "And we've had complaints about this ever since."

    An this guy is helping the FCC in its look at net neutrality, the fairness doctrine as it applies to the Internet, Radio, TV, etc.???? He is no friend of FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

    As Venezuela’s democracy is destroyed, Chavez with his oil wealth will try to acquire nuclear weapons which will transform the Gulf of Mexico/ Caribbean Sea. This is something the US can't allow. The problem is South American countries already looks at us at the giant to the north, messing around with their internal affairs. Chavez is become more than a thorn in our side, but this administration will not move against him.

    Truth is, they envy him and will try to copy what he has done here in the US. WE THE PEOPLE can not afford to be asleep like the people of Venezuela were. One day, we could be in a similar situation, because we believe it could never happen in the US. WAKE UP TO THE DANGER WITHIN, AMERICA!!!!!

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Thomas Jefferson

    • Cuban Refugee

      Wesley, I like the way you think … Rosie O'Donnell, Michael Moore, and Bill Maher were three of the useful idiots who immediately came to mind when I read your first paragraph. I have Venezuelan friends who believe that, one day soon, a disgruntled Bolivarian revolutionary will do the job necessary to end this nightmare for the Venezuelan people and the world.

      • Wesley69

        Let's hope so for the freedom loving people of Venezuela. They deserve better.

    • Fred Dawes

      you are right if net neutrality is put in place you can see down the road camps and the dead for talking out against people like obama it is starting to happen in little way's but with this law it will become a death camp country.

  • Steve Chavez

    Obama, Pelosi, and Reid wanted the Tea Party to be portrayed as a racist gun-toting lynch mob which then created the conditions for Obama to impose Martial Law which they would have then used to pull a Hugo Chavez and a President for Life. They had full control of Congress and the White House and no telling their motives since the Tea Party was such a threat to their monopoly on power! Glenn Beck's, Al Sharpton's, and the Ed Shultz's/Leftists rally proved who the real racists and the real "foam at the mouth" haters are!

    • Jim C.

      "Martial law"… give me a break. Have you guys made a single prediction that has actually come true?

      The TEA party had no trouble, on its own, displaying its racism…its a matter of public record. That doesn't mean everyone in the TEA party is racist. The TEA party is generally a very confused but well-meaning group of people.

      • LibertyLover

        About the Tea Party. You are either woefully ignorant or willfully dishonest. The Tea Party is far less racist than The Race Obsessed Deomcrat Party or the NAACP.

      • Rifleman

        Jim C., where is the alleged racism of the tea party a matter of public record?

  • jemc50

    Un-freaking-believable! I just saw a report that Chavez has been granted his request. WTH are those people thinking?

  • Fred Dawes

    You can't stop evil with BS, Our enemies are not at the gate but inside the city we have many friends of guys like that little monkey Chaves many who want to make a holocaust here inside this country and if any get real power to do that murder of freedom and millions of Americans that pig would and all the little monkey idoits would help.

  • Toa

    "we may as well order some red shirts for our wardrobe."

    Cuban Refugee, we won't have to, if it comes to that. They will order them for us…except instead of red shirts, they'll be orange or black-and-white coveralls. And as Fred Dawes implied, we won't be wearing them too long…

    May God have mercy on us and grant us repentance unto Life…!!

  • Matt

    Hugo Chavez is attaining all of the dictatorial power the left accused George W. Bush of trying to attain – and they love him for it.

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