Important poll

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Bigger disgrace to humanity: Hugo Chavez or Jason Giambi's deodorant commercials?

No, I'm not bitter.

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Does Giambi's fans go about

Does Giambi's fans go about beating his enemies on the street?

If not, I give the edge (and 99% of the enchilada) to Hugo.

It's amazing what you'll

It's amazing what you'll believe about Chavez if all you hear out of Venezuela is filtered through the AP. I remember when the abortive coup happened, and the mainstream U.S. media reported the Bush Administration (and Venezuelan state oil company) line as straight news. But the alternative press was telling a completely different story. After Chavez was restored, guess who turned out to be right? Hint--it wasn't wire services who wrote their copy from US Embassy handouts.

As an anarchist, I'm not one to "put my hope in princes," Chavez included. I've no doubt he's a welfare statist and a mixed-economy advocate. And he proposes statist solutions to the global corporatism falsely called "free trade," instead of the proper solution of letting a genuine free market break up the statist neoliberal system. But compared to the thugs in Washington who'd love to replace him with another Pinochet, he's Little Mary Sunshine.

Pinochet or Castro - who do

Pinochet or Castro - who do you prefer?

(although I suppose if you think Chavez is Little Mary Sunshine comparatively, I suppose we already know the answer)

Big difference, though, is that Pinochet's reign lasted ~20 years (and ended voluntarily), while Castro is still killing Cubans today, and has been since before 1960.

I doubt that Washington wants a dictator of any sorts in Caracas, but rather a stable and ignorable democracy. If Chavez were Lula, nobody would care about Venezuela right now.

However, I do agree that the

However, I do agree that the current system of international trade is deeply corporatist and that we'd all benefit from *real* free trade instead of the managed trade we have now. If Venezeula were thrown open to the world for exchange in all goods (oil, resources, etc), I imagine that the country's standard of living would rise back to its 1960s level in short order. But that scenario presupposes the elimination of crony corporatism and other institutional drags on trade and exchange, which is admittedly rosy...

I welcome your distinction

I welcome your distinction between the neoliberal model and genuine free trade. One of the writers I most respect, Joseph Stromberg, has an excellent body of work on the subject.

But your Castro question begs the question of how much Chavez (or even Allende) resembles him. Although I doubt Chavez's hands are clean, I also believe the widespread accounts of his followers brutality were heavily massaged by the Bush administration, in collusion with the AP and anti-Chavez elements in Venezuela. Of course, it's impossible to say beyond doubt that Chavez won't create a full-blown repressive police state. But so far, at least, compared to someone like Pinochet who ordered the torture and disappearance of thousands (and compared to Castro), he is indeed "Little Mary Sunshine."

Hugo Ch?vez is just the last

Hugo Ch?vez is just the last specimen of a long, unending list of dictators and authoritarian leaders Latin America has given the world to talk about and its citizens to suffer under, and who smartly chooses the cloak he is going to wear during his act. Among the many things written about Ch?vez, let me point to these:

- His first presidential campaign was funded mainly by Muammar Khadafi through a similarly sinister middleman, the Trinidadian fundamentalist Muslim leader Abu Bakr, a guy who tried two coups against the T&T government. Few people know this, something I know to be true.

- In a country that lost half of its population in almost constant civil war for almost 300 years, no one (at least in the last century) ever divided the population like he has done, with practically nothing positive to show for it.

- After having majoritarian support among Venezuelans, he managed to become so politically isolated that even the extremist Venezuelan left has abandoned him; absolutely no Venezuelan person or institution of renown of any kind, right, center or left, supports him, and outside the country even his hero Lula is gone. Besides his government minions, most of whom are very corrupt retired army guys and top army leaders chosen by Ch?vez himself, all he has is Castro and his many agents openly working in Venezuela, and the Colombian FARC and ELN. This has to say something important about the kind of person this guy is.

- With the experience of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua fresh in his mind, Ch?vez knows the coming referendum (that he himself wrote into the new Constitution at the top of his popularity) is sure to end his reign and therefore he will try everything he can to stop it, something very difficult to do openly and peacefully when a block of nations (the OAS, the Group of Friends) and institutions (Human Rights Groups, the Carter Center) are fully supporting it. I am afraid that the country?s future is darker than most people think.