Chavez: Supporting Democracy In Venezuela
Hugo Chávez's efforts to turn Venezuela into a leftist authoritarian state are
over. More than 150,000 citizens marched on the Miraflores presidential palace
on April 11 to repudiate his increasingly authoritarian policies. After snipers
fired on them from rooftops, senior military commanders took control and urged
the embattled president to step down.
Carmona Estanga, head of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and one of the
organizers of the protest, agreed to lead a transition government. Although the
episode concludes a short, sad chapter in Venezuelan history, the challenge
ahead for Venezuela's politicians and civic leaders is formidable. They must put
together a new government and heal wounds left by a leader who twisted political
institutions to consolidate his personal grip on power while dividing the nation
with his confrontational style.
United States can help. One of the world's leading oil producers, Venezuela has
always been an ally and a key trade partner. In this moment of turmoil,
Venezuelan democrats need our support. But while Venezuela's departure from
constitutional order is regrettable, this is not the time to scold those
responsible or attempt to restore Chávez and his increasingly undemocratic
agenda to power, as the United States did with Haiti's Jean Bertrand-Aristide in
had lost considerable popular support over the last year, and it is not clear
that there was any practical remedy to his shenanigans under a constitution that
he engineered to be rewritten early in his administration. Nor would it have
been possible to rein in his self-indulgent behavior in the atmosphere of
belligerence he created. This is, after all, the man who established and armed
partisan gangs called "Bolivarian Circles" and promised to
"crush" any and all opponents.
the United States should call for a return to the institutions of democracy. And
it should facilitate that effort by increasing contact with Venezuela's
political and social leaders and by offering to help them construct a new order
and address the weaknesses that led to this breakdown.
Bush administration should move quickly to ensure that Washington-based
non-governmental organizations such as the International Republican Institute
and the National Democratic Institute have the resources necessary to help
Venezuela's battered political parties remake themselves into policy and
State Department's Public Diplomacy bureau should encourage politicians and
civic leaders to turn away from their traditions of centralized authority,
corruption and populist economics by sponsoring international visitor exchanges
and organizing seminars on government and economic reform.
all, Washington must realize that what happened in Venezuela was not a coup by a
small group, but a broad, public rejection of policies that were leading
Venezuela into economic chaos, into closer relations with rogue regimes such as
Iraq and Cuba, and away from liberty and economic opportunity that, at heart,
most Venezuelans are striving for.
is a Latin America policy analyst in the Davis Institute for International
Studies at The
Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy institute.
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