Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Degrees of Freedom

It is obvious an but rarely remembered observation that it is always possible to jump from the frying pan into the fire. In the case of Venezuela, this means that Hugo Chavez was not necessarily an improvement on his predecessor simply because he succeeded him. The New York Times is reporting that the Venezuelan studentry -- that repository of idealism and bellweather of future trends -- is leading the opposition to Hugo Chavez.

Finding Yon Goicoechea, a leader of the nascent student movement protesting the expanding power of President Hugo Chávez, is not easy. He changes cellphones every few days. After receiving dozens of death threats, he moves among the apartments of friends here each day in search of a safe place to sleep.

In an interview this week in a back room at one such residence, a villa in a leafy district in this city, Mr. Goicoechea described the movement that has supplanted traditional political parties in recent weeks as the most cohesive and respected challenger to Mr. Chávez’s government. ...

But what about the claims, from Mr. Chávez and his loyalists, that the students ultimately want to oust him from office? “We want social transformation, not a coup,” Mr. Goicoechea said. “The real coup d’état is coming from Chávez, who wants to perpetuate himself in power.”

But wasn't it supposed to be the other way around? Chavez's supporters billed him as the agent of social transformation. Now that Venezuelan students describe him as nothing more than a caudillo in Leftist clothing, who are the good guys now?

“People don’t believe in political parties anymore; they don’t believe in anyone,” said Stalin González, a leader of the student protests here. “The students are fresh new figures with a different message,” he said. “This doesn’t mean we’re the salvation.”

Stalin Gonzalez, eh? There's a name to conjure with and a reminder that you can always jump from the frying pan into the fire.


Blogger El Jefe Maximo said...

It's good to see the students standing up, but still I wonder how many of the same students were out there cheering Chavez on during his rise to power, while his targets were the faceless "rich", the multinationals, Uncle Sam, or (fill in the name of your favorite easy to hate target here).

Now that the army's teeth are drawn, the political parties broken, a secret police organization put together -- now, in other words, that Chavez has his skillet, has put the oil in it and fired up the heat, they want to complain that he's frying them. Better late than never I suppose.

I wonder too, when some of the students start disappearing: when opposition no longer provides the cachet of defiance without the fear of result -- how many will persevere with resistance; how many will try to keep their heads down; and, how many will take the careerist path ?

Surely there have been, and will be some heroes, of whom I crave forgiveness for my cynicism. But there are no doubt plenty of the other kind, too.

11/13/2007 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

It's the nature of fighting dictatorships that it takes a long time. It took 14 years to bring down Marcos. The junta in Burma looks to be far from finished. And would Saddam have fallen without OIF? Chances are he'd still be in power, throwing people into wood chippers.

It's a hard job fighting secret police organizations, rigged elections, bought media. And years of living on the run takes its toll. Every time you sleep, some part of you is subconsciously listening for car pulling up; the sound of footsteps running up the stairs; feeling for the Smith and Wesson by your head.

Ask anyone who's lived the life what he remembers most about getting to the USA. It's the first night's sleep. It's an unimaginable feeling. And the next morning, to see the sun stream through the window. To hear the hiss of steam heating. To hear the sound of people yelling in yard. And not be afraid.

And if you stay long enough on one of the trips to the post office you'll look up and the force of it will break your heart. Up above, flying in a way that those who take it for granted rarely see it is the flag; and the flag; and the flag.

11/13/2007 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...


Terror in Philippines: Congress Bombed, Muslim Congressman Killed (UPDATED)

11/13/2007 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

There have been concerns for some time that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been working out some deal to hand over part of the Republic's territory to Muslim insurgents in exchange for political support and other considerations.

The transfer may be disguised as some form of "ancestral land" transaction, though when you think about it, the population of the Philippines is essentially one racial stock. The Muslims in Mindanao were part of a wave of Islamic conquest heading north. If anyone should get Mindanao it should be the pre-Islamic indigenous cultures called the Lumads.

But the Lumads don't have guns. And they don't have oil money to back them from the Middle East. They don't endow professorial chairs to plead their cause at US universities. So you never hear about them. Even their grievances have been appropriated by their conquerors. And it's almost certain that the Lumads didn't attack the Congress. Not the genuinely oppressed, but the genuine oppressor is often behind historical terrorism.

11/13/2007 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

The problem with handing over land in the Phillipines is that the terrorists will wait a bit then say "More, please!". I hope the Phillipine Government understands this, the Israelis clearly don't.

Here's an outside-the-box thought: Let's give the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to the Israelis. We're not using it, anyway. They could drill for oil and drive the price back down under $30 a barrel.

The first to fall would be the Mullahs in Iran.

Saudi Sheiks would have less discretionary funds to build madrassa indoctrination centers.

Chavez's government would never survive. He's only hanging on by his oil revenues now.

To see Venezuela's future if Chavez succeeds in holding out, look to Zimbabwe. 85% unemployment, 2000% annual inflation, and refugees risking their lives to flee to neighboring countries. There is not a lick of difference between Robert Mugabe and Hugo Chavez.

11/13/2007 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

If the Iraq experience suggests anything, it is the wisdom of acting decisively early. Waiting for the problem to bloat into monstrous proportions, to let the other team to pile up a 30 point lead before coming from behind in the 4th quarter makes for good movies but bad policy.

I have no doubt that if Chavez were left to run rampant he will eventually create a Latin American version of Zimbabwe. But to wait until that catastrophe occurs before acting seems perverse. Is it really the nature of man to wait until you actually pass under the gates of Buchenwald or look up at the Blitz before saying, "hmmm. Maybe there's a problem"?

Sometimes I think catastrophes are history's version of the alarm clock. They ring when the hour is late. Whether you still make the appointment in time is another story.

11/13/2007 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Wretchard: I wonder how many protest marches have been held with the theme of "You didn't stop Hitler early" or "You didn't nuke the USSR into ashes in 1947"

Can't think of any. I don't expect any, either.

Maybe it is because the people who have the fix the problem are too busy to bitch. Or maybe they are just not the type to do demonstrations.

I still recall - with some amazement - a booth set up on the Mall in Wash D.C during the Desert Storm Victory Parade in 1991. The theme was "North Korea Deserves the Right to Have Nuclear Weapons"

11/13/2007 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger JR said...

"bellwether " not "bellweather "

11/14/2007 03:45:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

In the book "The Black Swan" the author talks about people who had a great impact on history but are unrecognized for it. If a politician in Germany had taken actions that prevented Hitler's rise to power, he would have had a profound and positive effect on history but, since Hitler would never have had the opportunity to commit atrocities this unknown politician would go unremarked by history. He may even be excoriated by those knowledgeable about his actions for derailing a promising young up-and-comer who could have united Germany.

Democrats daily complain about the cost of the war but the cost of NOT invading Iraq is unknoweable. Certainly the cost of the damage done to the US economy by 9/11 far outweighs what it would have cost if Clinton had taken out Osama when he had the chance, but many people (myself included) would have attacked Clinton for his "unprovoked" aggresion.

Modern History is a quest for stability and stasis. All wars must be ended in a cease-fire which restores the status quo ante. There are no victors allowed because victory would give meaning to the concept of war. A recent Nobel Prize winner makes millions by claiming we have it in our abilities to control the weather with such precision that our climate will never change. People who fear change embrace his teachings like a new religion. The future is an unknoweable scary place. Why work to make it better when you can work to keep it from changing?

11/14/2007 04:53:00 AM  

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