dear hani g. and fga,
I'm tipsy. I have a glass of black label in me (thanks to Lazarus's inspiring example), and I have decided to respond to your critical comments regarding my deriding depiction of Hugo Chavez.
By the way, you-all should watch "All The Kings Men." Great movie!
Anyways, I actually left home thinking about your comments, and promised that I would respond. Of course, the both of you are dear to me, so maybe that is why your comments have taken such a toll. Anyways, here goes:
I cannot bring myself to support a demagogue dictator-in-the-making (if not already so) like hugo chavez.
Foreign policy-wise, his drive against the US is almost maniacal, and definitely comes at the expense of Venezuelan interests. For Example: He goes and signs deals with China to export crude because he wants to decrease his country's dependence on the US market (as if the US itself were not equally dependent on his oil).
Well, guess what? That shift comes at a price! The dude has to pay god-knows-how-much-more to ship the crude to China (including the exorbitant fees of using the Panama Canal). That money could have went into the Venezuelan economy, or maybe into programs to help Venezuela's poor. But instead, The Benevolent Shepherd is burning it because he wants to slay el Diablo.
Have either of you heard of the news that Chavez is increasing the amount of subsidized heating oil available to "America's poor?" (I use quotation marks because I wonder what kind of infrastructure Chavez has in the US to actually determine his oil is going to the targeted populace). Well, if you haven't, then you should know that he has doubled the amount of heating oil available to poor americans from 400,000 barrels to a million this winter.
Of course, our immediate response is, "wow, what a manyak!" That Hugo! He's definitely sticking it to the American elite! But, weigh that "policy" against opportunity costs, and then maybe it would appear to be a tad wasteful.
It is no surprise at all, that analysts are saying that Venezuela has the most to lose from low oil prices. As a matter of fact, Venezuela's representative at OPEC has consistently called for decreasing the supply of crude in order to raise prices. When I say consistently, I don't just mean over the past couple of weeks, during which oil prices have declined; I actually mean over the past several months.
Finally, ask yourselves this: if elections were held tomorrow in Venezuela, and Hugo loses, do you actually think he would leave office?
I am all for systems and institutions. Demagogues irk me! And Hugo is no exception to that rule.