Tuesday, July 7, 2009
This column by Mary Anastasio O'Grady on Honduras, Venezuela, and the US is quite interesting.
First, she notes Zelaya's illegal activities: "Mr. Zelaya's violations of the rule of law in recent months were numerous. But the tipping point came 10 days ago, when he led a violent mob that stormed a military base to seize and distribute Venezuelan-printed ballots for an illegal referendum."
Second, she discusses what she portrays as an appeasing response to Hugo Chavez's seizure of power. I hadn't understood it this way, but I can believe it:
The story begins in 2004, when Mr. Chávez was still an aspiring despot and the U.S. pursued a policy of appeasement toward him. Not surprisingly, that only heightened his appetite for power.
Mr. Chávez had already rewritten the Venezuelan Constitution, taken over the judiciary and the national electoral council (CNE), militarized the government, and staked out an aggressive, anti-American foreign policy promising to spread his revolution around the hemisphere.
Many Venezuelans were alarmed, and the opposition had labored to collect signatures for a presidential recall referendum permitted under the constitution. As voting day drew near, Mr. Chávez behaved as if he knew his days were numbered. The European Union refused to send an observer team, citing lack of transparency. The OAS did send observers, and in the months and weeks ahead of the vote mission chief Fernando Jaramillo complained bitterly about the state's intimidation tactics against the population. Mr. Chávez gave OAS Secretary General César Gaviria an ultimatum: Either get Mr. Jaramillo out of the country or the referendum would be quashed. Mr. Chávez was appeased. Mr. Jaramillo was withdrawn.
The Carter Center was also invited to "observe," and former President Jimmy Carter was welcomed warmly by Mr. Chávez upon his arrival in Venezuela.
A key problem, beyond the corrupted voter rolls and government intimidation, was that Mr. Chávez did not allow an audit of his electronic voting machines. Exit polls showed him losing the vote decisively. But in the middle of the night, the minority members of the CNE were kicked out of the election command center. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Chávez claimed victory. There was never a credible audit of the paper ballots against the tallies in the voting machines.
O'Grady writes that the US "blessed the charade," and the opposition to Chavez "contends that the U.S. made a cold calculation that caving in to Mr. Chávez would avoid violence" that he threatened in Venezuela.
My opinion of George Bush is low enough to believe this, but I would like to know more. But if it is true, then Obama appears to be following Bush in yet another way.