The Washington Post's David Montgomery just loooooves those Chavistas ("What a Difference a Day Makes; Venezuela, Toasting Freedom on the Fifth"). Along with the typical Washington party stuff, he goes to great pains to explain how we're not so different, Chavez and us, eh? (You can almost hear Eli Wallach in the background: "If God didn't want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.")
An embassy official gives a ceremonial reading of the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence. Alvarez declares, "Now, more than ever, Venezuela is struggling to assume a full independence" -- referring to the freedom to carry out the Chávez program without meddling by the United States, which now plays the part of Spain in the national drama.
Right. The freedom to carry out the Chavez program. That would include harboring the Buenos Aires JCC bombers, making nice with Iran, supporting FARC terrorists in neighboring Colombia (a real democracy, by the way), suspending Constitutional liberties, shooting down your opponents in the streets, stealing elections, and aiding and abetting Middle Easterners in getting into the US illegally. No reason for us to meddle at all. Of course, we play the part of Spain in Chavez's propaganda, not the actual national drama, and not, one suspects, in the minds of the mass of Venezuelans.
Chávez takes Bolívar as his revolutionary role model.
Chavez takes Castro as his revolutionary role model. He takes Bolivar for a ride.
Elected president in 1998, Chávez has wrought large changes, with popular support, extending access to health care, education and a political voice to the poor. But he has also taken greater control of the oil industry, obtained legislative permission to rule by decree and closed a television station. Critics in Washington say he's leading the country away from democracy.
"...Legislative permission to rule by decree." Oh, that. Gee. Why are you Americans always harping on that? I mean, it's not as though he's going to close opposition TV stations or anything like that....oh, wait...Well, I mean it's not as though he's going to close down something serious, like a newspaper. At least not, you know, our newspaper... Again, never mind changing the Constitution so he can run for President for life every few years, or stealing the recall referendum a couple of years ago. It's what you don't say.
Alvarez bats away such cavils. Why, he asks, is Venezuela held to one standard of democracy when there is nationalized oil in Mexico and television stations are closed in other nations? "Do you think it is a democratic practice that if you want to be elected senator in this country, you need at least $20 million?"
Well, yes, actually, I do. He doesn't need that money personally - we've got three Senate candidates here in Colorado in the last four years to prove it. But yes, actually, the fact that he has to curry favor with actual constituents and actually raise money to run for office, yes, I do think that's democratic. Next false equivalency, please?
A table near the statue holds copies of Chávez speeches. One of them from January devotes a page-and-a-half to excoriating José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States: "He's a true idiot, from the 'i' to the 't,' " Chávez said. But hey -- isn't that Insulza himself, here now, joining Alvarez in laying wreaths to Bolívar? "I am not the first one or the last one to be treated that way by President Chávez," Insulza says later.
Change Chavez to Kim Jong Il, and Isulza to Hans Blix, and they could almost be puppets.
There is no Chávez in this vast, mythic rendering of Venezuelan history, as there might not be a President Bush in a July 4 recounting of the Story of America.
So there are, at the moment, limits to the cult of personality. Only remember, Chavez makes much of his mixed heritage. Does Mr. Montgomery actually know the traditional Venezuelan independence story well enough to know that it isn't being jiggered around for Chavez's benefit? I doubt it. Then, this:
Shannon [assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs] says he has come out of "respect for the people of Venezuela, and a recognition that while in democracies governments may come and go, the ties and friendships between people will remain."
Nice. So tell me, Mr. Shannon, exactly when Chavez plans to give up power? The left never really bought into the Cold War. Those who didn't openly sympathize never missed a chance to draw false similarities between us and our enemies. Old habits die hard. Cross-Posted at View From a Height.