Saturday, November 03, 2007

In Venezulea they do things differently 

The U.S. recently sent a new ambassador to Venezuela. Chavez himself recieved the man in the presidential palace.

This is in contrast to the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S. who has never been recieved by Bush. Once while noting this Chavez said to an American ambassador, "here we do things differently".

That is true, in more ways than one.

The much talked about reforms to the Venezuelan Constitution have been finally all put together, discussed and approved by the National Assembly and will be voted on by the Venezuelan people on December 2nd. I myself am not the biggest fan of those reforms but I will have more to say on that when they are all published in one neat tidy package. But it should not go without being noted that once again the Venezuelan "process", or "revolution", or "Bolivarian revolution", or whatever the hell it is, is certainly VERY democratic.

I am not sure where Chavez is taking Venezuela. I am not sure that I agree with where I THINK he is taking Venezuela. But one think is absolutely certain, whereever it is that he is taking Venezuela he is doing so with the full consent and approval of the Venezuelan people themselves. And one can't help but have a lot of respect for how above board, transparent, and democratic this whole process has been, from 1999 right up to today.

It bears keeping in mind that in much of the world things are not nearly so democratic nor free. For example, one of Bush's good friends did this just today:

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday ahead of a crucial Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn his recent election win and amid rising Islamic militant violence.

Eight Supreme Court judges immediately rejected the emergency, which suspended the current constitution. The government blocked transmissions of private news channels in several cities and telephone services in the capital, Islamabad, were cut.

"The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order," a newscaster on state Pakistan TV said, adding that Musharraf, who took power in 1999 coup, would address the nation later Saturday.

Dozens of police blocked the road in front of the Supreme Court building, with the judges believed inside.

The state TV report gave no reason for the emergency but it follows weeks of speculation that he could take the step. Military vehicles patrolled and troops blocked roads in the administrative heart of the capital.

The U.S. and other Western allies urged him this week not to take steps that would jeopardize the country's transition to democracy.

During previous emergencies in Pakistan, a provisional constitutional order has led to the suspension of some basic rights of citizens and for judges to take a fresh oath of office.

"This is the most condemnable act," said Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for the opposition PML-N party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif was barred by Musharraf from returning to exile to Pakistan in September to mount a campaign against military rule.

"The whole nation will resist this extra-constitutional measure," he said.

Private Geo TV network reported the eight judges rejected the declaration of emergency and ordered top officials, including the prime minister, and military officers not to comply.

Geo reported that the army had entered the court building, but the report could not immediately be confirmed.

Shahzad Iqbal, an official at a cable TV news provider in Islamabad said authorities were blocking transmissions of private news channels in Islamabad and neighboring Rawalpindi. State TV was still on the air.

"The government has done it," he said.

Residents of Karachi said their cable TV was also off the air.

Declaring a state of emergency, besieging the supreme court, and taking all independent media off the air (or even off cable!) is certainly not a nice nor democratic thing to do. But I seriously doubt Musharraf has done anything that will jeapordize the over $700 dollars in aid the U.S. is giving him this year.

In the coming days and weeks, with rock throwers in the streets, talking heads on TV, and fustrated Chavez haters pecking away at their keyboards you are likely to hear alot about how Chavez is establishing a dictatorship, or is strongman, or is trampling peoples rights. But when listening to all that you may want to keep in mind what REAL autocrats are like and who they are able to count among their friends.

Meanwhile Venezuelans will proceed to the ballot box and, for better or worse, set their country on the path THEY want to set it on.


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