Sunday, December 09, 2007

So obvious even loons can't help but notice 

Roger Cohen is certainly not a columnist I would recommend reading, if you are at all interested in preserving your mental health. Certainly his Op-Ed pieces on Venezuela have ranked right up there with the best in terms of being off the wall and uninformed at the same time. And I really don't think Hugo Chavez is on his list for sending holiday cards to:

But guess what? He went to Venezuela, observed a transparent election, and seemed more than a little impressed by what he saw:

Democracy in the Americas

CARACAS, Venezuela

I salute you, Hugo Chávez.

Those are words I never thought I’d write. But nor did I think it possible that a Latin American strongman, issued from the barracks, accumulating power through threats, slandering opponents as “traitors,” buying support with $150 million a day in oil money, and bent on a socialist revolution, would accept a marginal electoral defeat.

No, if it came to the humiliation of a 51 to 49 percent rejection of his proposal to end term limits and undermine private property rights and centralize authority, he would surely use a controlled Election Commission to tweak the numbers for Venezuela’s glorious march to socialism.

And yet, there was a glum Chávez declaring in the unadorned language no totalitarian system can abide that: “The people’s decision will be upheld in respect of the basic rule of democracy: the winning option is the one that gets most votes.”

The United States might ponder those words — not just because of what happened in the presidential election of 2000; not just because the arithmetic of voting has proved unpalatable in Palestine; not just because of the past U.S.-abetted trampling of elected Latin American leaders in Chile and elsewhere — but because democracy was alive and vital in Venezuela on Sunday in a way foreign to President Bush’s America.

I watched as “Chávistas” and their opponents exchanged arguments in the sun. The issue was grave — a change of economic system under a comandante eyeing lifelong rule — but civility prevailed. When the result came in the early hours Monday, supporters of the “No” campaign partied undisturbed.

Venezuela’s democratic credentials are robust for Latin America — democracy has held since 1958 — but pale by U.S. standards. Yet there was a directness, meaningfulness and civic responsibility about the proceedings that make the early running in the American election look pitiful.

Of course, it doesn't take all that much to impress him. The idea of having a clear, transparent, and verifiable voting process as they have in Venezuela is something most Americans can only dream of given their own faith-based voting system.

Mr. Cohen went on to congratulate Venezuelans on their civics lesson. Yeah, I guess.

But the people to be really congratulated are those who supported this proposal and accepted its defeat with such grace.
Not one rock was thrown, not one fire set, no traffic blocked and no-one hurt or killed. One week ago today Chavistas showed their true colors - as people committed to their ideals but who who believe in implementing them peacefully and democratically. They are the ones to be congratulated.


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