Bolívar in Brussels: Putin’s Place in the Last Will of Hugo Chavez

Bolívar in Brussels: Resource Boom and Euro Gloom

This column will focus on Latin American and European politics and economics.  With regards to Latin America, the focus will be on the economic rise of the region and how extreme left-wing politics are causing the deterioration of political, economic, and personal freedoms.  This will be contrasted with the efforts of center-right politics in the region and how these increase liberty: both economic and personal.  Articles about Europe will talk about the importance of a strong European Union and how efforts to stop further unison in Europe are counter-productive and outright foolish.  This column will attempt to include articles linking Latin American affairs to events in Europe and vice-versa.

Hugo Chavez is dying, slowly but surely.  I will not say I am pleased about it but I certainly won’t be shedding any tears over the man.  Whether you like Chavez or not, there is no denying that his death is the end of an era.  It is my opinion that Chavez, for the most part, was a failure in both his domestic and foreign policy pursuits.  However, I must give credit when credit is due.  It is because of President (elected dictator) Chavez that OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is a powerful force in global affairs.

Image courtesy of Globovision, © 2010, some rights reserved.
Image courtesy of Globovision, © 2010, some rights reserved.

When Chavez came to power in 1999, he realized that to control Venezuela, he must control its energy resources.  This crucial realization led to Chavez’s push to increase the clout of OPEC.  Chavez sought to mold OPEC into a united anti-Western front by embracing fellow murdering dictators such as Saddam Hussein and the Supreme Leader of Iran.  From 1998 to 2012 the price of oil has increased 10 fold (from $10 USD to $100) USD as OPEC has asserted itself more and more with Chavez as its unofficial leader and spokesman.

Due to Mr. Chavez’s successful political maneuvering on the world stage, the leaders of other OPEC countries have allowed Chavez to use the organization’s clout as a megaphone for his deranged views.  He has openly threatened the United States and other Western allies that the oil cartel will sharply increase its pricing of the precious fossil fuel unless certain rhetoric is toned down.  In several regards Chavez has been successful with such shameless and public blackmail.  The evidence of his success can be found in the increasing oil exports of Venezuela over the years and in how he has reinvested much of those earnings into buying the happiness of his people through an unsustainable welfare bonanza.

Some who would read this article in a cursory manner and with an overly-liberal bias would say that the welfare bonanza is a good thing.  These individuals would justify the bonanza by saying that having invested in the Venezuelan people, one day they will reinvest in the Venezuelan community.  I do not pretend to deny the fact that currently, Venezuela has the largest amount of university students as a percentage of the country’s population in all of America.  Mr. Chavez has also opened up several universities throughout his tenure as President financed by his manipulation of global commodity markets via OPEC.  However, let us realize that these universities have social science departments filled with Chavista hacks who are loyal to the Chavista movement rather than to the pursuit of the truth.  These universities are shams which serve to indoctrinate good people who do not know better because the state does not allow them to know better.  It is better that a person be self-taught in truth rather than indoctrinated with lies.

However, Chavez will not continue to go about business-as-usual for long.  When Chavez dies, this will create a power vacuum within Latin American left-wing politics as well as in OPEC.  In Latin America the only other OPEC member is Ecuador.  President Correa does not have nearly half the clout that Mr. Chavez does, despite his recent reelection.  Mr. Correa’s greatest foreign policy accomplishment has been to create a standoff at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where disgraceful Wikileaks hack Julian Assange is currently holed-up.  This is a pathetic side-show Correa is using to deflect criticism over Ecuador’s shackled press.  Even though Mr. Correa is a well-trained economist, he did not lead the ten-fold rise of oil prices overseen by self-taught Mr. Chavez.  Therefore Mr. Correa is out of the running as the heir to Chavez’s OPEC throne, even though he (Correa) remains without a doubt the heir to Chavez’s Latin American Socialism.

The power-vacuum that will be left by Mr. Chavez in OPEC can only be filled by one man; Vladimir Putin.  Over the years, Messieurs Chavez and Putin have been close allies and friends.  These two men share a common distrust of the United States and the West in general.  They also run sham democracies built up on stolen natural resource wealth.  No other country in OPEC has the need, interest or time to be the public face of the organization.  Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE need to focus on domestic affairs and maintain peace and order in their respective countries to prevent the Arab Spring reaching their borders.  Algeria and Libya have too much to worry about with unstable neighbors.  Iraq has too much domestic instability to lead OPEC.  Iran has a loud enough microphone by talking about nuclear proliferation; it has no need for OPEC.  Angola and Nigeria need to quietly continue investing in local infrastructure to prevent unrest; they do not have the time to mount public international campaigns.  The one candidate left standing is Russia, namely Mr. Putin.  As previously stated, Mr. Correa will be content with his smaller title as Count of the Loony Latin Left.  No one will contest the coronation of Mr. Putin.

One Reply to “Bolívar in Brussels: Putin’s Place in the Last Will of Hugo Chavez”

  1. I’m sorry there is not a more polite way of putting this, but much of this article is ill-informed, inconsistent or flat-out offensive. I’ll try to limit myself to what I think are the most important problems here, but there are quite a few:

    1. For an article about Venezuela and Russia, this seems to be written from a blatantly American perspective. Even the most superficial glance of Latin American history shows the damaging impact the United States has had on the region in political, social and economic terms. If you need a short timeline of what I’m referring to, here’s a link to the first site that came up after a short Google search: Unfortunately it doesn’t address the debate about the role of the U.S. in Venezuela’s 2002 coup attempt, but I think it gets the point across. When you put it in perspective, Latin American anti-Americanism doesn’t seem so “deranged” after all.

    2. How can you accuse Chavez of “embracing fellow murderous dictators” without any sense of hypocrisy? The United States has a history of coddling dictators (and many, obviously, in Latin America) that is too long and tragic to recount here, and just because you brought it up, let’s not forget that Saddam Hussein’s worst crimes were committed while he was supported by the West. This might also be an appropriate time to point out that Venezuela does not engage in the aggression, murderous sanctions, global assassinations or general violations of international law that other countries do routinely.

    3. Are you actually implying that Chavez is responsible for rising oil prices? The price of oil is influenced by a wide range of factors. Blaming Chavez is blatantly reductionist.

    4. Your criticism of Venezuela’s “welfare bonanza” was really disturbing. If your column is about “the deterioration of political, economic, and personal freedoms”, how are you opposed to policies that have succeeded in improving the lives of so much of the country’s population? Does freedom not involve the freedom from poverty, or the freedom to have basic health care, education and social programs that maintain basic humanity? You’re going to need a better argument than just saying that I read your article in a “cursory manner” or that I have an “overly-liberal bias”.

    5. Your point about Venezuela’s universities is really insulting. Even if the universities do have a close relationship with the government, what do you think major institutions elsewhere in the world do? And why aren’t Venezuelan students smart enough to use their own judgement to form intelligent opinions? Again, there is a great deal of irony in the accusation that these people don’t engage critically with what they’re told.

    6. Your comments about Correa border on absurdity. Correa is literally one of the most popular leaders in the world, and has done an outstanding job at improving the welfare of his country’s people. Am I to assume that your statement about “Ecuador’s shackled press” specifically refers to the El Universo and Gran Hermano cases? Even if you don’t think either of those were libelous (and suing for libel isn’t at all unique to Ecuador), remember how both of those cases ended. Hardly the heavy hand of a dictator. And how can you accuse Correa of trying to create a government media monopoly while criticizing Assange for trying to give the public access to what their governments don’t want to tell them? Claiming to support press freedom in one case but not the other shows either logical inconsistency or willful hypocrisy, neither of which have any place in objective analysis.

    7. Like them or not, Chavez and Putin both consistently enjoy popular support that most Western leaders can only dream of, let alone the right-wing Latin American politicians that you apparently support. And what does “stolen natural resource wealth” mean exactly? Having a country’s resources owned by the state and using revenues to improve the lives of the people? Who should control these? Foreign firms? How would that benefit the country’s population?

    8. If you claim to be opposed to corrupt and oppressive dictators, how are you also opposed to the Arab Spring? It seems more accurate to say that you support anyone who is friendly with the United States and oppose anyone who is not.

    9. Let me emphasize that I oppose human rights abuses regardless of who commits them or where they occur. But that means holding everyone to the same moral standard while discarding blind biases. There is, sadly, a lot of evil in the world. You need to acknowledge it more in some places and stop looking for bogeymen in others.

    I tried my best to keep this short, but all of these things needed to be said. You’re right about one thing though: critical thinking is a key part of academic life. Any meaningful analysis of the world involves putting aside national ideology and looking at facts objectively. After all, isn’t that the purpose of IR as an academic discipline?

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