Friday, August 29, 2008

Bloomberg and Chavez

Bloomberg and Chavez
New York mayor Mike Bloomberg likes his job so much he wants to keep it. The problem is that the law restricts him to two terms. So to get the law changed he’s meeting with business leaders, including the publishers of the three major newspapers in the city. He’s popular with the big money crowd and they’re likely to help him.
Congress people, local pols and lots of foreign leaders can keep their jobs as long as they get reelected. They say that had he lived FDR would still be president.
A few months back, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez went not to business but to the voters to similarly repeal a two term limit on the presidency. That proposal was part of a package of constitutional changes that the citizens rejected on a close 51-49 percent vote. Chavez gracefully accepted his defeat, allowing that he might revisit those issues in the future.
I follow the media reasonably closely. They have not, as far as I know, branded Bloomberg a dictator scheming to be mayor for life. But that is exactly what they said--and still say--about Chavez.
By any fair standard, Venezuela has become the most democratic nation in the hemisphere. Elections are fair and turnout is massive. The opposition and its media are free to the point of indulgence. They are even allowed to go so far as to call for coups and the killing of government officials. There are no political prisoners. And there are no government death squads butchering the opposition as in Columbia, Washington’s preferred model for Latin democracy.
More importantly, the great majority of citizens have taken control of their society and their own lives by way of a myriad of new and evolving self-help initiatives that extend from the barrios to the nation at large. They finally have their own government using the nation’s great energy wealth to better themselves and move Latin America towards an integrated, prosperous and democratic community akin to the European Union.
I said ‘any fair standard’ above. You will hardly find one across our political and media horizon. It has been decided at our leading levels that the Venezuelan example is a threat to business as usual and cannot be be allowed to thrive or spread. Therefore it must be subverted in private and demonized in public.
So we have Chavez, a democratic leader, constantly portrayed as a dictator. We have a perfectly peaceful county that has never fought a war depicted as a violent threat to its neighbors. And we have a nation with a close and warm relationship with the U.S. labeled anti-American because its people have good reason to be highly critical of the Bush regime and the policies of empire long despised across the continent.

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