International

Chavez’s vanishing support

From The New York Times, more evidence of Hugo Chavez’s continuing loss of support (not to mention grip on reality) since his defeat in the constitutional “reform” referendum in December.

[A]s Mr. Chávez embarks on his 10th year in power, it is becoming harder for him to blame previous governments for the malaise.

This holds true especially in poor areas where voters failed to turn out in support of the president in a December referendum on a constitutional overhaul that would have vastly increased Mr. Chavez’s powers, a stinging defeat from which the president has yet to recover. “I cannot find beans, rice, coffee or milk,” said Mirna de Campos, 56, a nurse’s assistant who lives in the gritty district of Los Teques outside Caracas. “What there is to find is whiskey — lots of it.”

The contrast between revolutionary language and the consumption of imported luxury items by a new elite aligned with Mr. Chávez’s government, known as the “Bolivarian bourgeoisie,” has led to questioning of the priorities of his political movement.
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For other domestic problems, Mr. Chávez’s approach has been equally erratic. After the recent outbreak of dengue fever, which reached into his cabinet to infect Culture Minister Francisco Sesto, the president did not shake up the public health system. Instead, he called for an investigation of claims that the disease may have been altered into a more virulent strain as part of an attack on Venezuela by unidentified enemies.

Enemies of Venezuela have rarely been more threatening than in recent weeks, according to Mr. Chávez, who has elevated a political dispute with President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia to the point of mobilizing troops.

Last month, Mr. Chávez claimed Colombian military officials were conspiring with American officials in Bogotá to kill him. It was the 25th time that Venezuela’s government said that Mr. Chávez was the target for assassination since 2002, according to Tal Cual, a newspaper here.
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Mr. Chávez has also not given up on his efforts abroad to deepen alliances with like-minded leaders. For instance, even as Venezuela struggles with a shortage of oil-drilling rigs, the government has sent two rigs to Ecuador, whose president, Rafael Correa, is a Chávez supporter.

This foreign aid, once tolerated by Mr. Chávez’s supporters, is emerging as a source of resentment among those left out of the country’s oil boom. “I see Chávez traveling and traveling abroad, and the money ends up somewhere else,” said Jesús Camacho, 29, who sells coffee on the street in Catia, an area of slums here, making about $8 a day.

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