Latin America,  North Africa

Will Chavez see the error of his ways?

Nikolas Kozloff, who wrote a sympathetic book about Hugo Chavez a few years ago, writes about the strong and enduring ties between Chavez and Moammar Gaddafi.

Bizarrely, Chávez declared “What Simon Bolívar [the Great Liberator of South American independence against the Spanish] is to the Venezuelan people, Gaddafi is to the Libyan people.” Gadhafi then praised Chávez for “having driven out the colonialists,” just as he had driven out those in Libya. “We share the same destiny, the same battle in the same trench against a common enemy, and we will conquer,” Qaddafi said. As if these exchanges were not preposterous enough, Chávez then took advantage of the occasion to award Gadhafi the “Orden del Libertador,” Venezuela’s highest civilian decoration, and presented the Libyan leader with a replica of Simon Bolívar’s sword [to see a video of the sword-bearing ceremony, click here].

If worst comes to worst in Gaddafi’s version of the Führerbunker, he can always use the sword to commit hari-kari.

Now that Gadhafi has been discredited, will Chávez give second thought to his severely misguided foreign policy? Given the Venezuelan’s bizarre track record, it doesn’t seem very likely. For years, I’ve been writing about Chávez’s backward approach to African affairs up on my website. Far from supporting popular struggle, Chávez has embraced the most unscrupulous and autocratic leaders imaginable. Commenting on former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, the Venezuelan remarked “I don’t know, maybe he [Amin] was a great nationalist, a patriot.” Chávez didn’t stop there, hailing Robert Mugabe as a “brother.” The African leader, Chávez said, had been wrongly branded a “bad guy” in the eyes of the world. Like Gadhafi, Chávez once presented Mugabe with a replica of a sword wielded by Bolívar. As if it could get no worse, Chávez has also embraced Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, a leader who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in Darfur. The ICC has charged Bashir with five counts: murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, and rape.

None of this will be news to regular readers of Harry’s Place.

With revolution now sweeping away the most autocratic rulers across the African continent, Chávez now has a unique opportunity to redraw his political priorities. Will the Venezuelan leader see the error of his ways or continue to embrace phony Third World liberation in the guise of autocratic despotism?

Zin? Calvin? Mr. Tucker?