Friday, March 8, 2013

Not so dictatorial

There´s been lots of press coverage of the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, since Tuesday, and the funeral today, and most of it fairly negative. It´s not terribly surprising since he tried to alleviate poverty and pursue an independent foreign policy. But I´m not going to defend him or his regime except in one respect. Chavez wasn´t a dictator, as he´s commonly referred to. In fact he deserves some credit for scrupulous adherence to basic democratic principles.

What impressed me was the events around Venezuela´s 2009 referendum on constitutional reform. Chavez wanted it, and once Venezuelans narrowly rejected it, the issue was dropped. Abiding by an unwelcome decision of the public is not dictatorial, it´s democratic.

The reason why this setting aside an agenda for constitutional reform deserves attention is that other nations, never accused of being ruled by dictators, don´t have referendums, and don´t have to abide by the results. Instead they hold ¨never-end-ems¨ where a government that doesn`t get the ´yes´ answer it hopes for, puts money into a yes vote publicity campaign, and goes to the polls again holding another referendum on the same issue, perhaps with slight adjustments. I´m thinking about Denmark, Ireland and Iceland, though I´m sure there are others.

Maybe that´s not dictatorship or democracy. Maybe it´s liberal democracy, where the power of the public is checked and balanced by the power of the government.We never hear Chavez criticized for being too much of a democrat. It doesn´t have the same ring as dictator. But I suspect it was Chavez´s democratic tendencies that earned him the dislike of his critics.


  1. I do think he was a dictator. He challenged the gringos and that is why people like him, I have a friend, who worked with him and he was terrible, enemies disappeared. Anybody who changes the constitution to stay in power forever should be watched with mistrust. He did not really alleviate poverty. He did what Mugabe did in Zimbabwe: give the land of the big ranches to the poor. It sounds goos, but did not work and has not in Zimbabwe and did not here in Chiapas after the Zapatistas. The poor are as poor as before, the land they got lies there without being worked....threre are deep studies done about this in Venezuela. So: change is not that easy. People need to know how to work a big ranch.....

    Chavez himself got very rich, many governors in Venezuela are his family members and he has tons of money in Switzerland, not really the good guy just because he challenged the US.


  2. I just cannot find what you wrote about Virginia Woolf!!!???