Tuesday, 17 February 2009

World Ends

Today, around the world, were heard the cries of anguish as democracy was quite literally snuffed out of existence.*

Chavez becomes 'President Unstoppable' after Venezuela votes to scrap term limits

Cried the Daily Fail, as they pointed out to a foolish electorate that

President Chavez, who has said he must stay in office beyond the end of his second term in 2012 to secure Venezuela's 'socialist revolution', pledged to remain in power for another decade.

Opponents accepted defeat - but gave a warning that Chavez was becoming a dictator.

The Torygraph meanwhile was disappointingly sober in its reportage, merely noting that

He is blamed by a vocal opposition for rising crime, corruption and inflation and will now have to tackle the effects of the global downturn on Venezuela's oil-based economy.**

Intriguingly, the Scum has obviously been so upset by this expunging of the will of the people that it has failed to cover it at all.

Luckily, it's sister paper has spotted the true problem with this seemingly innocent 'referendum':

Changes to Venezuela constitution could keep Hugo Chavez in power for years***

Admittedly, this is an article from January, but beggars can't be choosers (why is News International's coverage on this so poor I wonder? Probably not a big enough organisation to report on something happening far away. Something like that, I'll be bound).

Obviously the main gag here is the British press presuming to criticise another country for deciding to allow their head of state to stand for a third term, i.e. to be elected by the will of the people and all that democratic stuff.****


*Actually, although I plan to take some amusement from the right-wing's annoyance at Chavez's referendum victory, what's remarkable is how toned down a lot of the coverage has been, as compared to this sort of nonsense from The Economist back in 2007:

WHEN Simón Bolívar, South America's Venezuelan-born independence hero, wrote a constitution for the brand new country of Bolivia, it featured a lifetime president. So it should come as no surprise that Hugo Chávez, who claims to be a latter-day Bolívar, is proposing to let himself be re-elected indefinitely to his country's presidency.
Update: Atheo News has pointed out this utterly sane Indie editorial:

Leading article: A perilous new twist in the Venezuelan revolution

Two terms of office ought to be enough, even for Hugo Chavez

**The obvious hilarity that comes from likening the Venezuelan situation to a dictatorship has a slight edge over this gag. It relies on you knowing something about the Christian Democratic party and the corruption in Venezuela prior to Chavez's government. Like attempted coup (with US support) against Chavez a while back, and the huge kickback mechanism that is the state oil company.

***The Times does take the referendum as a jumping off point to do this though:

World Agenda: Hugo Chavez can no longer rely on petrodollars to buy support

He has always bought support through oil revenues and anti-US populism. The Venezuelan leader faces a harsh new world

I always find it amusing that this is the way the right thinks: if desperately poor people are given bricks to build their houses, milk subsidies for their children and schooling and medical aid for the first time in their lives, this is the dastardly Chavez 'buying support'. It never seems to occur to them that this is a good thing for any government to be doing. Greg Palast reports a similar attitude from Venezuela's own ruling elite, with an upper-class chica complaining that:

"Chavez gives them (the poor) bricks and bread!" - how dare he! - so, they vote for him.

****I don't want it to be thought that I'm some kind of utopian about Venezuela. I'm not - I'm fully aware of the problems in the country and with the 'Bolivarian revolution'. Having said that, Chavez is a damn sight more progressive than his opponents and the period of his government has seen real improvements in the majority of people's lives.

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