Hugo Chavez was elected for the third time to a six-year term as president of Venezuela in what NPR and others are calling a “victory for socialism.” I suspect this wasn’t so much an affirmation of socialism as a vote for independence. Chavez may irritate liberals and conservatives alike when he waves Chomsky’s book on the hegemony of the United States around from the U.N. podium, but his fiery speeches resonate with a majority in a region often dominated by United State’s influence.
Historically, the United States invested significant resources in money to prop up dictators it liked or in spies to put down those it didn’t, to keep Latin America free from ‘Leftist’ influences, but fear of George Bush’s war-mongering has contributed to Chavez’s power. Publicly, Chavez compares George Bush with the devil, but privately, he ought to send him a thank-you card. Opposition leaders in Venezuela say that Chavez spends millions of public dollars cultivating a cult of popularity, but the foundation for this cult remains a patriotic independence from U.S. hegemony which only Venezuelan oil money can buy and George Bush has fueled.
All that work to spread democracy at the barrel of a gun is coming back to bite us.