Friday, 14 November 2008

Continuing on the Latin America policy theme

This Greg Weeks post has been on my “need to blog about” list for a while. In response to a broadside from then-not-president-elect Barack Obama aimed at Hugo Chávez, Weeks writes:

[I]f democracy is the key precondition to good relations with the U.S., then how will we deal with China, Saudi Arabia, etc.? The answer, of course, is that democracy isn’t the litmus test for anything.

I’d dissent in part here; I think it’s clearly been a key part of the U.S.’ post-Cold War agenda (and, arguably, a priority on the U.S. agenda going back to at least the Carter administration) to promote democracy and human rights more broadly, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. But there is certainly a Maslowian dimension to that agenda; we obviously have greater, higher-priority strategic interests at stake in the Arabian peninsula and China, and arguably less leverage, to promote our preferred form of governance in those places. More to the point, there is a clear, emerging consensus of the governments of the Western Hemisphere in favor of democratic practice that does not exist in the Arabian peninsula or East Asia.

Would Chávez and Morales be getting more of a free pass from Washington if they were attempting a right-wing equivalent (whatever that might be) of the Bolivarian revolution? Obviously this counterfactual doesn’t exist to any meaningful degree, but I suspect today the tolerance for a new Allende would be low among Republicans and Democrats alike.

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Hugo Chávez: Kos poster

Mind you, I’m not just using that title because the Venezuelan dictator-wannabe says President Bush is worse than Adolf Hitler. Nope, it’s because of his economic ignorance:

Chavez, a retired army paratrooper who often accuses Washington of trying to overthrow him, warned he could shut Venezuelan oil refineries in the United States and sell oil for the U.S. market elsewhere if Washington cuts off ties.

If Chávez really wants to cut off his regime’s flow of refinery profits (via Citgo) from the U.S., I suspect the administration would be more than happy to oblige him. Moreover, since any such effort on his part would surely be countered by the administration seizing Venezuela’s U.S. assets, including Citgo, I think it’s a rather empty threat from Caracas.