On two recent occasions, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s populist authoritarian president, expressed warm support for President Obama. In Chavez’s book, the President is the “good guy” among American political figures in what he calls “the empire.”
This was the dubious sort of offhand endorsement from a schizophrenic tyrant that even the White House and its political spin masters most likely found awkward.
On the presidential campaign trail last weekend, Chavez returned to the subject of U.S. politics when he compared his young opposition rival, Henrique Capriles, to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, saying they “represent the callously selfish capitalist elite.” Chavez also blasted Romney for being a representative of the “extreme right-wing agenda that borders on…fascism.”
Like the American President, Chavez is running on his record but knows he must address unmet promises and troublesome realities. Crime, high inflation, unemployment, food shortages, rampant corruption, a steady crackdown on individual rights, and the crumbling of the rule of law stand as obstacles in his bid for another six years as Venezuela’s el commandante-in-chief. So, too, does continued uncertainty about the state of Chavez’s health.
Now that Chavez has so openly expressed his views on the U.S. presidential race and indicated his favorite, wouldn’t it be a grand idea for the White House to take off the velvet gloves of diplomacy and strike back?
Now would be an excellent time for the leader of the world’s greatest democracy to state clearly that on October 7, the people of Venezuela have a clear choice. They must choose between an opposition candidate who can, with the support of the Venezuelan people, turn the country back onto a democratic track and begin repairing the damage done by the Bolivarian Revolution and socialism of the 21st century and an incumbent clinging to power who is antithetical to the U.S. and its interests and will lead his nation further toward the authoritarian abyss.