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Read winning essay by Debra Triplett. Who should take a stand against abusive child labor being used in Congo to dig out coltan? Read winning essay by Sara Turner. Should U. Read winning essay by Stephanie Whybrow. By Deborah Bauers. Learn more about this issue. Hugo Chavez may be many things, but naive isn't one of them. He comprehends that his popularity with his own people has been waning in recent months and he knows he needs to do something about it.
Enter the man of the hour who has just negotiated with the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Columbia for the release of four hostages; all of them prominent law makers; all of them Colombian. Chavez will stop at nothing to win the political favor of all of Latin America. He will also wage a tireless campaign to alienate the United States from third world countries that still look to her as an advocate for egalitarian reform and a stabilizing force within their fledgling democracies.
So "happenstance" is probably not a term that can be applied to Chavez's shrewd brokerage of four prominent citizens from a country that has continued to enjoy a diplomatic friendship with the United States. The reason for the alliance stems largely from the support received by the American government in helping to rout the RAFC from significant portions of Colombian land.
Meanwhile, Colombia's President, Alvaro Uribe, who is taking a firm stance against terrorism, has not enjoyed the same diplomatic affiliation with Hugo Chavez. Chavez would, no doubt, love to court Uribe's favor by casting himself in the role of emancipator of Colombia's victims of terrorism, having failed miserably as an effective mediator at that same task in December of Hugo Chavez is a man who oozes charisma when he's posturing as a champion for the poor and underprivileged. However, like an errant and immature school boy, he has been known to cross the bounds of political posturing by resorting to personal insults and base name calling.
To his discredit, he enjoys the singular distinction of being the only Latin American President to be told to "shut up" by the King of Spain. In Time Magazine listed him among the top influential people in the world. None will argue that, good or evil, he makes his considerable influence felt. Chavez has been the President of Venezuela since and has been reelected to two additional terms in office. During that time his popularity has waxed, waned, and waxed again. Political analysts believe that the pendulum is once again swinging away from his favor.
The power of his magnetism and even his notoriety as a negotiator may not be enough to stem the growing opposition within his own country. Many of Venezuela's citizens are developing a growing fear of a man who purports himself to be the advocate of the poor while wresting power and resources from those who have enjoyed a measure of prosperity. And just how influential is this President who sponsors give-away programs to feed the poor of Venezuela while turning a blind eye to human trafficking and flourishing drug cartels? Growing numbers feel that he had failed to make good on his promises to effectively tackle the countries' poverty and crime.
Others accuse him of being a dictator while widening the rift between the poor and elite under the auspices of social reform.
Chavez's Bolivarian Missions, a set of initiatives set up to provide free land, health care, and education to the poor, has helped him maintain his popularity with the impoverished masses. It is likely that it is these reforms and not his political ideology that has allowed him to teeter on the brink of political disaster and yet to return with such favor.
When one considers that approximately one-third of Venezuela's people is considered to be living at poverty level and below, it is easy to see how Chavez's social reform programs have engendered the loyalty of the underprivileged population of Venezuela. He has done little, however, to provide the know-how or a strategic plan for improving the plight of those who have no gainful employment. When one begins to take a closer look at where the resources for Chavez's missions are coming from, the indignant cries of more prosperous land and ranch owners can be heard as their lands are confiscated and redistributed to the "have-nots.
What do Venezuela's people really believe about this man, after he stands at the podium of the United Nations and brashly calls the Commander and Chief of the United States of America, "the devil? Depending upon which political camp you ask, he is hailed as either a social and economic savior of Venezuela's impoverished people, or a diabolical dictator who is using his country to build his own personal empire.
Whether he is revered or hated doesn't seem to affect the reality that President Chavez may not be going away any time soon. In Chavez accused the United States government of funding in excess of one million dollars toward helping to defray the costs of issuing the referendum to provide the people of Venezuela the opportunity to vote him out of office. He also took the US government to task, citing the lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction as proof of the US's invasion of Iraq under false pretenses.
While speaking before the United Nations in he referred to President Bush as an imperialist and urged other Latin American countries to stop the US from invading and swallowing up the resources of Latin America. Before his speech was over he warned that Americans were being deceived as to why their government was sending troops into Iraq. Chavez also openly criticized US policy regarding trade agreements with the Americas.
In the United States failed to gain the support of enough Latin American States to pass a resolution that would have served to monitor Chavez's diplomatic and economic policies. This made it appear that much of Latin America was supporting Chavez's political ideologies. Yet, two years later, in December of , a referendum which would have accorded him the right to seek indefinite reelection and singular decision-making power was voted down by Venezuela's people.
This referendum would also have given the President the right to take state control of Venezuela's banks, confiscate property to further social reform, and restrict freedom of the press. Opposition to Venezuela's President appears to be growing for several reasons. Ranches belonging to Venezuela's more affluent have been confiscated by the state and redistributed to those who have no land.
3. I stopped giving a shit a long time ago
In recent months Chavez has attempted to gain governmental control of his countries' oil production. Venezuela's people are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with their President's close friendship with Fidel Castro and fear this relationship is feeding Chavez's hunger for dictatorial power. A growing number believe that he is using the poor of their country to ingratiate himself into the hearts of a people that he secretly desires to dominate.
While they anxiously eyeball American policy, hoping that the United States will not move to invade and gain control of their country, they fear their own President more, and do not want to see the US Government disengage from involvement in their foreign policy.
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Political analysts, who have attempted to retain objectivity, have suggested that a majority of Latin American countries suffer from a mixture of old world pride and lack of self-respect. These countries tend to view the United States as either a potential economic and social savior, or a global power that could invade and gain control of their natural resources.
American policy within each country has had much to do with which of these two dynamics becomes the prevalent mood. Most of the Latin American countries appear to agree with Chavez's condemnation of the United States having bombed Iraq without justifiable cause. Colombia views the US government in a more favorable light than some her Latin American neighbors.
This is because the American government has taken diplomatic steps to offer aid to Colombia in her fight against terrorism and illegal narcotics traffic, as well as in her efforts to overhaul her education and judicial systems.
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Bolivia has long been at variance with the United States' zero tolerance of the growth of the coca leaf. She maintains that the coca crop has always been the major export of Bolivia's people and that her economy depends upon it. Even so, Bolivia's President, Evo Morales, has at least made a show of decreasing crop production while alleging that his people are actively seeking "food" markets for the crop. He has also made public statements that suggest that, although he may be sympathetic to many of Chavez's policies, he does not necessarily align himself with the Venezuelan's ideologies.
It appears that most Latin American countries, given the choice, would rather diplomatically work with the government of the United States than speak out openly against it.
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Herein lies the major difference between Chavez's ideology and that of a majority of Latin America. A number of this region's people do feel that the United States' work for democratic reform has been erratic and that she has too frequently left them "high and dry" in the wake of each new Presidential policy. However, the US has historically offered aid to six Latin American Countries to help strengthen their democratic forms of government. In spite of anti-American sentiments within the region that warn of American imperialism, most of these countries would still like to believe that America remains steadfast in her goal of furthering democracy while helping the economic and social plight of their people.
News Update On March 1, Colombia launched an air attack one mile over the border into Ecuador, killing 17 rebel members of the RAFC, including Raul Reyes, second in command of this Marxist guerrilla group that has been labeled by both Colombia and the United States as a terrorist organization and a powerful illegal drug cartel in Latin America. Venezuela's response, a bit of a surprise to some, has been to strongly condemn Colombia's attack, calling it "murder" and to brand Colombia's President Uribe as a counter terrorist.
Chavez has moved Venezuelan troops to the border warning Colombia that any similar activity within Venezuela's borders could spark a war in Latin America.