Monday, October 09, 2006

Opposing Chavez

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the BBC:

Tens of thousands of people have marched through the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in support of the main opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales.

Mr Rosales will face President Hugo Chavez in December's presidential poll.

The march, which filled the main avenues of the city centre, was the biggest opposition rally Venezuela has seen since early 2004.

The upcoming election comes down to the prospect of liberal democracy vs. Chavez's anti-American cult of personality. And yet Rosales is hardly a liberal democrat. He is a social democrat, literally, and something of a nationalist.

He objects at least in part to Chavez's illiberal regionalism, his efforts to build a political and economic alliance (with others in Latin America, as well as with rogue states like Iran) to counter U.S.-led global liberalism. At home, he would do this: "We will distribute land to the peasants, but we will buy it in such a way as to respect the principle of private property, just as we will respect those of human rights and social justice." His ideology seems to mirror the leftism that has recently risen to power in Latin America -- in Bolivia, for example. Whatever the merits of such leftism, Rosales is, as the BBC puts it, the "only option" for anti-Chavez forces in Venezuela. For that alone he deserves some appreciation.

Chavez will win -- he would not allow himself to lose -- but at least there's something in the way of a viable opposition to Chavez's quiet tyranny. Whether there will still be a viable opposition after the December election, however, is another matter entirely. I wouldn't count on it.

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