Hugo Chavez in '04
Jenny Brown
May 2002

For us in Florida, it was no surprise that the administration of George W. Bush would support the coup leaders who attempted to overthrow the presidency of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Echoing claims made during the 2000 election recount, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Chavez lost his job "as a result of the message of the Venezuelan people." Which people, he didn't specify.

Sure, Bush mostly backed the coup because he wanted Venezuela to supply oil if Iraq and Libya decided to embargo the U.S. because of its support for Israel. (In '73 Venezuela broke an embargo by Arab countries by putting its huge reserves at the disposal of the U.S.)

And sure, the Bush family's method of seizing power here was mostly electoral fraud, but Dubya surely felt a tinge of sympathy for businessman Pedro Carmona, who claimed to have gained the presidency legitimately after generals said President Chavez resigned.

When Bush himself siezed power, claiming victory where there was none, he managed to get the Supreme Court back his claim. Although poor Carmona had to fire the Venezuelan Supreme Court, the comparison holds, except that unfortunately for us, Al Gore is no Hugo Chavez.

Chavez, who was threatened and bullied and imprisoned, refused day after day to sign a 'resignation,' in short, he did what Jesse Jackson urged the Democrats to do at the post-election rallies for democracy in Tallahassee, he kept hope alive.

Long after the generals had announced Chavez had signed a resignation letter they were still unable to produce the document. Without Chavez's resignation, even those in the public who did not support Chavez saw that they needed their president back to defend the legitimacy of their democracy and the constitutional rule of law. Let's be honest here, Al Gore would've grabbed the pen and asked where to sign.

Gore and the Democratic party dropped us in the dirt, as Joe Lieberman stampeded for his Senate seat, secure in the knowledge that the Republicans would pretty much do what the Democrats had done the past eight years and that his big contributions from the insurance industry would be safe.

The anemic legalistic battle put up by the Democrats, followed by their rapid capitulation, makes one yearn for a real opposition party, one that stands up for democracy and not just protecting their sorry political careers. The Venezuelans have a lot to teach us about red-blooded democracy. Is Chavez available for 2004?

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