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July 01, 2006

Chavez is no Dictator

There are things I like and things I don't about Hugo Chavez-- and there is no question he has consolidated power closely in his hands.

But he has done this largely democratically, even as his opponents have tried to stage undemocratic coups with the support of the largest military power in the world. What is actually surprising is how democratic Venezuela remains.

Take this story from today's New York Times about Chavez's opposition in this years election:

[Chavez's] approval rating stands at 57 percent, according to a recent poll by Alfredo Keller y Asociados.

That has not dampened Mr. Petkoff's [his opponent's] enthusiasm. Though campaigning does not formally start until August, he has already filled the airwaves with advertisements championing his commitment to reduce fear, whether of political retribution or random violence.

A dictatorship does not allow the opposition to "fill the airways" with criticism of the government.

Chavez may not believe in strong checks and balances against executive power, but at least he has broad popular support for his position. Unlike a certain US President who despite little popular support for his position has repeatedly broken the law in pursuit of concentrated Presidential power.

So unless a person also refers to George Bush as a dictator, they should lay off using that word for Chavez and Venezuela as well.

Posted by Nathan at July 1, 2006 06:35 AM