Sunday, November 18, 2007

Trouble in South America

Have you heard that Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, the guy who called President Bush the "devil" at the United Nations, has proposed a rewrite of his country's constitution that would allow him to amass more power and stay in office indefinitely? The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Chavez, who won reelection to a new six-year term in 2006, was facing new opposition to his plan to take on more power to hasten Venezuela's conversion to a socialist state. The plan is scheduled to be voted on by Venezuela's citizens on Dec. 2. Chavez has been wildly popular with Venezuela's poor because of his initiatives to redistribute oil revenues and expand free education, health care and subsidized food. But the world has been down the socialist path before, and it seems that the concentration of power in a ruling elite -- an apparent inevitability of socialism, as it was in communism -- is a fatal flaw. While plans to ensure more equitable income distribution can be seen as laudable, the fact that Chavez's proposal couples that with his acquisition of more and more power makes it suspect. Does he really need the power to limit free speech and lock up opponents, even in emergencies? Sounds a lot like Pakistan, and we understand that to be a dictatorship, even though its leader, Pervez Musharraf, also calls himself "president."

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