Democracy should be upheld in Venezuela

Anjalee Miller

The U.S. has very politically unstable neighbors whom the public unwisely ignores even in situations such as this:When reinstated President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez delivered his two-hour speech in an apologetic tone in Caracas on April 15, he commented that he did not feel any discontent toward Venezuela’s elite for ousting him out of office for 48 hours the previous week. He maintained, however, that even though major changes were to be made in administration and policy making, he was still very much in charge of the country.

Cynicism definitely comes into play when you realize that this pseudo-remorsefulness appears only after 100 people have been wounded, 14 have died, oil trading with the U.S. has suddenly been increased, and a stern warning has been given by U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice saying that Chavez should respect his country’s constitutional processes, all within the past fifteen days.

After coup-supporting U.S. officials met with the supporters of Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman who was temporarily sworn in as president during the takeover, they made a curious choice: to help reinstate the existing autocrat, supposedly in the name of democracy. Even though Chavez has been a horrible president, U.S. officials maintain that Chavez has been elected by a democracy. If he is to be officially removed, it is to be done by the correct method: an election.

Why is this maintenance of red tape so important when it is obvious that the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans—and the Bush administration—have complained bitterly about Chavez’s leadership? Red tape may be needed when one considers that Venezuela is one of the largest oil-producers in the world. It is interesting to see that, while most other Latin American countries had condemned the coup, all were careful not to get sticky fingers on Chavez’s administration.

U.S camaraderie with oil giants is wise, of course, but what happens when diplomacy outdoes common sense? If fear of instability was the reason for supporting the reinstatement of Chavez, it is not good enough. Stability would have been feasible under Estanga’s administration, even though it may not have been immediate. Also, Chavez’s opponents obviously had international prodding in addition to the support of labor unions and the majority of the Venezuelan people.

On one hand, this fear by U.S officials is somewhat understandable when Chavez’s support mostly comes from large entrepreneurs, the wealthy, and ‘don-gorgons’ of Venezuela’s oil company. On the other hand, they seem to be forgetting the whole “of the people, by the people” thing in democracy.