January 24, 2009

The Impending Doom of Hugo Chavez

For those of us who have been following it, the recent problems that Hugo Chavez has been having with the church come as no surprise.
In late December, the Taiwan News reported the following from AP;

President Hugo Chavez is criticizing a top Roman Catholic leader for
opposing a planned referendum that would end presidential term limits.

Chavez accuses Cardinal Jorge Urosa of "trying to manipulate" public opinion ahead of the vote, which is expected in February.

Urosa has criticized the proposed constitutional amendment, which would let Chavez run for re-election indefinitely.

Voters last year rejected a package of constitutional changes, including an end to term limits.

Urosa says the constitution prevents such a proposal from coming to vote twice in the same presidential term.

Chavez on Sunday said the Catholic leader was wrong and accused him of lying, which he called a "serious sin."

And now there are reports that Hugo Chavez has stepped it up a notch against the church in advance of the referendum, calling the church a tumor. How far away he is from storming the cathedrals is not clear. But it would come as no surprise - once a thug, always a thug.

This could be a potential misstep for Chavez. Chavez believes that Jesus was a great socialist. Many in South America, in this case particularly Venezuela, might feel the same way. But when it comes down to socialism versus the Roman Catholic church, in Latin America it would seem the advantage goes to the church. Particularly true in Venezuela where the church does not lean as left as it does in some other South American nations. In fact, it's arguably conservative.

Of course the Chavez socialist thugocracy doesn't limit itself to the church. Student protesters were tear-gassed. Chavez has been busy trying to consolidate and prolong his power, at the expense of popular support. His support while not yet gone, is increasingly on shaky ground. It may just be a matter of time, before he falls far enough out of favor to lose his grip on power, and perhaps sooner rather than later by continually trying to re-push for the Chavez-forever Constitutional change he keeps losing on.

And then there's the matter oil prices falling helping the slide of Venezuela, and by extension Chavez specifically. Venezuela's nationalized oil industry has relied on increased oil revenue since 2003 prices began skyrocketing. It has supported the national programs, and covered up national structural shortcomings. With that bubble now burst, socialist programs are in need of another source of support. Don't look for the United States banks to bail out the tinpot - the banks have their own worries, and the Community Reinvestment Act doesn't yet extend to Venezuela.
Besides, without Mr. Bush to demonize, President Obama will have to make due. Chavez needs a foreign devil to help prop himself up. It's page 37 on the socialist playbook - blame America and keep your citizenry mad at someone other than yourself. The only other source of support is a short term one - the supposed national surplus, which might just turn out to be nothing more than creative accounting.
Since his last referendum defeat, things have not been all that rosy for Chavez, and in fact even somewhat bizarre, given his issues with his ex-wife.
The last 12 months have been unkind to Mr. Chavez. His humanitarian aid to Hamas may have to be scaled back. His subsidized domestic gas prices may have to disappear. He may end up losing yet again on the referendum to change the Constitution next month. Things look not yet bad, but definitely worsening for the socialist dictator. One thing is for sure, given his apparent need to stay in power, don't expect him to go away without a fight.
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