Sunday, May 20, 2007

Chavez And the United States: Mutual Needs

A letter in The Daily Star poses this interesting question about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:

Can Chavez navigate his nation along with his allies, already plagued by inflation and poverty in South American standard, to take a stand against the US when he must continue to allow his own country to be one of the top oil suppliers of his northern nemesis?
In a way, the writer has answered his own question. There can be no Hugo Chavez without the United States, in the same way there can be no United States without Hugo Chavez. They are joined at the hip. And with oil prices inexorably going upward, and the United States the chief consumer of oil and Venezuela one of its top suppliers, Chavez is in a good position to dictate his terms without fear or repercussions. In President Bush, not surprisingly, Chavez has found his foil, which garners him points among leftist circles. It will be interesting to see how he behaves when a new U.S. president, Democrat or Republican, is elected.

But the problem with populists like Hugo Chavez, however, is that sooner or later he will overplay his hand. For one thing, he will have to deliver on his “socialism for the 21st century,” which looks increasingly like the socialism of old. Lastly, for all the so-called leftward drift of Latin America, many of its leaders simply loathe Chavez and his meddling ways. Ultimately, Chavez will end up one of two ways: deposed, preferably by his own countrymen; or isolated, first, by his allies and, second, by the world community at large. In the end, Chavez will end up more like Mugabe than Castro.