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September 15, 2008

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Chavez's declaration that he will not permit a coup d'etat to topple leftist governments in Latin America is a progressive move that should be celebrated, not criticized, unless, of course, you are a supporter of the long history of CIA-sponsored coups that have overthrown dozens of leftist governments over the last 100 years.

Chavez is letting Latin Americans and the US know that he won't stand for these imperialist endeavors any longer, and will use force to prevent them. It is absolutely remarkable and unprecedented that Latin American leaders like Chavez are now in a position of strength like this, whereas in the past they were forced to simply watch as leftist movements were illegally overthrown and repressed throughout the region.

How one could see this as a negative thing is beyond me.

Well, Toby, the key factor is that the Bolivian government has asked Chavez to stop, and he hasn't.

Chavez's bluster is extremely unhelpful for several reasons. The first is that it makes Evo look like a Chavista puppet, which understandably strengthens the opposition in the Media Luna. Cossio, frex, is happy to compromise with the nation's elected president; he won't talk to a foreign-backed puppet. So Evo needs to avoid both the perception and the possible reality of Venezuela influence.

The second is that it annoys the Bolivian military. That's not a bit of fire worth playing with when the government faces violent opposition.

The third is that Chavez's bluster is completely empty. He has no power to affect events in Bolivia. Venezuela can't give any sort of material support to Bolivia without Brazilian and Peruvian consent, which neither government will grant. Nor does his vocal support increase sympathy for Morales anywhere outside Venezuela ... with the exception, perhaps, of Nicaragua and now Honduras. In fact, it does the reverse --- it makes governments like Brazil's /more/ sympathetic to the opposition. Chavez, quite simply, is not "in a position of strength."

In short, Chavez's statements of support have three bad characteristics. (1) they increase the intransigence of Evo's opposition; (2) they antagonize the Bolivian military, whose support Evo needs; and (3) they are entirely empty.

Does that clear it up, Toby?

"Well, Toby, the key factor is that the Bolivian government has asked Chavez to stop, and he hasn't."

No, the Bolivian military asked him to stop, not the democratically elected government.


"The first is that it makes Evo look like a Chavista puppet, which understandably strengthens the opposition in the Media Luna."

It only makes it look that way if you have a distorted view of events. Any rational viewer would simply see it as a political ally supporting a fellow leftist government.

After all, would you now make the claim that Evo looks like a puppet of Honduran president Zelaya because he also voices support for Evo? No, you wouldn't. That would be a ridiculous claim. So why is it not equally ridiculous to make that claim about Chavez?


"The second is that it annoys the Bolivian military. That's not a bit of fire worth playing with when the government faces violent opposition."

Yes, it may annoy them, but it also warns them that there will be consequences for their actions if they do not respect the Bolivian constitutional order. This is very important. Latin America armies have a long tradition of breaking constitutional order without any consequences. Chavez's threat let's them know that it won't be tolerated this time.


"it makes governments like Brazil's /more/ sympathetic to the opposition. Chavez, quite simply, is not "in a position of strength.""

Jeez, you're really good at being wrong. Brazil has actually showed their support for Morales in the regional defense coucil Unasur, a initiative promoted by Chavez with the very intention of being able to be "in a position of strength." Strength in union.


"(1) they increase the intransigence of Evo's opposition;"

There's no evidence of that. And, in fact, the exact opposite ocurred. They were already extremely violent and aggressive long before Chavez said anything, and his speaking didn't make it worse. It ended up getting better.


"(2) they antagonize the Bolivian military, whose support Evo needs;"

They also warn them that there will be consequences against breaking the constitutional order. Something unprecedented in Latin American history.


"and (3) they are entirely empty."

They could be somewhat empty, but the Bolivian military obviously doesn't see it that way. They see it as a threat, so it has the intended effect of warning them against any funny business.

"You're really good at being wrong."

Toby, that's just rude. This is the second time somebody has decided to insult me on my own blog.

If you apologize, I'll continue this. Otherwise, whatever.

Noel says:

"Well, Toby, the key factor is that the Bolivian government has asked Chavez to stop, and he hasn't."


Reality:

Bolivia agradece solidaridad de gobierno venezolano

http://abi.bo/index.php?i=noticias_texto_paleta&j=20080912110742&k=

Toby, I asked you to stop posting if you weren't going to apologize and be polite. This is very immature. You're a strange duck.

I'll admit that calling you Toby beats saying "Anonymous." Still, it would be very nice if you wouldn't act like a petulant 14 year old denied attention from Mom.

But. Well. To the point at hand. The defense minister, Walker San Miguel, asked Mr. Chavez not to interfere on September 14th, two days after the press release linked to above. See http://www.miamiherald.com/1320/story/686112.html, among multiple other sources.

Now, the Bolivian defense minister is a civilian, appointed by and allied to Evo, and his statements are official government statements unless the President repudiates them. Which he has very vocally not done.

In other words, the facts are not quite what you thought they were.

The confusion is understandable.

By the way, Toby, you might want to ask yourself why you believe that Brasilia would have a different position towards the crisis if Hugo Chavez had maintained a more discreet position. You also might want to ask yourself why you believe that Mr. Chavez has so much power outside his borders.

It never hurts to occasionally mark one's beliefs to market. My job forces me to do that all the time. As John Maynard Keynes said, "When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?"

Now, I ask you again to either apologize for insulting me or stay off my blog.

noel,

The Defense Minister simply supported what had been earlier been said by General Trigo.

Your statement continues to be false that "he Bolivian government has asked Chavez to stop, and he hasn't."

As i showed above, the Bolivian government thanked Chavez for his solidarity. You and I both know that the democratically elected president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, supports Chavez's statements, so you were wrong in trying to say that the Bolivian government wants him to stop.

Now, with these being the facts, will you change your opinion?

As for Chavez working from a "position of strength," he explained it quite well today when he said this:

"América Latina canta a coro (...) Un sólo gallo no hace la mañana. Se requiere un gallo y otro gallo y otro gallo. Y como no somos aquí machistas, un gallo y una gallina (...) Ahora estamos cantando a coro (...) Unasur existe pues."

This is why it is important that leftist movements in Latin America stand together against any attempts at illegal coups, as have ocurred throughout the region in recent history. If you don't understand that, I'd recommend a brief review of Latin American history.

As for your questions:

"you might want to ask yourself why you believe that Brasilia would have a different position towards the crisis if Hugo Chavez had maintained a more discreet position. You also might want to ask yourself why you believe that Mr. Chavez has so much power outside his borders."

The first question doesn't make any sense, and therefore I cannot respond to it. The second question also makes little sense, since i never said that Chavez has so much power outside his borders.

"Any rational viewer would simply see it as a political ally supporting a fellow leftist government."

The issue, here, is that the ally is in one country and the person receiving the support is in another. That's not like the Bloc Québécois allying with the Conservatives against the Liberals; it's like General De Gaulle proclaiming "Vive le Québec libre" in Montreal one fine day.

"After all, would you now make the claim that Evo looks like a puppet of Honduran president Zelaya because he also voices support for Evo? No, you wouldn't. That would be a ridiculous claim. So why is it not equally ridiculous to make that claim about Chavez?"

Chavez, most unlike Zelaya, is a man who controls a country that has the mis/fortune to produce vast amounts of money through the export of oil and other hydrocarbons. Those funds help him produce a certain image of the man as a great revolutionary leader who, however, lacks the regional power status that a country like Brazil enjoys. If Honduras was a petrostate with a similar history and a similar leader, then it, too, might be a force in Bolivia, but (alas?) it isn't.

The problem with Chavez's pronouncements is that they are the sort of thing that can delegitimize the Bolivian government and worsen Bolivia's internal divisions, all without doing anything to project Venezuelan power into the eastern Andes. That I call foolish on several differnet levels.

Must Bolivians be pushed into dying for Venezuela's glory?

So, Toby, you're saying that you _didn't_ actually claim that "Chavez has so much power outside his borders"?

I'm sorry, what were the following comments about? "Chavez is letting Latin Americans and the US know that he won't stand for these imperialist endeavors any longer, and will use force to prevent them". Not to mention "Latin American leaders like Chavez are now in a position of strength like this", which was absolutely priceless.

Also, you might wish to note that when Noel wrote how Morales may end up looking like a Chavezista puppet, he was obviously speaking of the subjective impressions that the other politicians have of the matter. Noel wasn't voicing his own personal opinions, nor was he trying to make some kind of an objective analysis of Morales and his character.

So, accusing Noel of "distorted views" and "lack of rationality" is off the mark. As Randy already noted, the issue at hand is the one of politicians suffering from lack of rationality and distorted views. No one has denied that this applies just as much to those leaders who oppose Chavez as well as to the man himself.

I have no deep emotions regarding the South American issues, but I can recognize a political SNAFU when I see one. Chavez's statements are firmly in the same category as the recent screwups that our president made towards Estonia.

So, Toby, you might wish to consider retracting some of your statements. I suppose you were the same fellow who made those nonsense statements on South Ossetia a while back?


Cheers,

J. J.

"I'm sorry, what were the following comments about? "Chavez is letting Latin Americans and the US know that he won't stand for these imperialist endeavors any longer, and will use force to prevent them""

Threatening to use power does not imply that you have power. I simply explained the intention behind these statements. I didn't say Chavez has the power to carry them out. I actually think Chavez ability to carry them out is quite limited, but the threat is enough to warn people that there could be repercusions, and that a coup won't go unnoticed as they have so many times in the past.


""Latin American leaders like Chavez are now in a position of strength like this",


Take a look at the events of the last couple days and tell me if this isn't exactly what happened?

Latin American nations came together to categorically support the Morales government and reject any break of the constitutional order.

Anyone who knows a little Latin American history knows that this is unprecedented, and that Latin American leaders are in a position of much greater strength than they have been in recent decades. This is the first time, after all, that they have formed a defense council that doesn't also include the "master of the hemisphere" and they have used it to issue a united rejection of any coup attempts in Bolivia. Lula insisted that they didn't actually mention the United States, even though everyone knows that they are behind it. Lula, on the other hand, was also the one who insisted that the US not be a part of the defense council. Again, unprecedented.


"Also, you might wish to note that when Noel wrote how Morales may end up looking like a Chavezista puppet, he was obviously speaking of the subjective impressions that the other politicians have of the matter. "

To which I replied that if someone has this view it is because they have a distorted view of the reality. A politician can't go around worrying about how certain people with distorted views of events are going to view his actions. If Chavez, or any other leader did that, it would severely limit their range of actions. Chavez, for example, would have never been able to nationalize the oil industry, or team up with countries like Russian and Iran to aquire technology, because "certain people" would have a bad perception of that.

A politician has to do what is effective in obtaining results, not what is effective in making sure political opponents don't have some reason to make some wild claims. Because any intelligent politician knows that certain people are going to find a way to make wild claims no matter WHAT you do.


"I have no deep emotions regarding the South American issues, but I can recognize a political SNAFU when I see one. Chavez's statements are firmly in the same category as the recent screwups that our president made towards Estonia."

This is not an argument. This is an assertion backed by zero evidence or even any reasoning. In that case, I'd have to say I disagree.


"I suppose you were the same fellow who made those nonsense statements on South Ossetia a while back?"

Which comments were those? If you'd like to be proven wrong there I'd be glad to oblige you.

"[A] coup won't go unnoticed as they have so many times in the past."

Really? I can name any number of coups that gained global interest, like Guatremala's in 1956 and Chile's in 1973.

"A politician can't go around worrying about how certain people with distorted views of events are going to view his actions."

Actually, yes he can and should. If the politician in question is controversial, making wild statements that will cost other people significantly--statements that the person knows will be controversial--in an ideal world he'd tailor his words accordingly.

As for politicians who are actually doing things that outsiders can legitimately see as hostile, well. If the President of Croatia had (say) realized that published books denying the quasi-genocidal massacre of Serbs in the Second World War by Croatian nationalists, he would have gone a long way towards calming down tensions.

"[A]ny intelligent politician knows that certain people are going to find a way to make wild claims no matter WHAT you do."

Any intelligent politician knows that his words have consequences, and that if they make wild claims it won't calm down the situation. Chavez, alas, chose to ignore good sense.

To be fair, one new thing about this crisis has been Brazil's role. First, the Brazilian government employed strategic ambiguity. Government spokesmen simultaneously stated that they supported the Bolivian government and that Brazil will start dealing with the rebel governors if Bolivia can't control the situation.

That effectively told Morales that while he had the support of his neighbors, he also didn't have a blank check.

Then, once the opposition made peace noises, the Chilean government (with Brazilian support) took the initiative in calling a South American summit. (Unasur is just window-dressing; so far there's no institutional meat on those bones.) That gave Evo the diplomatic cover he needed to compromise with the rebels.

Quite nicely done, I think, although Bolivia still isn't completely out of the woods.

During the Clinton Administration, the U.S. and OAS would have played the role of Brazil and Unasur. (Frex Paraguay, or with somewhat less success in Ecuador.)

The big change is that for the first time, well, ever, all the nations of South America are honest-to-goodness electoral democracies. Common acceptance of democratic rules gives them a legitimacy when they interfere in each others' affairs that never before existed.

The smaller change is Brazil's economic growth. It's energy demands have sucked Bolivia into its economic orbit, and its companies and entrepreneurs have moved into Bolivian hydrocarbons and agribiz with a vengeance.

Uncle Ben's Law: with great power, comes great responsibility. Brazil just can't ignore the neighbors like it used to.

Although the government sure hopes it will be able to go back to ignoring them soon enough:

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/09/16/business/LT-Brazil-Natural-Gas.php

and

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/09/12/business/LA-Brazil-Nuclear-Power.php.

"Really? I can name any number of coups that gained global interest, like Guatremala's in 1956 and Chile's in 1973."

Bolivia had a total of 193 coups from independence until 1981. How many of those gained "global interest"?

"Actually, yes he can and should. If the politician in question is controversial, making wild statements that will cost other people significantly--statements that the person knows will be controversial--in an ideal world he'd tailor his words accordingly."

The conflict actually calmed down after Chavez' comments, and did not, as you suggest, get any worse.


"Any intelligent politician knows that his words have consequences, and that if they make wild claims it won't calm down the situation. Chavez, alas, chose to ignore good sense."

The conflict actually did calm down almost immediately after Chavez made the comments.

Toby, I have edited your comments to remove the insulting tone.

Well, I can see no fair debate can be had here, since the biased moderator edits my posts.

As a short-tempered individual prone to flaming, I am trying to keep things civil. Insulting someone over a typo is not civil. Nor is accusing them of ignorance.

I asked you to apologize or leave. You did not apologize. I am reluctant to erase your posts, but I will remove unfounded aspersions.

By the way Noel, the two links you provide don't back up anything that you said, and one of them doesn't go anywhere. Where is your evidence that Brazil threatened to deal with the rebel governments? I'll need to see some evidence of that, otherwise its just another assertion of yours, nothing more.

You are also wrong in claiming that the Chilean government took the initiative for calling the Unasur meeting. Both Chavez and Correa were calling for an emergency meeting since days before, and Bachelet only called the meeting because she is the current sitting president of the body. It had little to do with the Chilean government "taking the initiative."

http://www.eluniverso.com/2008/09/12/0001/8/9CD9E163B35749DE9732512893E30F43.html

http://www.eldia.es/2008-09-13/internacional/internacional348.htm

Well, Toby, as you can see, Randy already pointed out the rather glaring flaws in your response. The fact is that politics is tightrope; any succesful politician should keep in mind the consequences of his/her statements and actions. Huffing and puffing doesn't accomplish anything.

As expected, your retort was that "a politician can't go around worrying about how certain people with distorted views of events are going to view his actions". Unsurprisingly, you're overlooking the possibility that the politician in question might actually be the one who has distorted views of the events.

(Also, _what_ actions? I'm not seeing actions, I'm seeing empty rhetoric.)

It seems that you have an Edmund Burke complex; you really believe that you're firmly in possession of the objective truth, and you also believe that you have both the ability and the authority to tell which is the _right_ side and which is the _wrong_ side.

I'm sure that it's a nice, comfortable feeling, but sooner or later, you're going to run in difficulties in the real world, where life comes in many shades of gray.

By the way, when it comes to South Ossetia, your comment of how "a politician has to do what is effective in obtaining results, not what is effective in making sure political opponents don't have some reason to make some wild claims" has massive ironic value. You do realize that this is exactly what Saakashvili did? He ignored the potential outside reaction and its consequences, focused just on "obtaining results", and then got instantly bitch-slapped for it.

Also, Toby darling, since you're so ready to "prove me wrong" in the South Ossetian affairs, let me say this to you entirely without malice; I've probably forgotten more about the post-Soviet politics, Russian foreign relations and the Caucasian events than you can ever even hope to learn.

I don't know what's the think-tank that you're using as a source for your rather monolithic worldview, but you might wish to consider broadening your horizons just a little bit.


Cheers,

J. J.

Oh yeah Toby, and about the links that Noel provided; remove the period from the end of the second link, and it works just dandy.

Even _I_ was able to figure that out, but I guess that you have a shorter attention span? The article is about construction of nuclear reactors in Brazil, and its relevance to Noel's comments is pretty obious.

Cheers,

J. J.

Toby, why did you ask, "Where is your evidence that Brazil threatened to deal with the rebel governments?"

After all, you speak as though you've read my last posts on the topic. There is a discussion and a link over there:

http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/aab/2008/09/half-moon-at-ba.html

Okay, I see your evidence that a Brazilian minister mentioned dealing directly with the rebel governors. I never claimed otherwise, I just wanted to see evidence. Many here seem to have the bad habit of sharing their personal opinions very liberally, without any real evidence to back them up.

However I see you didn't respond to the other half of my statement, in which I showed once again that you don't have your facts straight.

My argument still stands that Chavez (and even Correa's) insistence on taking a strong stand on the Bolivian conflict has been a beneficial move, and has pushed other Latin American leaders towards taking a stronger stand on it as well. Recent events suggest I am correct. They were, after all, instrumental in calling the Unasur meeting, and influencing other leaders to back the Morales government and condemn any coup attempt.

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