Saturday, February 28, 2015

Podemos and Hugo Chávez

David Román at the Wall Street Journal published an interesting--and measured--article on the connections between Hugo Chávez and Spain's leftist Podemos party, which is rapidly gaining popularity.

Some thoughts:

First, it is important to note how this is a connection with Chávez. Podemos is critical, for example, of Antonio Ledezma's arrest. I assume many people will want to compare them to Venezuela today, which won't be terribly accurate.

Second, the article notes the many differences between Spain and Venezuela that make a copy of Chávez impossible. A major one is the EU, of course, but the article does not discuss the massive influx of petrodollars that really deepened the Chavista project. You can talk about "direct democracy" or other experiments, but you need to be very careful about claiming how much Spain has the capacity to even try many of the things Chávez did.

Third, the article only touches on the critical fact that Spain is a parliamentary system and not a presidential one. If Podemos manages to win the prime minister position, it can't govern like Chávez. It certainly can't govern like Nicolás Maduro, who would've lost a no-confidence vote a long time ago.

Fourth, and rather different, is that Chávez died before oil bottomed out and so will always remain a heroic figure for the left. I am certain we'll see parties around the world for years to come inspired by an idealized version of Chávez that ignores what came directly after (or simply blames Maduro for it). The analogy is imperfect but I think of JFK in that regard.


boz 10:45 AM  

What interests me is the amount of money being thrown around. Chavez's government funded a think tank to employ Juan Carlos Monedero for three years, then gave him a half million dollars in 2010 to consult on the Sucre currency experiment (which nobody talks about anymore). That's not an insignificant amount of money he received. It's a sign of just how much money the Venezuelan government was burning through during the oil boom to promote itself and its international agenda.

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