Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Obama and Rubio on Venezuela

President Obama talked briefly about Venezuela in an interview, giving a statement that's pretty bland:

"We're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe," Obama told a Spanish language television station based in Miami. "But overall, my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.
"We have to vigilant," Obama said in the interview broadcast Tuesday. "My main concern when it comes to Venezuela is having the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don't always see."

Set aside for now the fact that Venezuelan elections have been free and fair, but that the opposition mostly loses. Obama's idea is that you pay attention but don't over-react. This made Marco Rubio mad, because he's firmly in the over-react camp.

It's never quite clear, though, what Rubio and others actually want. I am guessing sanctions, but if the national security of the United States is the goal, then we'd be shooting ourselves in the foot because oil prices would likely jump and Chávez would receive considerable sympathy. Or maybe just more money for the Venezuelan opposition, though that's not a terribly effective tool. Or covert ops, I suppose. But even if you support those, you have to know that the probability of discovery is very high, and that would create backlash.


Anonymous,  10:06 PM  

Well certainly elections...I have to disagree on the "fair" part. You have a president abusing all the privileges and power of his position at each election, in a country where the separation of powers is in question. Not sure that can be can considered fair.

Justin Delacour 11:42 PM  

Set aside for now the fact that Venezuelan elections have been free and fair...

I think this is one area in which the queston of political culture really starts to take on importance. One reality of American political life is that the facts about a country like Venezuela are not the only thing an American president has to take into consideration when discussing the country. Over the course of Hugo Chavez's presidency, U.S. political and cultural elites have erected a highly authoritarian image of Chavez by consistently exaggerating the degree to which his government has been in breach of liberal-democratic norms. By erecting a distorted image of Venezuelan politics year after year, U.S. political and cultural elites become trapped by the image that they themselves have erected. In American political life, an American president could scarcely say anything other than what Obama said about Venezuela's electoral process because to do so would be so dissonant with the image of Venezuela that political and cultural elites have erected over the course of Chavez's long presidency.

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