Friday, October 19, 2018

Chávez, Maduro, Trump: Three Peas in a Pod?

Eva Golinger, a steadfast Hugo Chávez supporter and confidante who broke with Nicolás Maduro, wrote a curious op-ed in The New York Times, the same publication she has attacked for its "shameful history when it comes to Venezuela" while publishing extensively in it. Her argument is that Nicolás Maduro is an authoritarian disaster and Donald Trump is going in the same direction. Further, Hugo Chávez was different because he cared about the poor. But then she admits that Chávez was also becoming more authoritarian.

Did he have authoritarian tendencies? His military background left him with a firm belief in hierarchy. The longer he remained in power, the more entrenched he became, which is why term limits and checks and balances are essential to a healthy democracy.
True, he made many mistakes. Mr. Chávez aspired to make his model sustainable, but died without achieving that goal. His habit of choosing loyalty over competence was a fatal mistake. So was entrusting multiple responsibilities to a closed circle of people who were unprepared and unwilling to make hard choices. It nurtures a climate of secrecy and unaccountability, which can be a danger to democracy.
In other words, Chávez was like an ideological mirror image of Trump, with the sole exception of actually caring about people as he increased his control over them. That second paragraph in particular is Trump. In the past, she had said that there was "collective leadership" of the people in Venezuela with "a different kind of democracy."

I got the very strong impression from the op-ed that underlying this is the notion that Chávez died before his worst instincts overwhelmed him, and had he stayed in power he would have ended up quite similar to Maduro and Trump, but perhaps a little more popular and a little more compassionate.

Amazing what a few years will do. The Venezuelan revolution and Chávez's own image are completely in tatters. An op-ed like this shows there are few believers anywhere anymore. It's funny how Trump himself contributes to this phenomenon just from his mere existence. The parallels between him and Chávez, while imperfect, are just numerous enough to highlight Chávez's worst aspects. That hits even the truest of believers.


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