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Chavez is not even in Bush’s League

So, Diamond Dave thinks I put on the kid gloves for my my boy Chavez. Just to clarify I ended my post arguing that he should not use Bush’s America as his gold standard for civil rights. But Dave brings up a good point,

Chavez sucks for his authoritarianism, fearmongering (of the U.S.) and development of a personality cult. Such noted right-wing organizations as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the regime for this.

Lets start with Amnesty International, an organization I trust.

Chavez: There were reports of unlawful killings of criminal suspects by police. Most cases were not investigated and the perpetrators remained unpunished. The lack of independence of the judiciary remained a concern. Persistent social and economic inequalities continued to limit access to the economic and social rights of Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples.

Bush: Thousands of detainees continued to be held in US custody without charge or trial in Iraq, Afghanistan and the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There were reports of secret US-run detention centres in undisclosed locations where detainees were held in circumstances amounting to “disappearances”. Dozens of Guantanamo detainees went on hunger strike to protest against their harsh treatment and lack of access to the courts; some were reported to be seriously ill. Reports of deaths in custody, torture and ill-treatment by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo continued to emerge. Despite evidence that the US government had sanctioned interrogation techniques constituting torture or ill-treatment, and “disappearances”, there was a failure to hold officials at the highest levels accountable, including individuals who may have been guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity. Several trials took place of low-ranking soldiers charged with abusing detainees; in most cases sentences were light. There were reports of police brutality and use of excessive force in the USA. Sixty-one people died after being struck by police tasers, a huge rise over previous years. Sixty people were executed, taking the total to over 1,000 since executions resumed in 1977. 

Again, the kids gloves were more of not throwing stones when one lives in a glass house than simply blowing off Chavez criticisms. Maybe if I lived in Sweden or a another near perfect Democracy I would be a little harder on Chavez. While I think unlawful killing by police is a serious issue, does Diamond Dave really want us to believe it is in the same league as 61 people dieing from police tasers, or 1000 cold blooded state murders since 1977. Does Diamond Dave also want us to believe that ‘lack of judicial independence’ is equal in intensity to thousands of detainees in secret U.S. detention centers around the world. Sorry Dave, Hugo Chavez is not even close to the human rights infractions of George Bush’s America.  

Human Rights Watch has several articles expressing concerns over Chavez’s record on freedom of speech  and judicial independence. One such article was a court packing scheme very close to the one attempted by FDR in the 1930’s. Here is what Jose Miguel Vivanco of HRW had to say in Senate testimony.

One issue we have focused on is freedom of the press not because it is absent in Venezuela, but because it is a central point of contention in the ongoing political crisis. Until now, the government of President Chavez has largely respected press freedom even in the face of a strident and well-resourced opposition press. Indeed, as part of the often heated and acrimonious debate between supporters of the government and its opponents, the press has been able to express strong views without restriction… 

The international community should do all it can to encourage Venezuela to protect and strengthen judicial independence. Unfortunately, however, the ability of the United States to advocate for democracy in Venezuela was severely hurt in 2002 when the Bush administration chose to blame Chvez for his own ouster rather than unequivocally denouncing the coup. In addition, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal has undermined the administrations moral authority when it comes to promoting the rule of law abroad.

HRW also takes the U.S. to task for issues such as an insane incarceration rate, Iraqi refugees as a result of Bush’s war, European complicity in U.S. war crimes, stripping legal residents of constitutional rights, gag rule that put sex workers lives at risk, Military Commissions Act, Abu Ghraib style torture in American prisons, and NLRB supervisor ruling that greatly restricts labor rights.

Sadly Diamond Dave, like other Demopublicans I am sure, along with the Neo Crybabies like to further the myth of Chavez as authoritarian. Yet, when we put Chavez head to head against our leader in thief Chavez appears pretty tame. A more accurate assessment would be two democracies who partake in un-democratic tendencies from time to time.  These tendencies or even democracy does not happen in a vacuum, eventually we must ask democracy for what and for whom. When that question is asked it is clear that Bush is far more concerned about Democracy for the Halliburton’s and Enron’s of the world, and Chavez stands with those who are exploited by Bush’s democratic subjects. 

This does not mean that at times Chavez is a little too paranoid for my taste, but in these times being too paranoid may not be such a bad thing after all. Both Nichols and Palast have good interviews on the subject.

Gregory Wilpert Interview: Author of “Coup Against Chavez in Venezuela” and web editor for John Nichols discusses Chavez and his record.

Hugo Chavez interview