LC: Not to make you sound like a conspiracy theorist, but do you believe he has a connection to the voting machines?
FW: Venezuela News and Views, The Devil’s Excrement, and VCrisis have posted on the details of the voting machines. I also did a podcast for Pajamas Media with the blogger from Venezuela News and Views where he explained the Byzantine Venezuelan electoral process. The must-read article on Venezuelan elections is ‘Conned in Caracas‘ which discusses the August 2004 election that Carter certified, not the December 2006 election.
LC: He’s also recently made some moves in Venezuela to gain more control, how was this possible? What’s happening now?
FW: He’s merging all the parties that brought him to power into one single party. He’s nationalizing industries.
LC: Economically, what’s happening in Venezuela?
FW: Things were pretty bad – Brazilian magazine Revista Veja did a report in 2005 that showed increase in poverty and inflation, but now he’s instituted price controls on food, which has lead to food shortages, too. Infrastructure maintenance has been ignored so oil production is down, and also roads have deteriorated. For instance the highway that connects Caracas to the international airport has a detour because a large bridge collapsed. On the business aspect, Bloomberg has an article that details more.
LC: How has Hugo Chavez limited freedoms in Venezuela? (personal freedoms)
FW: For instance, he’s closing the country’s oldest TV station. He’s nationalized telecom companies. He’s changed the constitution to give him control over the media, including the internet. VCrisis has this post on political prosecution.
LC: Earlier we were talking about terrorism. What kind of connections, or alledged connections, does Hugo Chavez have to terrorist?
FW: The more obvious is his increased contact with terror-supporting states like Iran and Syria. Assad will be visisting Venezuela soon, and Ahmadinajad visited Venezuela a couple of times. And then there’s this.
LC: Pat Robertson created a lot of controversy over 2 years ago when he said assassination of Hugo Chavez would be “…cheaper than starting a war.” Is war inevitable with Hugo Chavez in power?
FW: I don’t think so at all. To begin with, many other countries in Latin America aren’t agreeable to Chavez. The USA can strengthen trade and business with those countries Also, China has a huge presence in the Caribbean (particularly the Panama Canal) and I doubt that China would imperil its world trade situation by ignoring Chavez’s threats. Additionally, the Venezuelan economy collapsed in the 1980s when the oil prices came down and Chavez needs a lot of money to keep up his revolution. The USA is very good at one thing, and that thing is creating wealth. The best thing the US could do would be to foster wealth creation by abolishing all agricultural subsidies and tariffs with Latin American countries that provide the rule of law, property rights, and true democracy. Particularly with Brazil. That would do more to undermine Chavez’s Bolivarian mess than any kind of military confrontation, particularly in the long term.
LC: President Bush just made the trip to Brazil, and other Latin American Countries, what do you think of that?
FW: Back to what the Economist was saying “Far from the confrontation desired by Mr ChÃ¡vez, relations between the biggest powers of North and South America are coming to resemble those between the United States and Europe: there is a recognition on both sides that the overall friendship counts for more than any disagreements on detail. Lula is to visit Mr Bush at Camp David on March 31st.” That is very encouraging.
To Be Continued…