Hugo Chavez: Mediocrity or Thug? (Or Both?)

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As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve long wanted to give Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez the benefit of the doubt (see this interview I did in 2005 with Richard Gott, a venerable British journalist who knows Chavez better than most and wrote a largely sympathetic biography of him). But with every week that passes–which is to say, with every new sign that, however sincere his commitment to his country’s poor, Chavez’s commitment to democracy is pretty tenuous; and with every new crackpot speech or unmistakable sign of galloping megalomania–I’ve found that position more difficult to sustain. Marc Cooper, who knows Latin American politics better than most, said it best this week in a blistering post occasioned by Chavez’s crass, bizarre, and typically self-aggrandizing speech at the UN.

Marc Cooper:

If one ever had doubts that Hugo Chavez is at best an intellectual mediocrity (if not a thug) they should forever be confirmed by his speech Wednesday before the United Nations. I’m not going to bother to reproduce any excerpts here….

Suffice it to say it was juvenile showboating of the worst kind. And while it was chock full of applause and laugh lines as Chavez ripped at Bush, the Empire, the Fascists, the Assassins, the Israelis and the UN itself, it was — in the end– a completely vapid exercise. What sort of moral vision or leadership of behalf of the world’s poor was voiced by the blustering buffoon of Caracas?

All I know is that if I were George W. Bush and was worried what the world thought of me, I would quickly choose Chavez as the guy to represent the global opposition. In any case, Chavez’s performance is likely to backfire. His declaration that the UN is “worthless” is not likely to galvanize support for Venezuela’s quest to win one of the rotating seats on the Security Council.

Amen.

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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