Saturday, February 14, 2009


The Washington Post has an op-ed today by Edward Schumacher-Matos on Hugo Chavez.

Schumacher-Matos advises the Obama administration to simply ignore Chavez, rather than scheme against him.

"Obama should merely ignore Chávez and let Venezuelans take care of him. Much is made of how Chávez is a troublemaker who has enlisted Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Cuba in an anti-American leftist alliance. Who cares? None of these small countries is a threat or wants to be. There is no Soviet Union to use them as a platform, and Chinese dabbling in the hemisphere is purely commercial."

But while plotting against Chavez would certainly be another gringo administration political disaster, ignoring Chavez is equally not sound. Obama should open a dialogue with Hugo Chavez. There is nothing to be gained from ignoring him. Chavez is respected in Latin and South America and has good relations with Chile, Argentina, Brazil and yes, even with Cuba. And Chavez has always respected the voters' will on the many elections held since he took office some nine years ago.

Chavez has made many mistakes and has an inordinate desire to be president for life. But on balance Chavez has done many good things for the poor in Venezuela. That's why his many supporters love him and would vote to make him president for as long as he wishes.

Furthermore Chavez has done much to improve cooperation among South and Central American nations. Chavez has worked to free the hostages from FARC in Colombia, an effort his right-wing enemies claim without basis, shows his support for "terrorist organizations," and has extended aid to the poorer Latin nations. Chavez has also befriended Cubanos and has shown that the brothers Castros are not, as the right would portray, incorrigible devils.

Obama should meet Hugo Chavez and try to improve diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Venezuela.

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