Three from the FP

fp-logoThree articles you might find interesting in Foreign Policy.

The first is a searing summary of Hugo Chávez’s impact on Venezuelan politics, by our friend Phil Gunson. It’s a well written wrapup of the Chávez years that almost reads like a premature obituary. Little in there we political junkies don’t already know, but Gunson puts everything together in a package the novice to Venezuela is sure to appreciate.

The second is a nice summary of the career of Guillermo Cochez, Panama’s former ambassador to the OAS and a favorite scourge of chavista diplomats. Javier el-Hage and Thor Halvorssen do a nice job summarizing Cochez’s frequently brave yet ultimately fruitless stances.

The last one is a summary of what it’s like to live through a devaluation, by yours truly.

4 thoughts on “Three from the FP

  1. It comes down to the vulnerability of democratic institutions to the assent of dictators vs. the inability of totalitarian governments to replace free markets vs. the vulnerability of free markets to large multinational corporations, and etc. etc. etc.

    • “But the government seems terrified of provoking the kind of backlash seen in 1989, when a sudden, sharp rise in gas prices helped provoke violent riots and looting that left hundreds dead.”

      Maybe Chavismo has something it fears afterall.

      • Of course it does, Chavismo is de facto an extra-constitutional regime.

        A constitutional regime holds power based on a formal rule which has general acceptance: monarchical inheritance to the eldest heir, victory in a fairly conducted election. Such a mandate has permanence for the ruler’s designated term of office.

        An extra-constitutional regime holds power based on the subjective and informal feeling that they should rule. This feeling may exist in the general popuiation, or merely among the armed forces or security police.

        Consider an archetypical dictatorship. Everyone, including the security police, obeys the dictator, because otherwise the security police will get them. That is, the police obey because the police obey. If for any reason, the police question their obedience, the dictator’s power can evaporate instantly.

        Chavismo’s authority is based on the popular enthusiasm for Chavez himself. This generates electoral majorities, which gives chavismo nominal constitutional authority. In theory, this authority should endure even if most people become discontented with the social and economic conditions resulting from regime policies, or after Chavez himself is gone.

        However, chavismo has repeatedly altered or ignored the constitution so many times that it is no longer viewed as truly binding. Chavismo rules arbitrarily, and gets away with it because of the majority’s belief that chavista rule benefits them – in large part because so many people trust in Chavez himself.

        If the majority decides that chavista rule is bad, the regime’s authority could vanish, regardless of its formal mandate.

  2. Mr Rostrom : In Venezuela we have two constitutions , a formal written constitution which is institutionally lifeless , and a live functioning constitution which reflects the fluctuating political will of Mr Chavez and which is the only one that the established political bodies will obey. The differences are stark , the formal constitution says we are a Republic , the functional constitution that we are an Autocracy where the will of the supreme ruler decides everything . One constitution is mindful of its citizens freedoms regardless of their political preferences or social origin , the other privileges those whose political allegiances is to the regime and discriminates and persecutes those that dissent from it. The functional constitution uses the formal constitution as a kind of costume which changes meaning so that it always suits the whims and interests of the autocrat and his followers..
    More generally It is wrong to assumme that a constitution represents the will or consensus of a mayority of at least 51% of the individuals in a society, the constitution depends for its legitimacy on its acceptance by ALL the members of that society even those which do not form part of that 51% , they all must feel that AT LEAST their basic freedoms and interests are represented by what the Constitution states . A constitution is not legitimate if it outlaws the freedoms of 45% of a country’s inhabitants and converts them into political pariahs or virtual non citizens. From this perspective Venezuela lacks a working constitution , one which is legitimate and which can command the respect of all its citizens .Sorry for the verbosity but some ideas sometimes require clarification even if the words to express them are hard to come by.

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