Oct 13, 2006 11:48 am


Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is frequently dismissed as a crackpot but Clay Risen in The New Republic makes a good case arguing that the US should cease to do so and instead start taking notice of Chavez’s ruinous and corrosive ways which Chavez himself dubs Chavismo. Record oil prices have yielded Venezuela, a major producer, the capacity to dispose of enormous funds for interventionist purposes in the affairs of its neighbors. While this may occasionally backfire, it cannot be dismissed simply as self-defeating for it has major consequences. One example: Chavez’s important support for the electoral triumph and subsequent expropriatory policies in Bolivia of his ally Evo Morales (where cocaine production has also since enjoyed a massive boost ).

Risen deals chiefly with Chavez’s role as international anti-American agitator and nationalist-style economic protectionist, but there is a perturbing background to Chavez that places his anti-globalization, anti-American and anti-Jewish rhetoric in context . Consider the following:

• One of Chavez’s closest mentors was the deceased Norberto Ceresole , an Argentinean right-wing nationalist and advocate of a post-democratic Latin America, as well as being a Holocaust denier and conspiracy theorist preoccupied with alleged Jewish plans to control the planet – an influence that can be seen at work in Chavez’s own anti-Semitic outburst.

• Unsurprisingly, anti-Semitic propaganda is now appearing in a country once largely free of it.

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