Carlo's Corner: Moral US sets example to dictators like Chavez

The United States teaches us a free election involves two parties owned by the same group of billionaire oligarchs.

I have been reminded lately of that line from that famous song: “How many polls must an anti-capitalist win, before we call him a democrat?”

It is one of those philosophical questions whose answer is forever blowing in the wind isn't it? Because Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez won his fifth presidential vote on October 7, one of more than a dozen wins by the political movement he leads since he was first elected 14 years ago, and the Wall Street Journal still greeted the news on October 8 with the headline: “Victory tightens Chavez grip on power.”

To the casual observer, it might seem like all this winning of free, democratic votes makes Chavez and the movement he leads for “socialism for the 21st century” a democratic one. But the WSJ sees through the trickery.

William Dobson, in the June 10 WJS, named Chavez as one of a new breed of “smarter dictators”. “The linchpin of his authoritarianism,” Dobson pointed out, “has always been, somewhat paradoxically, elections.”

As far as evil masterminds go, Chavez is hard to top. He cleverly camouflages his dictatorship with what appears to be all the hallmarks of democracy.

Of course, we cannot truly consider Venezuela's elections to be free. The United States teaches us a free election involves two parties owned by the same group of billionaire oligarchs. Running for office handicapped by the fact they represent interests diametrically opposed to the majority of electors, these candidates are forced to engage in empty rhetoric, scapegoating and outright lying.

For Chavez to actually stand on a platform in the interests of the majority, having carried out his promises to improve the living standards and democratic rights of the majority, gives him an unfair advantage.

His opponent, Henrique Capriles, representing Venezuela's elite, was forced say he supported pro-poor measures to win votes, only to have leaked documents reveal he planned to do the opposite.

When one candidate is able to speak the truth and the other forced to lie, surely we cannot talk of a free election. In the interests of fairness, Chavez should have been forced to promise to privatise health care and violently repress protests, sparking outrage when he then proceeded to do the opposite. Anything else just makes a mockery of democracy.

And it is not just Chavez. Take this shocking news that Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is, and I quote, “discriminating” against the banks.

I am saddened to have to report on another case of oppression in a world so ladened with suffering, but the Correa government wants to introduce a 3% tariff on banks' taxable income to raise welfare payments to the elderly and single mothers to US$50 a month.

A furious Abelardo Pachano, the general manager of big Ecuadorian bank Produbanco, angrily denounced the “discriminatory” measure and said it “could even be characterised as a confiscation”. No doubt Amnesty International is preparing its letter-writing campaign right now.

Against such human rights abuses, the United States stands out as a moral beacon. Just take the news that CIA Director David Petraeus, the retired four-star general who led the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigned after having an extramarital affair.

Being a war criminal who oversaw occupations that killed hundreds of thousands of people is one thing ― that is a near perfect CV for a CIA head ― but you get caught having consensual sex with the wrong person, you cross a line.

It is sad to see the US empire lose the skills of such a talented mass murderer. But if he were to continue in his job after this shocking revelation, how could the "Greatest Democracy in the World" possibly expect to have its well-known commitment to freedom taken seriously with its key torture-organising agency so morally compromised?

Read more Carlo's Corner columns.

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