Column: Wise response is best for Venezuela
International headlines the past two weeks were dominated by dictators. Out east, North Korea's son of anarchy checked out some hoops with former NBA defensive robot, Dennis Rodman. Then, when Rodman, the bad-boy gone diplomat, declared Kim Jong Un to be a "cool" guy, suggesting the United States become his pal, Un went and heated up nuclear talk, verbally threatening to withdraw the armistice and bring fire back to South Korea and across the pacific.
Then Venezuelan officials marked the final in what appeared to be a matter of days left in the life of their president, Hugo Chavez. On March 6, his battle with cancer ended. Previously, his treatments in Cuba and then struggles with pneumonia and bouts with the flu were all well publicized. Politically, he was known for downgrading everything American, even his disease, in what he called a ploy by United States government officials to oust him from leadership.
Still, for many of his loyalists in Venezuela, he will be remembered for bringing their country back to the people: the hallmark of many Latin American revolutions. Under his rule, Venezuela took control of their resources and exchanged with the world their brand of petroleum, tourism and cultural vivacity. This process was, and still is, a rough tumble for the middle class in Venezuela. Interest in foreign trade with the United States became less of a priority, and ties with Iran, Afghanistan. Libya, China and Russia became pivotal. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how both countries respond.
Next for Venezuela, the world's eighth largest supplier of oil, will be elections 30 days from Chavez's passing. Between then, his exhumed body is on display and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. To pick up where he left off and perhaps if their people see fit is Chavez's promoted Vice President Nicolás Maduro.
From reports in Venezuela, there are still a ton of believers in Chavez ideals. But, what we have her in our community and in places like Miami where there are high volumes of Venezuelan immigrants, the attitude toward Chavez and his policies is not very positive.
The Venezuelan immigrant in the United States is usually here for one of three reasons: either they fled from Chavez's rule, were kicked out by Chavez, or moved by their own devices. Now that he has passed they are calling for free elections - emphasis on free.Here's what could happen.
Sure, people in Venezuela will get to vote. They will vote proud and vote in large number. But what might happen and what has happened before, is something will go wrong in the count or someone will change the vote and Maduro will be left as President.
This possibility worries many Venezuelans on U.S. soil who have family that were unable to have the freedom in this country that they now see as redeeming.To this point, I'd like to give an aside.An acquaintance began a conversation with me last week about average people and their relationship with authority; he even took it so far as to compare it with the election process.
He said people do not realize how much they need authority and how little authority needs them. Corruption, he said, was something you can find in any system of authority.He went on to say that he always puts forth this advice when it comes to voting: Always vote the newcomer. The incumbent is corrupt. The incumbent is so corrupt his corruptness had its own tradition. At least by voting with the newcomer there is hope that the new guy won't be as corrupt.Of course, there are two sides to each story, multiple names on the ballot.So, Venezuela, vote wisely.