Responding to Andres Oppenheimer's recent article on Chavez's apparent downward spiral, I published the below comments on his blog.
They are recorded here:
Rosales has engineered a strong campaign, but he's still 13 points behind Chavez. I doubt Chavez will give up power easily, no matter what Venezuelans decide.
Outside Venezuela, his influence appears to have planed-out. But it's easy to arrive at this conclusion when you only ready major news papers. Talk to the people, visit the capitals, take a hard look at the realities of life down here, and you'll find there's still plenty of room for Chavez's influence to grow.
If he's an astute politician, and if he manages to get past the December elections without sparking a wave of violence in Caracas, Chavez needs to turn a corner to press what I consider to be an advantage in the region.
He needs to govern, to show some leadership, and to show some follow through. If chooses not to focus on the details of being a effective political leader, he runs the risk of wide spread disillusionment that follows in the wake of the hundreds of thousands of hopeful individuals - Latinos, Gringos, Europeos, quien sea - that are watching him, waiting for him to do more than put his money where his mouth is and make something happen. Venezuela is the first place to begin.
There's no reason to belive that Chavez can't work with Garcia, Uribe, Calderon, or other center-right leaders who have problems with poverty, hunger, sickness, etc.
But there's plenty of reason to belive that if Chavez doesn't do something soon, the disillusionment he creates will cause a fall out much worse than the most awful decisions made by the "Washington Consensus".
I'm not for or against Hugo. He has carved out a measure of regional influence for himself. It remains to be seen if he can do something with it.
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