In a country renowned for its beautiful people, Venezuela has a monster for president. Hugo Chavez, formerly an army colonel, revolutionary, and currently elected president of Venezuela, is leading his 24 million people down the road to perdition.
After leading a bloody military insurrection, killing 40 civilians, Chavez served two years in prison, then resurfaced as leader of the leftist Movement of the Fifth Republic Party. Under the guise of cleaning up political corruption and uplifting 80 percent of Venezuela from beneath the poverty level, Chavez won the 1998 presidential election.
Hugo the Horrible immediately wrote a new voter-approved constitution, greatly expanding his power. Chavez’s inherently flawed anti-capitalist economic policies, including land redistribution and steps toward a government-controlled centralized economy, scared off billions in capital investment. Venezuela’s economy contracted eight percent in 2002. Inflation and unemployment currently stand at a staggering 30 and 17 percent, respectively.
The budding dictator allies himself with the world’s worst terrorists. He’s the only democratically elected president since the Gulf War to meet with Saddam Hussein, and regards Fidel Castro as a close friend. He tragically describes Cuba and Venezuela as “swimming together towards the same sea of happiness.”
While the U.S. courageously brings thousands of Al-Qaeda terrorists to justice in Afghanistan, Chavez denounces America for “fighting terror with terror.” Extrajudicial killings, torture of criminal suspects by police and government intimidation of the press are commonplace.
On April 11, 2002, Chavez ordered military troops to fire on peaceful anti-government protesters, leading to a short-lived military coup. In a dramatic display of civil disobedience, millions of Venezuelans went on nationwide strike in protest of Chavez between Dec. 2, 2002 and Feb. 4, 2003. Schools, factories, banks and almost all forms of commerce halted.
The state-controlled oil industry, representing half of Venezuela’s total revenue, still strikes. Venezuela is a founding member of OPEC and the world’s fourth largest producer of oil. The oil strike has driven up the cost of gasoline worldwide and lost Venezuela $4 billion in revenue. A reported four million Venezuelans have signed a petition to force early elections under the constitution.
Venezuela needs an honest leader who will preserve democratic ideals and bridge the tremendous income gap through a completely free-market economy. Foreign capital investment and government-funded literacy programs in Venezuela will bring about jobs, economic growth and self-sufficiency. Hugo Chavez has exposed himself as a corrupt, dictatorial, leftist demagogue. For the good of Venezuela and to prevent further bloodshed, Chavez must respect the overwhelming will of his people and abdicate power.
Pete Trombadore is a freshman majoring in Business Administration. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.