Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Assassinating Hugo Chavez

In one of my classes last week we discussed the status of democracy in Venezuela. I showed a few short videos to introduce the topic, including Chavez calling Bush the "devil" at the UN; Pat Robertson calling for Chavez's assassination, and a short documentary explaining how the U.S. supported the attempted coup against Chavez in 2002.

My students then discussed the ways in which democracy has both improved in Venezuela (through national referenda and local community councils) and been threatened (through Chavez's centralization of power). We noted that poverty has been cut by over half since Chavez took power, and education and health are on the rise, despite an economic recession in 2002-2003. We noted how some of the non-democratic moves that Chavez has taken aren't all that different than the centralization of power in the Bush Administration. We talked about how economically linked the U.S. is with Venezuela, so much so that it would be impossible to sever ties.

Then something curious happened. I asked at the end, "If you were the incoming U.S. president in 2009, how would you treat relations with Chavez?" More than half the class said, "Assassinate him or support another military coup." Frankly, I was a bit taken aback by that. I asked why. "Because he's friends with bad guys like Ahmadenijad and Castro, so we need to get rid of him." They said this despite knowing that it would be illegal, and possibly against long-term U.S. economic and political interests in the region.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Maybe they were just trying to be provocative. Or maybe interventionism and disregard for international law has become so normalized in our society, that my students would consider such an action legitimate. Who knows.

Chavez is certainly no saint, but he has become so demonized in the U.S. that violent interventionism seems appropriate to some. My feeling is, if you're going to negotiate with any "enemy", then Venezuela is the quintessential case. It is absolutely ripe for a warming of relations, particularly in a new administration.


Acrobat said...

Yes, stunning. Again, for those in the assasination camp, how many of them also believe the will of god is "provable"? My guess is a very high correlation, together with a compelling causative narrative.

Of course many variables contribute to this mindset, Bush (evangelical) leadership among them. These people necessarily and explicitly appeal to a higher law than national & international law. What exactly is left?

Depressing state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Good luck with your students. Do they realize that they are as fundamentalist as the people they are passionately opposed to?