Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Vzla: Shut your mouth and give people a chance to like you, man!

With less than a month to go to Venezuela's critical recall referendum, an unwitting former Venezuelan president cavalierly damaged the opposition effort through his thuggish comments. Venezuela's opposition must take pains to ensure the country's political dinosaurs don't mar a hard-won opportunity to democratically oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez come Aug. 15.

It is hard to imagine a better gift to Mr. Chavez than the statements Carlos Andres Perez gave to Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional. Mr. Chavez "must die like a dog, because he deserves it," said Mr. Perez, who was impeached on corruption charges during his second term. Mr. Perez also said, "I am working to remove Chavez [from power]. Violence will allow us to remove him. That's the only way we have."

The former president, who lobbed the bloody barbs from his comfortable perch in Miami, said, "We can't just get rid of Chavez and immediately have a democracy... we will need a transition period of two to three years to lay the foundations for a state where the rule of law prevails."

When asked about the desire of Venezuelans to move forward on democratic reform, Mr. Perez hinted he sees a role for himself in this hypothetical, despotic future. "I am not the past, I am the future." But Mr. Perez is definitely part of Venezuela's past and personifies the kleptocracy and incompetence that originally gave rise to Mr. Chavez.


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