Sunday, June 24, 2018
Opinion

Chavez: from friend to foe

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president famous for anti-American rhetoric, died Tuesday. He referred to the United States as "a bad person," "an assassin," and "a violent invader." He wondered aloud whether the United States was responsible for a spate of cancer diagnoses among Latin American leftists.

Perhaps most famously, Chavez called George W. Bush the devil and claimed the U.S. president left a sulfur smell around the U.N. speakers' podium. What did the United States do to make Hugo Chavez so mad?

It pushed free trade.

No one knew quite what to make of Hugo Chavez when he rose to international prominence in 1998. A Venezuelan historian who resigned from Chavez's constitutional reform commission told the Associated Press in 1999: "One doesn't know if Chavez is a fascist, a communist, an anarchist, a Peronist, a Fidelist. We just don't know. Maybe he's none of that, maybe he's all of it."

The most common charge at the time was that Chavez was a potential dictator, and U.S. ambassador to Venezuela John Maistos denied candidate Chavez a visa to visit the United States on those grounds.

Nevertheless, after his election, there were some green shoots suggesting that Chavez and the United States could enjoy an amicable working relationship. Chavez vowed to leave U.S. investments intact. (He later reneged on that promise.) He personally charmed the editorial board of the Washington Post by rejecting "irresponsible populism."

As impossible as it may seem today, Chavez wielded the ceremonial gavel at the New York Stock Exchange and threw the first pitch at a New York Mets game in 1999.

The relationship between the United States and Chavez took a decisive turn at the Third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001. The Bush administration's top priority was finalizing the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which would have extended NAFTA throughout the Americas (excluding Cuba).

Chavez was convinced the agreement would entrench disparities between the region's wealthy and poor countries. He accused the Bush administration of bullying smaller neighbors and treating the free trade agreement as a certainty "written on Moses' tablets."

Although Chavez and Bush made weak attempts at reconciliation at the meeting — they told each other they wanted to be "friends" on the summit's final day — the meeting showed Chavez that his surest path to global significance was as an opponent of the United States. Chavez repeatedly claimed that the CIA was trying to assassinate him and that the United States attempted to oust him from office in 2002.

The fracturing of the relationship between Chavez and the United States bears a startling resemblance to the course of interactions between the United States and Fidel Castro, another cancer-stricken Latin American leftist leader. After seizing power, Castro visited the United States and met with Vice President Richard Nixon, who thought Castro had strong leadership qualities despite being "incredibly naive" about communism.

The Cuban revolutionary even took the opportunity to visit Yankee Stadium.

The U.S. bond with Cuba soured over economic issues, just like the U.S.-Venezuela relationship would several decades later. Castro nationalized the property of American companies and wealthy Cuban citizens early in his regime, putting him in conflict with the United States, which repeatedly tried to overthrow and assassinate Castro.

© 2013 Slate

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18