View Full Version : The mad adventures of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez

09-20-2009, 01:57 PM
Just a few days ago, Hugo Chavez returned home from a fine adventure. He traveled the world for 11 days, visited nine states, made new friends and slapped the backs of longtime buddies, too.

Chavez, of course, is Venezuela's president, and being the charitable sort he decided to go see some fellow dictators who get few visitors, in Belarus, Libya, Iran and Turkmenistan, among others.

Back home, just before he left, the other Latin American presidents laughed at him during a regional summit meeting. They didn't agree that Chavez's big bully, the United States, was about to "loose the winds of war," as he put it, by building military bases in Colombia. Chavez didn't like that. So he went away. And on this trip, Chavez showed the world who he really is.

He arrived in Libya in time for Moammar Khadafy's big party - the 40th anniversary of the day Khadafy seized power in a coup, while Libya's king was away, seeing a doctor. Khadafy gave Chavez a big hug. The Libyan leader likes to sleep in a tent, but Chavez had to stay in a hotel. There wasn't room for all 26 of his bodyguards in the back yard. The next day he went to the party and then flew on to Syria.

There he played to the crowd and called Israel "a country that annihilates people and is hostile to peace." Most newspapers in the region published stories. Last time he was there, he dubbed himself "Chavez of Arabia." That also got coverage.

At home, Chavez doesn't have so many friends anymore. All those presidents laughing at him was the latest indication that they are turning ever more hostile to his socialist agenda - and growing authoritarian rule. With President George W. Bush long gone, Chavez's vitriolic attacks on Washington don't bring the sympathy they used to. President Obama is quite popular in Latin America.

American presidents frequently travel when they are in trouble at home. Richard Nixon did it during Watergate. So did Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal, Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky investigation - and George W. Bush during his second term, when everything was going wrong.

In Venezuela, the murders, assaults, robberies and general epidemic of criminal violence can no longer be called a crime wave because waves eventually pass. Month to month, inflation fluctuates between 25 and 30 percent. Food shortages come and go.

But in most of the states Chavez visited, there's no independent press to complain about problems like these. Belarus, for example, is known as Europe's last dictatorship. Last year, Minsk and Washington both withdrew their ambassadors from Venezuela. But when Chavez arrived in Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko thanked him for his "colossal support." Chavez, ever the jokester, told him: "I bring greetings from the Axis of Evil." He had just been in Iran, though he hadn't made it to the other members of this special club, North Korea and Iraq. Maybe next trip.

Along the way, an aide told him that Alvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia, had contracted swine flu. The two men are not friends because Chavez was caught providing guns to guerrillas trying to overthrow Uribe's government. To the news of Uribe's illness, Chavez chirped: "I'm feeling fine. I am feeling so well that yesterday I pitched 10 innings" in a baseball game.

Chavez had been to Moscow six times before, so he knew he had to do something special this trip. He offered diplomatic recognition to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the two territories Russia seized in a war with Georgia last year. That went over well. Other than Russia, only one other state had recognized the two new "nations" - Nicaragua, ruled by Chavez's close friend Daniel Ortega, the former Sandinista leader.

He went on to Spain, where he traipsed to a bookstore, reporters and acolytes trailing, to buy "The Funeral of Capitalism."

In 2007, he got into trouble when he misbehaved, heckling the Spanish prime minister while he was giving a speech. King Juan Carlos finally told him: "Why don't you just shut up!" Across Latin America after that, the king's catch phrase was printed on T-shirts, and millions of people downloaded a recording of Juan Carlos saying "Shut up!" as a cell-phone ring tone.

Chavez knows he was bad. So to make up, he told the king he looked just like his good friend Fidel Castro, the former Cuban president. "He has grown a beard like Fidel," Chavez declared with a grin, pointing at the king.

Juan Carlos responded with a slight, strained smile.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/20/INVO19NHEH.DTL#ixzz0RfeD7BMG

09-20-2009, 02:09 PM
Damn. This guy is just everywhere, huh?

09-21-2009, 09:34 PM
You know, when the king of Spain told El Jefe to shut up, that was the second time I was proud of him. The first time was when he pissed on Franco's grave by giving the country its government back.