Venezuela: Democracy on the Edge

Ideas in Action with Jim Glassman is a new half-hour weekly series on ideas and their consequences.

He has taken a struggling democracy and slowly consolidated his hold on power, nationalizing key industries such as 

oil and food distribution.  Tyrant, Dictator, Socialist Hero; whatever you call him, Hugo Chavez is committed to keeping 

a tight rein on his power and those who oppose him.  And now he has stated a commitment to developing nuclear 

capabilities. What do his policies mean for U.S. foreign policy?


Transcript



JIM GLASSMAN:

00:00:01:00 Welcome to Ideas in Action, a television series about ideas and their consequences.  I'm Jim Glassman.  Venezuela's president has taken a struggling democracy and slowly consolidated his hold on power, nationalizing key industries such as oil and food distribution.  Tyrant.  Dictator.  Socialist hero.  Whatever you call him, Hugo Chavez is trying to keep a grip on politics in Venezuela and creating real problems for U.S. policy in Latin America.  But the man some people call "President for Life" may be losing the support of his people.


00:00:36:00 Joining me to explore this topic are Carlos Ponce, a fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy who served as the Secretary of Venezuela's National Human Rights Commission.  Mark Weisbrot, an economist and co-director of The Center for Economic and Policy Research.  He co-wrote Oliver Stone's documentary about Hugo Chavez, South of the Border.  And Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  He currently coordinates the American Enterprise Institute's program on Latin America.  The topic this week, Venezuela:  How do you solve a problem like Hugo?  This is Ideas in Action.

00:01:18:00 (MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER:

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JIM GLASSMAN:

00:01:52:00 Nearly ten percent of the U.S.'s oil is supplied by Venezuela.  Yet, its president, Hugo Chavez has been a thorn in the side of both the Obama and Bush administrations.  He increased government control of industries from oil to travel, seizing millions of dollars in assets from American companies like Hilton and Exxon.


00:02:11:00 His self-proclaimed socialist revolution alienates the capitalist world and embraces rogue states like Iran and North Korea.  He has championed domestic programs for the poor but his policies have resulted in a 30 percent annual inflation rate.


00:02:27:00 Polls show that almost half of the Venezuelan people oppose him.  And in the September 2020 elections, opposition candidates captured more than a third of the National Assembly.  Carlos, what does this election mean?  A third of the National Assembly captured by the opposition.

CARLOS PONCE:

00:02:45:00 The opposition is getting better and better.  They have been improving from an opposition that took for granted that Chavez was somebody who they can control-- when he won almost 11 years ago, to-- try-- nationalist strike.  Try a coup d'état.  Try failures.  Try-- try-- even-- even not to participate in the last el-- in the-- past election for the Congress.


00:03:10:00 So, now the opposition has gained a more and more coherent, kind of, approach.  They believe that it's failures of Chavez in terms of the government, and also winnings in terms of the opposition becoming more and more democratic for it.  And this means that all the game has been changed.  Now, Chavez needs to improve his way of government or to step aside-- in terms of-- of power.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:03:33:00 What about that, Mark?  Is Chavez losing power?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:03:36:00 I don't think that one third of the Assembly is really that-- a gain.  They could have had that in 2005-- according to the polls before that.  That was the last legislative--

00:03:45:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:03:46:00 -- But they boycotted the election.

MARK WEISBROT:

00:03:47:00 They boycotted the election for no real reason.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:03:48:00 So, you don't think that he's-- hi-- that his-- favorability, his support is declining--

00:03:52:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:03:53:00 --Well, just like, you know, President Obama declined-- from-- 68 percent approval to 45 percent today-- you know, 68 percent-- last year.  Chavez has declined similarly.  When there's a recession, the opposition gains.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:04:07:00 But does this mean he's going to have less power?  He doesn't have a super majority, as he did-- he had a two-third majority in the legislature.  He won't have that.  Does that mean he's going to lose some power?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:04:16:00 Well, sure.  But I mean, that's how democracy works.  I mean, they could have-- like I said, they could have had this power five years ago.  They chose instead to pursue-- a strategy of trying to overthrow the government.  And now they're participating.  And I think that's-- an advance for democracy in Venezuela.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:04:33:00 What about that Roger?  Chavez's supporters say that, you know, this was a fair election.  And-- and apparently the-- the opposition certainly did a lot better than it did before.  I mean, doesn't Venezuela have a real democracy?

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:04:44:00 Well, it has democracy Chavez-style.  First off, I congratulate the opposition for participating.  It's an obligation for any opposition to participate, offer new ideas and new vision.  But they did so, in this campaign, against the-- state having all of the resources of the state for-- behind Chavez's candidates.  The media-- virtually under control of Chavez.  There are some outlets that-- that-- that are independent.  But-- the vast majority of the communication is-- is on Chavez's side.  The rules rigged against the opposition.


00:05:16:00 And here's what I mean by Chavez-style.  In the past, when Chavez has lost these elections, and he has lost elections in the past, for example, the mayorship of Caracas, what he does is strip that entity of all of its power.  And I suspect that Chavez has the same thing in mind in terms of the Legislative Assembly.

00:05:33:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:05:35:00 Can I respond to that? A lot of this is just not-- true.  Okay, so this stuff about the media, for example.  I mean, there's an affiliate of Nielson that does surveys of how much-- audience watches the different television and the state-- television, as opposed to the private opposition-- controlled television.  The state has between five and ten percent of the market.  If you go and look and look at the newspapers, the biggest newspapers are opposition newspapers.

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:06:01:00 I'm not talking about soap operas--

00:06:02:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:06:03:00 --The radio is also-- well, the point is--

00:06:04:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:06:07:00 We've read a lot in the United States in liberal publications like The New Republic, for example, about the closing of outlets by Chavez.  For example, Globovision, one of the biggest networks in Venezuela.  Chavez put out-- an arrest warrant for Mr. Zuloaga, who's the owner of Globovision.  He shut down the-- the single most popular network in Venezuela or-- or took away their license.  So, you're saying that--

00:06:36:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:06:37:00 --Venezuela has a-- has-- a freer press and-- and more of an opposition press than the United States.

00:06:42:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:06:43:00 --It has more of an opposition press than the U.S.  There's no doubt about that.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:06:45:00 W-- explain that.

MARK WEISBROT:

00:06:46:00 You look at the newspapers, the radio and the television.  You add up who reads and-- well, who are the biggest circulation, who has the biggest audience?  It's the opposition TV.  And--

00:06:57:00 (OVERTALK)

CARLOS PONCE:

00:06:59:00 -- This is a balance--

00:07:00:00 (OVERTALK)

CARLOS PONCE:

00:07:01:00 --more oriented to the--

00:07:02:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:07:06:00 One at a time.

CARLOS PONCE:

00:07:07:00 The major TV station there right now is Venevision because of soap opera.  It used to be Radio Caracas Television.  And the government took control of Radio Caracas.  It's good or bad or-- or not.  But what Roger said is the government has been also changing all the electoral rules.


00:07:20:00 In July this year, just a month before the election, the government changed the electoral votes-- one month before the election.  If you travel to Venezuela, if you go there, you still see the sign in the street that major candidate in the whole country was Hugo Chavez, was not the members of his political party. It was Hugo Chavez. He was a single candidate-- against the opposition using all the power of the government.

00:07:43:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:07:45:00 What about these rules?  Let's talk about what-- what Roger said about changing the rules?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:07:47:00 This is, you know-- again, I mean, what do we do in the United States?  Let's compare it to the United States, okay?  I mean, every ten years we have a census and then the legislatures that redistrict.  And if the Republicans have power in the legislature and-- and governorship in a state, then they change and redraw the districts, okay.  There was a little bit of that in Venezuela.  Nothing compared to what we have here, okay.

00:08:11:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:08:13:00 --you know-- I mean--

00:08:14:00 (OVERTALK)

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:08:16:00 --free speech here, okay.  The point is 50 percent of the national votes for the opposition-- may I-- may I just finish my point.  And-- and if you said that-- what I said was untrue, tell me, is it correct that the opposition got roughly 50 percent of the votes and gets roughly 40 percent of the-- of the seats in the National Assembly?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:08:37:00 Yeah, that's absolutely right.  And--

00:08:39:00 (OVERTALK)

ROGER NORIEGA:

And that is absolutely unfair.

MARK WEISBROT:

00:08:40:00 In the U.K., the Labor Party has gotten 24 percent of the vote and gotten the majority of Parliament.  And you've had worse discrepancies in Spain.

00:08:47:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:08:48:00 --discrepancy in 2008, in the United States.

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:08:50:00 But look, you and I are Americans.  We're foreigners.  Our wish should be for-- the welfare of the Venezuelan people.  And I would hope that if Chavez were to, in the-- in the months ahead, disadvantage the Legislative Assembly because his people can't compete with the-- the Democratic opposition, which is a bunch of talented, independent people-- that if he does to the Legislative Assembly what he did to the mayorship of Caracas, then I would hope that you would be-- prepared to condemn anti-Democratic moves by Chavez against the legislative assembly--- I'm not counting on that happening. 

00:09:24:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:09:26:00 --for everything I disagree with them on.  And I'm not here to defend any government--

00:09:30:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:09:31:00 --Roger let me ask you a different question.  And I think this is something that-- that Mark certainly implies here.  The Venezuelans, it seems anyway, even though his-- his support has gone down, just as President Obama's support has gone down-- there's a lot of support for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.  Why should the United States be involved in being critical of his government or the way that elections are held when it's-- it seems, anyway, that the popular will's being expressed by-- him being in power.

CARLOS PONCE:

00:10:03:00 But I believe that the U.S. has not be-- to be involved in Venezuela.  That's one of the major problems.  It's a problem of the Venezuelan and the Venezuelan needs to figure out how to-- how to solve their problems.  Their problems with Hugo Chavez-- Hugo Chavez is not the major problem of Venezuela.


00:10:18:00 Hugo Chavez is a consequence of bad government.  Hugo Chavez is consequence of the-- the people were telling the governments in Venezuela, before Hugo Chavez, when the-- when they took a president to jail because of corruption.  Then came a government that had the opportunity to solve some of those-- social problems and promised that the president (UNINTEL).  And he just-- slipped in-- under his own promise.  And then Chavez came in a time when people wanted change.  But Chavez is not the one who has been delivering the changes.  Chavez is one more of this autocrats governments of Latin America.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:10:51:00 Let me ask Roger th-- the same question.  What is-- what is the United States' interest in Venezuela?  I mean, Venezuela has not-- the-- they haven't attacked the United States.  We buy ten percent of their oil.  We obviously have a relationship with them there.  So, w-- why should we be concerned about what goes on internally in Venezuela?

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:11:11:00 Well, an unaccountable autocratic militaristic regime that makes alliances with the likes of Iran and Cuba and even Russia and China should be of concern to the United States.  And this is-- this is a regime that, because of the lack of democracy-- can do what it wishes with the substantial-- petroleum resources-- and to undermine-- U.S. interest in the region.


00:11:37:00 And what we should be concerned with is the drug trafficking, which goes on unabated with com-- with virtual complicity of-- of the Chavez regime.  His ties to Iran, his illegal support-- for the-- Iranian nuclear program, perhaps the mining of uranium in Venezuela by-- by the Iranians, which is also illegal, his support-- for-- terrorist guerillas in Columbia that are-- waging a proxy war-- against-- al-- a member of the United Nations-- Columbia, which is a violation of international law.  All of things should be of interest to the United States.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:12:13:00 Th-- those--

00:12:14:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:12:15:00 --sounds like pretty serious concerns, Mark.

00:12:16:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:12:17:00 --Are you bothered by them?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:12:18:00 I can pick, you know, any one of those.  You know, look at the terrorism allegation, for example, okay.  General Doug Fraser, who's the head of the U.S. Southern Command, was testifying before Congress on March 11 and-- John McCain, Senator McCain, asked him about this allegation.  And he said, "We have been very-- paying very close attention and we don't find any connection between the government of Venezuela and terrorism."

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:12:40:00 Mark, he contradicted that the following day--

00:12:40:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:12:42:00 Yeah, and the next day, of course, he met with the State Department and then he changed his statement.  But I happen to believe that he was right the first time because he's the one with the satellite data.  He knows what's going on there.  And he didn't see anything--

00:12:54:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:12:56:00 --eight years-- that's right, in eight years--

00:12:58:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:12:59:00 We've had anonymous officials saying this for eight years now in the United States.  And not once has the United States government presented one shred of evidence to back up this assertion.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:13:10:00 How about President Chavez's temporary powers to rule by decree?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:13:15:00 Yeah.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:13:15:00 What about that?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:13:17:00 Well-- he doesn't have those right now.  He had that-- for a while a little over a year ago.  The Assembly voted to give it to him.  And again, our Assistant Secretary of State, Tom Shannon, said, "Well, that's constitutional."  And, you know-- and-- and, you know, he didn't abuse it, by the way.


00:13:31:00 I mean, there wasn't anything that he ruled against-- he ruled or-- or did anything.  It was mainly used against foreign companies-- in order to get-- you know, in order to do some of these nationalizations that you talked about, which by the way, are a lot less than a lot of other counties-- certainly less than Bolivia.


00:13:45:00 And the state in Venezuela is-- is still a lot smaller in its role in the economy than the state in France, for example.  So, this is-- you know, all-- everything you hear about Venezuela is exaggerated.  You're getting the-- the tea party view of Venezuela here in the United States.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:13:59:00 What-- what about-- w-- he says-- he says that the view is exaggerated.  One of the things that-- that-- a lot of Americans are concerned about is pursuing business people, Barrueco.  I mean, I could name a whole bunch of them who have either been put into prison or have been tried to-- ha-- have been-- escaped the country because of charges.  And some people say that's because Chavez wants to nationalize their businesses or take them over himself.  Is there any truth to that?

CARLOS PONCE:

00:14:25:00 The problem is that-- when the government controls the judiciary.  And even right now, the government is in a hurry to appoint all the-- all the justices from the supreme tribunal before the election-- before the opposition gets into the Congress.


00:14:36:00 When you try to do business in Venezuela, you have to face the judiciary.  And you don't have anywhere to go.  And you have to face a government that can decide whatever they want, any time they want, because the president decides that day that that business needs to be nationalized.  You don't have the tools to do good business in Venezuela.  So you have the risk all the time.  And that's why you-- all the business is growing now in Venezuela, business from people around the government.  And they're going to get into trouble when the government (UNINTEL).

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:15:04:00 And-- and is this having an impact on the economy?  I mean, the Venezuelan economy is, kind of, amazing.  You have the-- the sixth or the eighth largest producer of oil in the world and  yet, they're now one of the few countries in the world that-- that's actually going to-- won't grow this year.  In other words, the recession continues.  And they've got 30 percent inflation rate.  W-- why is that?

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:15:26:00 The economy's collapsing because-- governments can't run-- the private sector.  But governments have proven in Venezuela, for example, that they can't deliver food as-- as efficiently as the private sector can.  So, you see food rotting on-- on-- in-- all over Venezuela.


00:15:43:00 And the economy is going to collapse.  The-- you see shortages of-- of-- of energy-- ha-- blackouts-- that are collapsing the private sector.  And it-- and it's an extraordinary problem.  The-- returning to this issue of the Legislative Assembly.  There's a banner outside the-- legislative palace-- today that has a picture of Hugo Chavez that says, "Welcome opposition deputies.  Help us build a country that you're going to flee from."


00:16:12:00 That's the message that we're supposed to-- accept as some-- as indicating some sort of democratic vocation or democratic convit-- commitment.  He's essentially saying that they're going to run-- continue to run out of the country, anybody that opposes him.

00:16:26:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:16:27:00 --What do you think Mark, about the future of the-- of the National Assembly?  Do you think that-- that Roger's right, that you've seen examples of Chavez essentially stripping power from institutions where the opposition has moved in.  Do you think that's gon-- just as a prediction, do you think that might happen with the n-- with the National Assembly?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:16:46:00 Probably not that much.  No.  I mean, it's-- it's-- you know, they had the Assembly.  They had 48 percent of the Assembly-- back in-- in 2004, you know-- before they boycotted the election.  And there was compromise.  And there was back and forth.  For example, when they had to appoint an electoral council for the 2004 referendum.  They had a long negotiation process.  And-- they ended up with-- you know-- a pretty-- balanced council.


00:17:14:00 So, on the economy, you know, this is something that I actually-- you know, study and have-- have written about.  And, you know, the economy's probably already begun to recover in the second quarter, if you use-- seasonally adjusted data.  And these guys have been talking about the collapse of the Venezuelan economy for, like, eight years now.


00:17:31:00 And, you know, from 2003, when-- the government got control over the oil industry to 2008, the economy doubled in real terms, in size.  It's adjusted for inflation, okay.  And-- poverty was reduced by-- you know, more than half, extreme poverty by more than 70 percent.  And-- and then they went into recession, like most of the countries in the hemisphere in 2008.  And then they're going to come out--

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:17:55:00 Right.  They're the only country, though, according to the economists or consensus--

00:17:59:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:18:01:00 -- that will decline this year in Latin America--

00:18:02:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:18:03:00 --recession went on--

00:18:04:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:18:05:00 --and they've got all this oil.

MARK WEISBROT:

00:18:07:00 Yeah, well, their recession went on perhaps one or two quarters more than some--

00:18:11:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:18:13:00 --It wasn't as deep as Mexico, for example.  They didn't lose as much as--

00:18:16:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:18:17:00 --Mexico is going to grow this year.

MARK WEISBROT:

00:18:18:00 Yeah, but Mexico--

00:18:19:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:18:21:00 --shrank eight percent in 2009.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:18:23:00 So, you're pretty sanguine about the Venezuelan economy--

MARK WEISBROT:

00:18:25:00 I'm saying that, you know, these stories of collapse-- it's like everything else.  It's just exaggerated.  I'm not sanguine about it they have real problems.  But they have real problems just like everyone else.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:18:35:00 Do you think their problems are related to what Roger said-- the-- the fact that there are all businesses that have been nationalized, there's all this worry-- as Carlos said, about the judges coming in and saying, you know, "We're going to take your com-- your company away," or "We're not going to allow you to operate"?  I mean, is th-- is that kind of thing a damper on economic-- prosperity?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:18:57:00 I think that, you know, in every country-- this-- Venezuela's not the only country with a left government in South America.  It's the majority now.  In every one of these countries, you have had some problems with foreign-- investors.  And the rules of the game have changed.  And, yeah, that's going to be a problem.  And they're all focusing on Venezuela 'cause they want to isolate the guy with the oil--- and make it look like he's--

00:19:16:00 (OVERTALK)

CARLOS PONCE:

00:19:20:00 --like Brazil-- that has been actually reduce in poverty because the numbers in Venezuela are not quite clear when they call unemployment "unoccupation."  And they begin to change the name of the stuff to manipulate the system. I prefer--

00:19:33:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:19:35:00 --The IMF and the World Bank and the U.N. accept their numbers, okay.

CARLOS PONCE:

00:19:36:00 Well, okay.  But-- but--

00:19:37:00 (OVERTALK)

CARLOS PONCE:

00:19:38:00 --in Brazil--

00:19:39:00 (OVERTALK)

CARLOS PONCE:

00:19:40:00 --A left government like Lula's.  It's a good government reducing-- with social problems, implement the problems with democratic ways, respecting opposition, respecting everyone, respecting civil society.  Civil society in Venezuela has been under threat for the last eight years because Chavez from one day decided to begin-- at-- an action against civil society.

MARK WEISBROT:

00:20:00:00 Civil society also tried to overthrow the government and succeeded--

00:20:02:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:20:03:00 --for 48 hours--

CARLOS PONCE:

00:20:04:00 What-- what civil society was that?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:20:05:00 In 2002.

00:20:06:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:20:07:00 --the same people your-- your opposition that you're talking about--

00:20:08:00 (OVERTALK)

CARLOS PONCE:

00:20:09:00 --I was opposed to to-- to the-- to the temporary government--

00:20:11:00 (OVERTALK)

CARLOS PONCE:

00:20:13:00 --The majority of the respectful NGOs-- they were against that.  And now-- on the--

MARK WEISBROT:

00:20:17:00 Well--

CARLOS PONCE:

00:20:18:00 The majority of NGOs-- Radio Pollo, Fotopalorvida (PH), that's-- that's-- a group of NGOs.  And not so much for the organization have been facing persecution for government.

00:20:28:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:20:29:00 Let me bring Roger in here.

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:20:30:00 --is-- what-- what Mark is doing is what Chavez does-- this McCarthyite-- denunciation-- tarring all of the NGOs because if you can say that they tried to overthrow the government in an illegal way, you can treat them like criminals.  And what they are, are Democrats who want the best for their country.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:20:51:00 W-- what about what Mark says about other governments in Latin America?  It's true.  Brazil has a left government.  You can, sort of, say Peru has a left government.  But these are-- th-- these are countries that are actually prospering to-- a great degree.  What-- what's the difference?

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:21:07:00 Absolutely. The governments that respect the rule of law grow.  Governments that want plural democratic institutions grow.  Those that don't, fail.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:21:16:00 L-- let me go to an issue that we, kind of, touched on very briefly, and that is oil.  Roger, you are concerned that-- Venezuela's a major supplier of oil to the United States and we should be worried about what?

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:21:31:00 Actually, I'm not concerned.  I think that we should be mindful of the fact that Chavez has every intention of ending the Venezuelan independence on the U.S. market for oil.  He is looking for alternative-- markets.  He has every right to do that.  The Chinese are perfectly-- willing to do that.  They're putting more money in-- agreed to pay $20 billion to Venezuela.  They're building the refineries and the tankers that will take that Venezuelan product.


00:21:56:00 We, as (LAUGHS) Americans, need to be prepared-- to take up the slack and find other sources of oil.  And that will happen over time.  It's a market.  It's a commodity.  I am not-- I don't carry any brief for U.S. petroleum companies.  But they better wise up because Chavez has every intention of ending-- sales of Venezuelan petroleum-- to-- to u-- to the U.S. market.

MARK WEISBROT:

00:22:17:00 Can I respond to this charge of McCarthyism because I find this deeply ironic.  I mean, in Washington, anybody who even tries to give-- you know, this is-- you know, and I congratulate you, by the way, for having this show, because this is the first show on national TV in the United States that actually has had a discussion like this where more than one side of the story on Venezuela has been-- presented.


00:22:38:00 And so, the McCarthyism's really in the other direction.  I'm not tarring all the civil society groups or even the opposition in Venezuela.  I'm just-- all I mentioned that was because there-- that was part of the-- that's part of the stories.  And I'm not letting the government off the hook either.  I think the government has been unnecessarily-- polarizing, as well.


00:22:56:00 But-- in-- in terms of, you know, being able to talk about this and have a reasonable discussion, this is-- you know, what is all this stuff about Iran?  Brazil has-- very good relations with Iran, the same as Venezuela.  Vaz-- Brazil has publicly defending the right of Iran to enrich uranium--

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:23:13:00 Let me let Roger respond on the Iran point.  And then we really have to wrap things up.  Is there a difference-- between the relationship between-- Venezuela and Iran and that of Brazil and Iran?

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:23:23:00 Well, the-- the Iranians aren't helping the Brazilians develop-- nuclear technology.  If the-- the-- the ir-- the Iranians are cooperating a nuclear technology with-- Venezuela, it's documented.  The-- the agreement was signed in November of-- of-- 2008 or '09.  And that's-- against U.N. resolutions.

00:23:48:00 (OVERTALK)

MARK WEISBROT:

00:23:50:00 --about this.  And they don't have any concerns about this--

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:23:51:00 Quick-- quick question for everybody.  And we're going to go around the table.  What do you think-- do you think that Chavez will be reelected in 2012?

CARLOS PONCE:

00:24:00:00 It depends how-- how he-- he move from now to 2012.  He will begin to-- to change all the rules again.  He-- because any time that he loses an election, he changes the rule again.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:24:10:00 Okay, but yes or no?

CARLOS PONCE:

00:24:12:00 I hope no.  I hope that opposition's going to begin improving.  And I hope that this is going to be-- a major movement of people against Chavez in the next-- election.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:24:21:00 Roger.

ROGER NORIEGA:

00:24:22:00 If the process is more fair, if the opposition is able to-- to change the rules of the game to where there's a more level playing field, in terms of access to the media, et cetera-- they can end, if they're unified.  I think they can give him-- a real contest.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:24:37:00 You think Chavez will be reelected in 2012?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:24:39:00 I think probably.  I mean, again, the opposition does control-- still a majority of the media.  And they have a majority of the wealth and income of the country 'cause these are the richer people.  So, they have advantages.  And it's true that the state abuses its-- incumbency, like it does in most countries in this hemisphere.

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:24:56:00 You think Chavez will win?

MARK WEISBROT:

00:24:57:00 I think he'll probably win because-- you know, he's the only president they've ever had who has really sided with poor people.  And that's still a really large part of the poor-- population, poor or working people.  And they've gained a real lot in terms of education, healthcare and-- and everything else.  So, they'll vote to reelect him.

00:25:15:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:25:17:00 I'm sorry?

CARLOS PONCE:

00:25:18:00 According to him, it's a perfect country.  It's good to know because the people that live in Venezuela think in different way.  And you have to go there and see that the people think in different ways.

00:25:26:00 (OVERTALK)

JIM GLASSMAN:

00:25:31:00 That's the last word.  Thank you, Carlos.  Thank you, Mark.  And thank you, Roger.  Before we go, I want to remind viewers that you can catch Ideas in Action whenever and wherever you choose.  To watch complete shows, just go to our website, ideasinactiontv.com or download a pod cast from the iTunes store.  And that's it for this week's Ideas in Action.  I'm Jim Glassman.  Thanks for watching.

00:25:58:00 (MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER:

00:26:13:00 For more information, visit us at ideasinactiontv.com.  Funding for Ideas in Action is provided by Investor's Business Daily.  Every stock market cycle is led by America's never-ending stream of innovative new companies and inventions.  Investor's Business Daily helps investors find these new leaders as they emerge.  More information is available at investors.com.  This program is a production of Grace Creek Media.

* * *END OF AUDIO* * *

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *



2 Comments

I just want to say that I would REALLY LOVE to live in the fantastic country Mark Weisbrot describes. Alternatively, I would invite Mark to come spend say 3 months in Venezuela, living like a Venezuelan, and then interview him again, see what he has to say then.

I am not an anti-Chavez fanatic, but from there to actually saying things like proverty has decreased by 70% (!!!) or that the economy is recovering despite a steady 30% annual inflation rate, well, I wonder if we are talking about the same country...

Excellent show! Please allow the guests back for more discussion and alternative views on Venezuela!

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Featured Guests

Roger Noriega

Coordinator of the American Enterprise Institute's program on Latin America

Roger Noriega currently coordinates the American Enterprise Institute’s program on Latin America. He started his career working for legislators including Benjamin Gilman and Jesse Helms. While working for Senator Helms he co-authored the Hlems-Burton law which tightened the Cuban embargo. 
After moving to the State Department, under President George W. Bush, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere and United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Carlos Ponce

Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy

Carlos Ponce is the general coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy, as well as a fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, where he works with civil society groups across the Caribbean and Latin America to promote human rights and democracy. He previously served as the secretary of Venezuela’s National Human Rights Commission. Mr. Ponce founded the Justice and Development Consortium, a nongovernmental organization in Venezuela that “develops justice-reform and conflict-resolution programs at the local level.”

Mark Weisbrot

Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and the co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington DC based economic research and education think tank. His research includes international economic growth, trade and policy. In addition to a nationally syndicated column he is the co-author of Social Security the Phony Crisis, and he co-wrote Oliver Stone’s documentary about Hugo Chavez, “South of the Border.”

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