North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Venezuela election Sunday has South American impacts

Venezuela is a country of nearly 30 million people, similar to the population of Canada, or California ... Lying on the north coast of South America, it is a state with extremely high biodiversity, with habitats ranging from the Andes mountains in the west to the Amazon Basin rainforest in the south, extensive llanos plains, the Caribbean coast in the center and the Orinoco River Delta in the east.

Venezuela, on the north coast of South America

Sunday, there is an election scheduled for the Presidency. On the one hand, there is Hugo Chavez, a strongman with leftist perspectives, and a fond desire to be considered a leader among a number of sister countries in South America. On the other, there is a formidable challenger in the form of Henrique Capriles Randonski. The outcome is certainly unclear, the election campaign itself has seen instances of violence already, and the possibility remains for much mischief at the ballot boxes on voting day. Chavez, in power for the past 13 years has a long history of overcoming adversities, including surviving a coup attempt in 2002, as well as persevering through his recent bout with cancer.

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's leader since 1999

From one review, "Chávez describes his policies to be anti-imperialist and he is a vocal critic of neoliberalism and capitalism more generally, Chávez has been a prominent adversary of the United States' foreign policy. Allying himself strongly with the Communist governments of Fidel and then Raúl Castro in Cuba and the Socialist governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, his presidency is seen as a part of the socialist "pink tide" sweeping Latin America." Teatree adds that he is a firm and public supporter of Iran's President Ahmadinejad,

Chavez and Iranian President Ahmadinejad - firm ideological allies for over a decade

History and features

Venezuela was colonized by Spain in 1522 despite resistance from indigenous groups. It became the first Spanish American colony to declare independence eventually attaining it in 1830. For the past 182 years, it has had a series of caudillos (military strongmen) as rulers, along with intermittent democratic governments and military dictatorships. Hugo Chávez came to power in 1998, launching what he describes as "the Bolivarian Revolution" which led off with a writing of a new Constitution of Venezuela.

Venezuela consists of 23 states, the Capital District of Caracas, its main and capital city, and Federal Dependencies that have jurisdiction over the country's offshore islands. Interestingly, Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in Latin America; the vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north, especially in the capital, Caracas. With the discovery of oil in the early 1900's, Venezuela has since become one of the world's leading exporters, and still has large oil reserves.

Click on image for full picture
Venezuela, the country ...

Caracas, Venezuela's largest and capital city with over 4 million residents, contains 13% of the country's total population.

In sparsely populated southern Venezuela, one can find some of the wildest country on a continent already known for its exotic and pristine landscapes - from the Amazon jungle to the rugged mountainous tip of Argentina.

Venezuela's oil industry, producing over 2 million barrels a day, gives the country financial independence, though the wealth does not seem to trickle too deeply into the population.

The contender

Henrique Capriles Randonski - in a campaign poster - projecting youthful vitality and purpose ... and fashion.

From the BBC, "Henrique Capriles Randonski is 40, single, a lawyer by training, and has so far won every election he has contested. He had been the front-runner ever since Venezuela's united opposition parties announced they would choose a single candidate to stand against President Hugo Chavez in October's presidential poll. As the energetic governor of the state of Miranda, Mr Capriles liked to stay in touch with voters, visiting shantytowns, often on his motorbike, to supervise projects and play basketball with the locals."

From a US blog, Huffington Post, a recent article observes, "Officially, Capriles is a social moderate and advocates Brazilian-style development. That's a shrewd strategy, since Venezuelan politics tends to skew to the left and the Chávez opposition ran into a lot of problems in the past when it was perceived as too fanatically right wing. Capriles says he supports Chávez-style "mission" programs directed at the poor, but would administer the aid more efficiently. The opposition candidate has some street credibility on this score, having previously conducted a zero hunger program while serving as Governor of the important provincial state of Miranda."

Capriles campaigning as the unified candidate by several opposition parties

It is in foreign policy that an upset win by Capriles would have the largest impact. Again from the US blog, which is no friend of conservative perspectives, "it pains me to say it, Capriles could represent an improvement over the present government in certain respects. Over the years, Chávez has chosen to ally himself with some very questionable and politically backward regimes, for example Belarus, known as "Europe's last dictatorship." Capriles by contrast would reconsider ties to Belarus, Iran and Russia.

Such moves would certainly ingratiate Capriles in Washington, and it is not a stretch to imagine that U.S.-Venezuelan relations might recover from their long thaw [does the writer mean "freeze"?? Teatree] under Chávez. If that were to occur, it is also reasonable to assume that the ALBA bloc of left-leaning countries, which is largely reliant and dependent on Chávez's own oil largesse, could really implode and leave a political vacuum in its wake. The most likely beneficiary of such an implosion would likely be Brazil, a country which has begun to contest U.S. dominance in the wider region."

Interesting politics in South America ...


Sarah said...

heard a story today that Venezuela has closed it's consulate in Miami - home to at least 10,000 Venezuelan citizens. The closest one they can vote in is New Orleans so thousands will be driving/busing the 18 hours so that they can vote. (some, but not the majority, I heard the sum of 10 planes have been "reserved" for voters, will fly)

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