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The news that Hugo Chávez is being treated for cancer presents Venezuela’s democratic opposition with a unique opportunity. Chávez has ruled for more than a decade in part by presenting himself as all but invincible. Now, as he is waylaid in the Cuban health system, his aura of invincibility is crumbling. And as it crumbles, the opposition has a chance to break through the fear Chávez has used to repress the desire of his people to be free. Venezuela’s democrats have spent years preparing for this moment. They’ve organized against Chávez, worked hard to perform well in last September’s parliamentary elections, and (after years of disunity) are starting to unite behind common goals. The opposition also boasts a number of popular figures, including Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles, Caracas city mayor Antonio Ledezma, former Chacao district mayor Leopoldo López, and Táchira state governor César Pérez Vivas as well as National Assembly member María Corina Machado. Any one of these individuals – or someone else -- could emerge as a strong candidate against Chávez (or a Chávez stand-in) in next year’s presidential vote. The opportunity here is to pull Venezuela back from the brink of economic ruin by creating an open democracy. Chávez has, as Condoleezza Rice said at a Bush Institute conference in Dallas earlier this year, “wrecked his country.” Venezuelans suffer double-digit inflation, food and housing shortages and electricity rationing even though their country is rich in oil at a time when oil has been booming. They also face an explosion in drug trafficking, frightening levels of violent crime, and widespread corruption. And they suffer a regime that has shown it can organize forces that can control the outcome of elections, unleash violence on opponents, and oppress millions of people. News reports indicate that Chávez had a cancerous tumor removed, has undergone at least two surgeries, and is remaining in Cuba indefinitely to receive treatment. All of which suggests he has a very aggressive form of cancer. He could yet make a dramatic return to Caracas, rally his supporters, and remain in the presidential palace. But gone is a sense of inevitability, which ushers in an idea that would be dangerous to any tyrant: It’s now possible to imagine a not too distant time without Hugo Chávez in power. Versión española »
Amanda Schnetzer serves as Fellow, Global Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas.
Previously, Amanda served as Director Global Initiatives after serving as founding director of the Human Freedom Initiative. In this role, she was responsible for developing innovative research, programmatic, and policy efforts to advance societies rooted in political and economic freedom and to empower women to lead in their communities and countries.
Amanda has twenty years of experience in the international arena and a background in public policy research and analysis, public affairs, and management of diverse, high-level stakeholders. As senior fellow and director of studies at Freedom House in New York, Amanda guided research for the organization’s definitive studies of freedom. She began her career at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, supporting research on U.S. foreign policy and international politics. Amanda is a published writer and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.Full Bio
Chinese Prisoner’s Death Holds a Message for Americans and China
Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner died this week. His death holds a message for Americans and for China.
Release of Chinese Political Prisoner a Timely Reminder to Support Freedom Advocates Abroad
More than half the world’s population still lives in countries where basic political rights and civil liberties are only partly respected, if at all.
Bringing Freedom to the Forefront of 21st Century Politics
Is the global liberal democratic order in danger? Purposefully constructed in the aftermath of World War II, this order -- and the American leadership that is central to its success --has contributed to securing peace and expanding prosperity in the United States and around the world. Today, that order appears to be dissolving. This crisis is not new or sudden; it has been mounting for several years. Global challenges like authoritarian capitalism, violent extremism, demographic pressures, and displaced populations have placed global freedom in decline. Fraying traditional alliances united by core values of freedom are increasingly weak to respond. It is alarming that the downdraft in democratic resilience over the past decade or more includes countries that have long been part of the consolidated democratic West. This is democratic deconsolidation. In much of the Western world, we see a rise in demagogic populism, illiberalism, nationalism, protectionism, and waning conf
The Importance of Speaking Truth to Tyrants
What the president of the United States says matters. Even during the realpolitik policies of détente under Richard Nixon, it was still clear that American policy was based on a set of core values. Nixon’s practical goals of reaching deals with America’s adversaries was never based on the “great chemistry” with himself or praising the Soviet or Communist Chinese leadership doing a “fantastic job.” When the president aligns himself with the autocrats and dictators, he aligns America with their oppression. He sends a message that corruption and brutality are not our concern. Contrast that with how Ronald Reagan defied much of world opinion in calling out the brutality of the Soviet system. Natan Sharansky, then a refusenik imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, later wrote for the Weekly Standard of his thoughts on Reagan’s pronouncement that the USSR was an evil empire: “It was the great, brilliant moment whe