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Even Hugo Chavez needs the support of the people in order to rule. That’s one way to read the Venezuela president’s dramatic return to Caracas on Monday. After disappearing into the Cuban health system and then emerging last week with a pre–recorded message announcing that he has cancer, Chavez likely knew he would need a dramatic moment in order to rally public support. So in the early morning hours, he arrived in Venezuela wearing military fatigues while promising to go on fighting for his health and his political goals. And within a short time of his arrival, supporters turned up in the streets of Caracas chanting “He’s back!” When Chavez stepped onto the balcony of the presidential palace later in the day, thousands of his allies were in the city’s main square with placards and chants and talking to reporters. The irony of this seemingly strong return is that it shows how much Chavez needs popular support. What crowds give, they can also take away. In society, political power resides with the people, who grant it to their political leaders either explicitly through elections or implicitly by tolerating a tyrant’s rule. Chavez has remained in power for more than a decade by blending explicit support with implicit support that he claims to have even as his allies have made it difficult for mass protests to be organized against him. Now the claim of implicit support could slip away. To emerge empowered by next year’s presidential election, Chavez needs public displays of affection for his leadership. He’s likely to seek those in a coming campaign he hinted at this week by saying his flight back to Venezuela is only the “beginning” of his return. But the need for such a campaign creates an opening for Venezuelan democrats, if they can take advantage of it. Each demonstration against him now puts Chavez in the position of having to prove he is popular after all. That’s a tall order at time when the oil rich nation’s economy is floundering.
Brendan Miniter is director of historical scholarship for the George W. Bush Institute. Previously he was senior editorial director for the Bush Institute and served as President and Mrs. Bush’s liaison to the presidential museum design team. Mr. Miniter is the co-author and editor of The 4% Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs, a book containing chapters from two dozen leading thinkers, including five Nobel Laureates, published in July 2012.
Before joining the Bush Institute, Mr. Miniter edited Mitch Daniels’ best-selling book, Keeping the Republic, and Karl Rove’s best-selling autobiography, Courage and Consequences. Mr. Miniter also edited John Bridgeland’s book Heart of the Nation, and wrote the chapter on President Zachary Taylor for Presidential Leadership, a book published by Simon & Schuster and The Wall Street Journal. For nearly 10 years, Mr. Miniter served as a writer and editor for The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.
Mr. Miniter has provided on-air commentary for Fox News, CNN, and CNBC as well as ABC’s The John Batchelor Show, Fox’s Brian Kilmeade & Friends and other national radio programs. He holds a bachelor of arts in history from George Mason University.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