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Venezuela’s Democratic Opposition Salutes the Past and the Future
It was 54 years ago, on January 23, 1958, that a civilian-military movement ousted Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez. Perez Jimenez, a colonel and a coup monger, had governed the country with an iron fist for the six years prior. Yesterday in Caracas, Venezuela’s Table for Democratic Unity (MUD - for its Spanish acronym) chose this auspicious day to present its unified plan of government to the nation, should their candidate win the October 7, 2012, presidential election. This 164 page document outlines the opposition coalition’s goals in education, poverty, agriculture, housing, security, and job creation. It stresses the need to return Venezuela’s foreign policy to acceptable international standards (i.e., forging alliances with democracies rather than autocrats like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), to reduce the military’s role in civilian affairs, and to work with the National Assembly to reverse some of the laws passed, under Chavez’s instruction, which violate the 1999 constitution. All of these issues are at the top of voters’ minds this election year. Adoption of the MUD plan is an important act of unity in a very uncertain time for Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez recently purged his cabinet, replacing civilians with hard-line military men, one of whom, the new Minister of Defense, is on the U.S. Treasury Department’s OFAC list for “material support to the FARC.” One would be forgiven for wondering if this move to strengthen the military over the civilian revolutionaries signifies a shift in the power dynamics inside the government; and what this new shift means for the upcoming elections. At the same time, a new report released by the Spanish newspaper ABC claims to have seen firsthand medical records for Chavez that indicate his cancer is far more progressed and his life expectancy much more precarious than official reports claim. While the MUD’s plan of government has received criticism that it does not give enough weight to dismantling the criminal elements within the Chavez government, it is right to stress stability, juxtaposing itself over what looks like an increasingly volatile social and political revolution. After more than a decade of chaos, the Venezuelan people are desperately searching for someone who can offer them peace and security, while not threatening the perceived benefits they have from Chavez’s socialist-style populism. Above all, they are looking for the opportunity to live in freedom, in a country where they are again guaranteed their fundamental political and civil liberties such as free and fair elections, property rights, respect for life, due process, and freedom of expression. This post written by Joel D. Hirst, a Human Freedom Fellow at the George W. Bush Institute. Find him on Twitter: @joelhirst