Monday, December 3, 2007

Sen. Levin Needs Some Perspective

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) delivered a few disturbing remarks this weekend regard Venezuela and oil.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned that attempts by the US to intervene in Venezuela's internal affairs could result in Venezuela withholding its oil exports to the US – a type of economic threat the US has wielded over and over again. Chavez earlier warned that military strikes against Venezuela or Iran would result in oil prices reaching as high as $200 per barrel.

Responding to President Chavez's warning against US interference in Venezuela, Sen. Levin said that Venezuela gives a perfect example of why the US needs to become independent of oil for its energy resources. Levin added that the US shouldn't have to take threats from "dictators."

Sen. Levin is a smart guy, so one can only assume he is deliberately fudging the picture to make his point. Thinking people accept that the US has to become independent of oil, and should support the New Direction Congress and Levin's legislative efforts to make that happen. To protect the planet, we need real alternatives to petroleum (and coal and nuclear energy).

But lashing out at Chavez is gratuitous and wrong. President Chavez isn't a dictator. He has been elected three times and easily defeated an effort to recall him (partially funded by US sources) – all of these elections were judged fair and transparent.

The US involvement in the 2002 coup against Chavez, during which the US-supported coup leader unilaterally dissolved all of Venezuela's democratic institutions and essentially appointed himself dictator, gives Venezuelans some right to be wary of US interference in their affairs.

President Chavez's response to having lost the referendum yesterday (Dec. 2) was also not the action of a dictator.

The content of the reforms which he proposed were also far from an attempt to establish a dictatorship. The most controversial proposal, to eliminate term limits, is not unheard of – check out Britain's parliamentary system.

Since Chavez was first elected, Venezuela now has developed a rich political spectrum with many parties and candidates. Even with the end of term limits Presdent Chavez would have to win the majority of votes against other candidates in fair elections. That is an inherently democratic process.

Sen. Levin should be more interested in helping people here understand the truth than in making deliberately false and provocative statements.

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