Cheering on democracy's overthrow
Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2002
The putsch against Venezuela's elected leader failed - this time
The Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane was not the only one caught out by Hugo Chavez's return to power in Venezuela on Sunday, but he was certainly one of the most embarrassed. Mr MacShane committed the undiplomatic error of describing Chavez as a "ranting demagogue". Of course, when he let slip those unfortunate comments, Mr MacShane thought that Hugo Chavez was a leftwing ex-president of a country with important mineral reserves in which the US takes a strong interest.
Unfortunately for Mr MacShane, the ranting demagogue in question was restored to his job by a combination of people power and constitutionally minded army officers. Odd, though, that Friday's coup, a procedure not normally considered an aid to democratic practice, did not attract the condemnation it deserved. Chavez, after all, has twice been elected president by the largest margins in Venezuela's history.
In Washington, where the administration blamed Chavez himself for the coup that briefly removed him from office, the reaction to his restoration was even stranger. Far from welcoming the triumph of democracy, the US administration reprimanded Chavez - expressing the menacing hope that he would be more careful in future, presumably in case he overthrew himself again. MORE