Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hugo Chavez: some logic please

One of the favorite epithets some on the right throw at Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is that he is a dictator. However, Chavez is a democratically elected leader—not to mention very popular in his country. (President Bush must be seething.)

Democratically elected leaders are by definition not dictators. Don’t blame me; blame the concept and its definition.


At 5:00 PM, Blogger Julia_1984 said...

Democratically elected leaders are by definition not dictators... from witch place did you got that definition if I may ask?
First theres many acusations of electoral fraud in Venezuela, second have you ever heard of the tirany of the majority? This world doesnt works with the science logic, although sometimes, I wish it did.
And if you are trying to put some logic on the events of the world, please dont use that falacy that makes the "enemy of my enemy" becomes, inmediatly your friend. No matter who he is.
If you only knew, who Chavez is...

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Lynn said...


I got my definition from the American Heritage Dictionary: a ruler having absolute power.

A ruler assuming power through a duly constituted democratic election precludes having absolute power.

The tyranny of the majority and dictatorship are two different concepts. I don't feel you have refuted my claim.

By accusations do mean ones like those leveled against recent U.S. elections?

Who is Chavez? He is a hero to some and villain to others. Opinion polls show that enjoys over a 60% approval rate within his country.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Julia_1984 said...

First, I saw your comment in my blog, was really nice, thanks.
Now let me answer one by one to the points that started this discussion:
1. It its better to make a difference betwen how a leader gets to power and how their rule after getting to power is in the practice. Theres history cases of tyrants elected by constitutional election process.
2. Of course, the tyranny of the majority its different from dictatorship but one can take to another.
3. By accusations i mean those leveled against the recent and previous venezuelan elections.
4. Who is Chavez... true.. he is a hero to some and villain to others. Dont use opinion polls as a proof, they varies a lot and always consider that tiny porcent who for wathever reasons doesnt approves his meassures. They are venezuelans aswell and their criteria should be listened, even if they are minority.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Lynn said...


Points well noted. I have been a vocal critic of President Bush for abusing his powers and usurping powers he does not have under the U.S. Constitution. Elected leaders sometimes change their spots once in power if there are no countervailing forces or checks to prevent them.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Kate said...

Found your blog from a comment on Julia_1984's. I think it's a bit presumptuous on the part of said dictionary definition to say that Chávez is not a dictator solely due to the fact that he was democratically elected. As Julia_1984 correctly notes, evidence of electoral fraud abound, most notably published in the Hausmann and Rigobón stat-based paper. Several of my friends went down to observe the past elections in December, and they qualified them as anything but "free and fair," due to voter intimidation both inside the polling places as well as outside, by the círculos bolivarianos.

While yes, I too am not a huge fan of polls, particularly because they often fail to reveal the questions asked and/or the demographic groups asked, the latest Hinterlaces poll puts Chávez's positive job performance at 40%, down from 49% in November. I guess once again we will continue to see the failures of a populist model.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Lynn said...


Thanks for the comment.

I stand by my claim that he is not by definition a dictator. He won the latest election with 62.7% of the vote. I can think of plenty of leaders who qualify as dictators such as those who come to power through a military coup--something we see quite often. A recent Angus Reid Global Monitor article reports Chavez with an approval rating of 64.7%, consistent with the election results.

Failures of populist models are often in the eye of the beholder especially when a privileged class faces a more equitable distribution of wealth and income. One must keep in mind the conditions that give rise to populist sentiments. When I listen to some of Chavez's detractors, I am almost led to believe that Venezuela was a paradise before he took control. It may have been that way for some, but for many others it was not.

As far as charges of electoral fraud and abuse, we are no strangers to that in the U.S. That is one reason to support independent international monitoring of elections. At least there is some objective data on which to base charges of electoral fraud and abuse.


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