This analogy is very well written and thought out to attempt to convey to Americans, in their own terms, what is happening in Venezuela today:
Just imagine that Richard Nixon had used the majority he obtained in 1972 (he carried all the states except D.C. and Massachusetts) to change the U.S. Constitution. Let us say that rather than having it amended through the established constitutional procedures, he had called for a constitutional convention and that with 65% of the popular vote he had managed to get 95% of the delegates to the convention. Assume, further, that the convention had abolished Congress, extended the President’s term to six years (with the possibility of re-election) and established a transitory regime under which all the Supreme Court Justices, the Attorney General (as head of a new branch of government) and the national electoral authorities (as heads of another branch), were elected either by the convention or with complete disregard for the procedures and requirements established in the new Constitution, by a newly elected Congress, packed with Nixon supporters riding on Nixon’s post-electoral honeymoon. Not to strain too much your imagination, just assume that the convention decided to “clean up” the court system and substitute the existing judges by persons appointed by the Nixon-controlled majority, now following the dictates of Nixon’s new party, the “New Republicans”, again disregarding even the new Constitution. In comes Watergate. The “plumbers” are discovered and the Washington Post exposes the tapes and most of Nixon’s dirty tricks and cover ups. But the investigation is conducted by Mitchell, the Attorney General, and it fizzles out into nothing. The Supreme Court, packed with Nixon appointees, rules that there is no place for a special prosecutor: out goes Archibald Cox. And, under the new Constitution, the impeachment of the President must be cleared by the Supreme Court, after a formal accusation is lodged by the attorney General.
Ignoring the Washington Post and the national outrage, Mitchell does nothing while the Supreme Court uses every trick in the book to avoid having an independent investigation launched. At the same time, Woodward, Bernstein and the journalists who have denounced Nixon’s wrongdoings are verbally abused by the President, who accuses them of being criminals only interested in unseating him, while government-sponsored mobs are sent to intimidate the media and destroy their property. The American people react. Huge demonstrations are staged against the President. The Media take issue and support the demonstrations. Nixon sends his mobs to sabotage and physically attack peaceful demonstrators. The authorities do nothing and are accused of having armed these mobs, who are openly self-described as cadres of New Republicans financed by the government and called Washingtonian Circles. But the protesters are not deterred, so Nixon, who by now has purged the armed forces from law-abiding officers, sends in the National Guard to protect his mobs and repress the peaceful demonstrations. The situation becomes unbearable. Polls show that more than 70% of the population want Nixon to resign. Business and labor leaders, the Democrats, the old Republicans, the now-battered media, human rights organizations, environmentalists, and most NGOs, call for the President’s resignation and/or new elections. The President refuses and, instead, steps up the repression. Peaceful demonstrators are killed by New Republican mobs, Washingtonian Circles and/or by members of the armed forces and the secret police. A national strike erupts.
Strikers manage to paralyze the economy and ask for Nixon’s resignation or the holding of anticipated elections. They base their action on a new constitutional provision that allows civil disobedience and the non recognition of any government or authority that violates the Constitution and abuses human rights. Nixon refuses the strikers’ demands. Taking advantage of the fact that his subservient Supreme Court has extended his mandate for one additional year beyond his original term, he says he would only accept to step down through a mid-term referendum that can only be feasibly held one year later, at the soonest. All other options are subversive and unconstitutional, including the holding of an earlier referendum asking the people whether they want him to resign, which has already been called following constitutional procedures. In response to the calling of the referendum, he states that he will not abide by its results and refuses to disburse the funds owed to the electoral authorities to
function. Not happy with this, he steps up repression and starts persecuting the strike leaders.
The imagination can only be stretched so far. But let us say that Nixon’s initial wrongdoings are not just limited to the Watergate affair. Let us assume that his New Republican majority has rewritten all the laws on public spending. And -unbelievable as it may seem- thousands of billions of dollars have been spent in violation of these very rules, and are unaccounted for. Nixon acknowledges the violations, which include raiding the Central Bank and grabbing funds elsewhere that have not been appropriated by Congress, and claims such funds have been used to pay for the government payroll and for public works, ignoring the fact that funding had already been given by Congress for these purposes. Mitchell, of course, does nothing, despite the President’s confession. In the meantime, Nixon refuses to release funds that constitutionally and legally must be transferred to state and local governments that are not controlled by the New Republicans. Please bear with me and imagine that all this happens at a time when there is an unprecedented bonanza in the price of a commodity whose production makes up for 50% of government income and for 80% of the country’s foreign exchange, allowing for one of the greatest increases in public spending in U.S history. And, finally, just imagine that in four years Nixon has managed to turn all this into an economic nightmare: a doubling of the unemployment rate to upward of 20%, a 10% decrease in GDP for 2002, the highest inflation rate in the Americas (32%), an 80% depreciation of the U.S. dollar during that year and -unbelievably- one of the highest budget deficits in recorded history.
I will not further abuse your imagination to go into the issue of the unheard-of levels of corruption behind the Nixon Administration and the fact that not a single case of graft has been prosecuted by Mitchell (who has the monopoly of public prosecution under the new Constitution), despite the countless documented cases revealed by the media and formally brought before him and the Supreme Courts by private citizens, political parties and NGOs.
Now, stop imagining; start thinking. President Chávez in Venezuela is for real. The Nixon analogy, as outlined above, represents just a tame portrayal of what Chávez is doing to Venezuela. The real Nixon was responsible for Watergate but he was also responsible for the opening to China and the U.S.S.R. He had the decency to resign when he realized that dragging his country through an impeachment process would prove disastrous to the U.S. Chávez is banking on his country’s destruction to remain in power and rule unopposed as a despot. Venezuela is not a banana republic. Venezuelans constitute a peace-loving people, that have never gone to war, that have managed to maintain a democratic system for more that 50 years, and that refuse to see their democracy perish. The way that Venezuelans are responding to the abuses of the Chávez regime are nothing short of heroic, and should be understood as such by anyone taking the trouble to look closely at what is going on in the country. Start thinking; and think right. Even if you do not care about Venezuelans, think about yourselves. It is no secret that Chávez’s closest ally is Fidel Castro. Chavez’s sympathies with Saddam Hussein and noted terrorists, such as El Chacal and the Colombian guerrilla movement, are well documented. His open and blunt criticism against the U.S. For attacking Afghanistan -labeling this action as an act of terrorism, while showing propaganda pictures of slain Afghan Children in national TV- is no act of the imagination. Think, think again, think anew. Chávez is a curse and not just for Venezuelans.
Manuel Acedo Sucre
January 4, 2003.