ProJo Editors: Beware of Dictators Bearing Oil
While the ProJo Editorial board thinks Senators Reed and Chafee are on “safe,” though borderline, foreign policy ground in trying to obtain discounted heating oil from the state-operated oil company of Venezuala, Citgo, they do offer some familiar sounding warnings:
A close ally of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Mr. Chavez famously declared that the U.S. brought the attacks of 9/11 on itself, and that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken out against Venezuela because she lusts after Mr. Chavez — but that he is not interested in her sexually! He also accused President Bush of trying to assassinate him. South American politicians often find it useful to scapegoat the United States, deflecting attention from their own failings, and from sometimes painful remedies for problems at home.
It appears that Mr. Chavez is hoping, through deals with U.S. politicians, to embarrass the richest country and position himself as the hemisphere’s champion of the poor. He is making some progress in achieving these aims.
The Venezueland president is counting on the world to ignore that while he is giving away something to Americans with one hand, he is taking away much more with the other. While apparently showing concern for America’s poor, Mr. Chavez is working, through the OPEC cartel, to drive up oil prices. His dream of $100-a-barrel oil could obviously hurt the poor much more than limited reduced-price programs would help them.
When it comes to demagogic politicians who befriend dictators, some skepticism is usually in order.