“I congratulate from my heart the more than 8 million Venezuelans who voted for Chavez.” Hugo Chavez speaking from the balcony of the presidential palace after being declared the victor in Sunday’s elections.
Note to file: Never vote for anyone who refers to himself in the third person.
But this blog isn’t really about Chavez, a nut-case whose freedom of action is being increasingly constrained by economic realities. This blog is about the country that helped him to mortgage his people’s future in order to buy the election today: China, that champion of Third World good governance. It turns out that China has lent $42.5 billion to Venezuela since 2007, including a sharp acceleration in the last 15 months, secured on future oil revenues. Chavez has used the money, inefficiently and corruptly without a doubt, to hand out goodies to his supporters and buy the election. And it worked.
As readers of this blog will discover, I am far from slavishly pro-American, especially when it comes to American foreign policy, which is often well-intentioned but usually hopelessly naive, misguided and counter-productive. Still, distinctions can and must be made. Can you imagine the international outcry if the USA had lent this money to Chavez under these circumstances? It would have been deafening. And in the case of China, barely a whisper.
But perhaps I am being too harsh. After all, borrowing money from China to hand out electoral goodies is not the lone preserve of Hugo Chavez. I think that there are administrations far closer to home who are following the same policy.
Roger Barris, Switzerland