Venezuela: Elections Could Slow Chavez' Nationalization Plans
by JIM KOURI, CPP
September 27, 2010
President Hugo Chavez's monopoly on power in Venezuela is in jeopardy in Sunday's congressional elections. His opponents hope that electing more conservative members to the National Assembly will stifle that country's march towards a socialist dictatorship under their iron-fisted president.
Opposition parties are attempting to end Chavez's stranglehold on the National Assembly since he was elected 12 years ago. Sunday's vote is being hyped as a referendum on Chavez himself ahead of the next presidential election in 2012.
There are some political observers who say Chavez and the Venezuelan socialists are a mirror image of President Barack Obama and his far-left supporters in the House of Representatives and the Senate, who are facing rejection by U.S. voters in November and have experts claiming Obama may be a one-term president.
Venezuelan polls -- most of which are state-sponsored -- suggest Chavez remains the most popular politician in Venezuela, yet some polls revealed a decline in his popularity. Many voters claim their disappointment with Chavez's stems from his handling of the rampant crime, poor management of public services and economic conditions that includes an inflation rate of well-over 25 percent.
A report from the Government Accountability Office -- obtained by the 14,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police -- highlights the role of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in drug trafficking and counternarcotics.
Since 2000, the United States has provided about $8 billion to countries in South America to disrupt drug trafficking. Most of this assistance went to Colombia to reduce illicit drug production and improve security. In March 2009, the Department of State reported that Venezuela had become a major transit route for cocaine out of Colombia, with a more than fourfold increase in cocaine flow between 2004 and 2007.
Researchers determined what is known about cocaine trafficking through Venezuela, what is known about Venezuelan support for Colombian illegal armed groups, and the status of US and Venezuelan counternarcotics cooperation since 2002.
To address their objectives, GAO analysts reviewed US counternarcotics reports, assessments, and other documents regarding illicit drugs transiting Venezuela. They also traveled to Venezuela and Colombia to discuss these matters with US and foreign government officials.
President Barack Obama has determined that Venezuela was one of the major drug transit countries in the Western Hemisphere. Venezuela's extensive border with Colombia, covering large areas of jungle and mountainous terrain, enables the flow of cocaine from Colombia over land and river routes and by air.
After entering Venezuela, the cocaine usually leaves aboard maritime vessels that depart from Venezuela's long coastline or aboard suspicious aircraft that take off and land from hundreds of clandestine airstrips. While a majority of the cocaine transiting Venezuela is headed toward the United States, more has begun flowing toward Europe.
According to US and Colombian officials, Venezuela has extended a lifeline to Colombian illegal armed groups by providing significant support and safe haven along the border. As a result, these groups, which traffic in illicit drugs, remain viable threats to Colombian security.
A high level of corruption within the Venezuelan government, military, and other law enforcement and security forces contributes to the permissive environment, according to US officials.
The opposition party members, who had refused to participate in the 2005 elections, believe that as a result of Sunday's elections they may increase their members beyond the 12 assembly members who recently defected from Chavez's political machine.
If Chavez's socialist government is unable to keep at least a two-thirds majority of assembly seats, opponents will possess a better opportunity to slowdown Chavez's nationalization of entire industries in Venezuela.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Jim Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.