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Friday, October 20, 2006

Bloggers credited with stopping European military sale to Chavez

Weblog Venezolano notes that Spain backs off aircraft deal with Venezuela. Over at Government Technology mag, Bloggers Stop Military Aircraft Sale to Chavez.

The article, at The Institute of World Politics, is here: Bloggers credited with stopping European military sale to Chavez
In what could signal a transformation of world politics, bloggers are credited with stopping Europe's $630 million military aircraft sale to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.

Several online news services quickly picked up on the story and published a statement from an Institute of World Politics professor who has done cutting-edge work on blogging and international politics.

The Earth Times ran a feature: "'This is another example of the New Media's impact on international politics,' says J. Michael Waller, Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics in Washington."

Waller believes that the Spanish government's claim of insufficient profits from the Venezuela deal is false. The European company cut off Venezuela after American bloggers questioned the company's right to compete to build the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) for the US Army and Air Force, and to supply the patrol planes for the Coast Guard's Deepwater program.

It was a question of a $600 million deal with Chavez for little if any profit, or the prospects of a multibillion-dollar deal with the Pentagon. He said that the company believed it could have both, but that the bloggers blew the whistle.

The professor noted the coincidence between the start of an online letter-writing campaign to Congress about the European company, and the sudden cancellation of the Venezuela contract three days later.

The letter campaign focused on the company's reported intentional violation of American nonproliferation regulations and the military embargo on Venezuela, its aircraft plants in Andalusia, Spain, that critics call a jobs program for President Jose Luis Zapatero's Socialist Workers Party, its partial ownership by the Russian government, and other matters.

"Nobody in Washington wants to do business with Chavez," Waller said. "Now there's little sentiment for doing business with those who are modernizing his military. Lawmakers didn't have to say a thing to the company. The fact that they were alerted was enough," he said. "The guys who did the website that sent letters into Congress really made the difference."

Waller is a longtime observer and practitioner in western hemisphere security issues, and writes his own blog, Venezuelastan, that has followed the European aircraft controversy.

Other blogs that focused on the EADS CASA-Chavez connection range from the analytical to the satirical. They include: Casacrash.com, TeamJCA.org, and the email-generating website SecureTheHomeland.org. They are not associated with the Institute of World Politics.
Add Venezuelastan to the blog roll!
Meanwhile at the UN,
Chavez spreads wealth to aid U.N. cause, not that readers of this blog don't know already.
At The Economist, The empire fights back (emphasis added)
After 22 [note: it's 28 35 so far, and counting] rounds of voting in two days this week, Mr Chavez's confidence was shown to be misplaced. In the first vote, Guatemala won 109 votes to 76. Most of the subsequent ballots showed a similar result. Neither country seemed likely to obtain the needed two-thirds majority of those voting, and each seemed to have enough votes to block the other.

For Venezuela, that amounted to a big defeat. In pursuit of the seat, Mr Chavez had criss-crossed the globe in recent months, signing deals, promising aid and receiving promises of support. The votes of the Arab League, the Caribbean Community and the African Union were all said to be in the bag, as well as those of Russia, China and five South American countries. A "new era" was about to begin at the Security Council in which the power of the "empire", as Mr Chávez calls the United States, would finally be challenged by "the conscience of the peoples".

Guatemala had quietly been lobbying for the post since 2002. It had already beaten Venezuela for a place on the newly formed UN Human Rights Council earlier this year. Rather to the embarrassment of its foreign minister, which insisted that its was an "independent voice", it had the very public support of the United States.

What went wrong for Venezuela? Its ambassador to the UN predictably blamed American pressure and "bribes". In reality, it probably never had as many votes as it claimed. Moderate Arab states were concerned at Mr Chávez's friendship with Iran; some in Asia dislike his equivocal attitude to North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Some Caribbean countries may also have deserted. Mr Chávez's speech to the General Assembly in September, in which he referred to George Bush as "the devil", almost certainly cost it further support.
Oppenheimer: Chavez's U.N. fiasco raises question: Has he peaked?
My conclusion: Chavez has suffered a serious political blow at the United Nations, as if he had been knocked with a 100-pound stick on his red beret. But he has three things going for him: President Bush, Cuban ruler Fidel Castro and world oil prices.

For the next two years, while Bush - one of the world's most unpopular leaders - continues in the White House, Chavez will find some echo at home and abroad by continuing to blame all of the world's ills on the U.S. president. In addition, if Cuba's ailing Castro dies and Cuba becomes a quasi-official Venezuelan protectorate, Chavez would formally expand his political jurisdiction.

And, most important, while America continues its insane production of gas-guzzling vehicles and doesn't speed up conversion to alternative fuels, the current slide in oil prices may only be a temporary phenomenon that will fail to keep narcissist-Leninist petro-demagogues like Chavez from thriving.

As long as the United States continues importing Venezuelan oil at its current pace - $31.6 billion a year in 2005, and a projected $37 billion in 2006, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures - Chavez will be down, but not out. Ironically, his megalomaniac dreams will be kept alive by the United States.
This op-ed article (in Spanish) at El Observador, from Uruguay, calls for Chavez to give it up: Hugo Chavez, cosechando tempestades (Hugo Chavez: reaping storms) (my translation; the bold print is from El Universal)
Since neither country [Guatemala nor Venezuela] gets the requisite two-thirds of the votes, Chile and Peru are searching for a consensus candidate, which could be Uruguay. This course, which has predecent under similar circumstances and which would honor our country, can not take place if Guatemala and Venezuela persist on their posturing, or the Assembly's president, Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, doesn't excercise her prerogative of ending the bidding and proposing a new candidate.

But Chavez, true to his obstinate confrontational style, announced that he'll keep up the battle even as his hopes appear to vanish. The Venezuelan leader, persistently virulent against the United States, denounced the "imperialist charges" against Venezuela in the UN. Obviously the Bush administration prefers Guatemala or any other country in the region to seeing Chavez installed at a venue as important as the Security Council.

Venezuela's failure, however, comes from Chavez himself rather than from Bush. His recent outburst during the General Assembly, where he denounced his arch-rival as the devil incarnate while complaining about the smell of sulfur Bush had left behind on the podium where Chavez was speaking, drove away countries who could have been willing to support him. And you can find coolness and reticence even among those who have voted for Venezuela. Such is the case with Brazil, for which Chavez's strides towards buying the region's leadership with his petrodollars is a threat to the Brazilian peso in this part of the world and in the world choir of emerging nations.

Chavez is a notorious example of what the Argentinian political analyst Mario Grondona recently defined as "progressive autocracies", represented by legitimate presidents that gradually impose their natural authoritarian tendencies on their countries. The case of the Venezuelan leader is more serious because he insists in unduly interfering in other countries' political lives in order to incorporate them into his Bolivarian feifdom. Except for Bolivia with Evo Morales (where even with the Chavista support there were much deeper reasons that carried him to the presidency), up to now he's failed, with the defeats of Ollanta Humala in Peru and Manuel Lopez Obrador en México, and the surprising second round for Rafael Correa in Ecudaor's first voting round. It's not surprising that now he's scaring away the support at the UN, as a result of not realizing that as the saying goes, "whoever sows winds, reaps storms"
Translation note: here in the US we say "the chickens have come to roost" instead, but the meaning is clear.

Update Mexico also wants Venezuela to pull out, and Chavez annoyed the Chileans, too (h/t Publius Pundit).

Update: And In More Bad News For Chavez . . .

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