December 2007 Archives

Panelist View  |  December 3, 2007 10:24 AM

Commandante Loses to Ballots, Not Bullets

By Ibsen Martínez

*Editor's Note: Martinez has posted a response to reader comments after his article text, below.*

As narrow as Hugo Chavez’s defeat might seem from afar, December 2nd will be inscribed in Venezuelan history as the day Chavez’s schemes to turn Latin America’s longest-living democracy into a totalitarian, one-party autocracy were arrested by ballots, not bullets. His rhetoric during the final, hectic days of the campaign hinted at a violent dénouement.

But the heaviest blow to Chávez is the undeclared war of succession that broke out among the chavista leadership the minute he conceded defeat. In that sense, the real referendum on his and his party’s leadership is yet to be fought. Next year, a succession of popular referenda could be called in every state. Many chavista governors will then be challenged by a newly-energized opposition movement and, for all his charisma, Chávez and his cronies might not have enough support to win.

“The outcome is a stunning development in a country where Mr. Chávez and his supporters control nearly all of the levers of power,” reported New York Times correspondent Simon Romero.

In my view, yesterday’s outcome can only astound those who completely ignore Venezuela’s twentieth-century history. You could say that our last century’s history has been that of a long march towards democracy. There’s no question that there were errors along the way, and it’s certainly still open to discussion whether our former bipartisan representative democracy disappointed the poor. But the fact remains that although Venezuelans might well be inclined to support populist politics, they abhor the idea of living indefinitely under one-man rule.

Radical-left politics have always been a small intellectual elite’s affair in our country. Chávez’s ill-conceived reform bill, largely copied from the Cuban constitution, would have abolished presidential term limits, and allowed the President to declare states of emergency for an unlimited time. He would have been able to suspend human rights guarantees during those states of emergency. The bill would have allowed him to create a new political division in the country by adding new states to the map, where he would have had the legal authority to appoint new governors and mayors.

As to the right to run for indefinitely recurring re-elections, no doubt the most controversial chapter of Chávez’s bill, it concerned and benefited only the incumbent president. No state governor or city mayor would have enjoyed such privilege. By increasing the state’s role in the economy, Chávez would have been authorized to draw from the Central Bank reserves at will.

This election suggests just how much his legendary charisma has waned among the Venezuelan poor. He won more than seven million votes in the December, 2006 presidential elections, but almost four million “faithful” voters deserted him this time. The reason for this, no doubt, has a lot to do with “the paradox of plenty” typical of a petro-state, where it is easier to get a bottle of premium scotch at the local grocery than to buy basic goods such as milk, eggs, black beans and corn flour.

Continue »

Guest Voice  |  December 5, 2007 9:25 AM

Pakistani Terrorists Pose Little Threat

By Ershad Mahmud

Islamabad – Many Western media and policymakers appear preoccupied with the danger of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists– whether small terrorist groups or organized political parties who may try to take power in upcoming elections. Their immediate concern is not the independence of the judiciary or the establishment of democracy, but rather Pakistan’s internal stability in the immediate-term, and the protection of certain Western interests abroad.

That’s a mistake. By focusing almost exclusively on the ‘terrorist threat’, these individuals are in fact supporting the government’s imposition of emergency rule. This focus has helped divide international opinion over President Musharraf’s recent declaration of emergency rule: although most commentators share in widespread condemnation of recent undemocratic actions under emergency rule, international opinion is now divided over whether “terrorist threats” may have justified Musharraf’s initial decision to impose it.

President Musharraf took full advantage of these Western apprehensions when he denounced the judiciary as a terrorist ally. However, this argument was turned upside-down when the same judges who had passed orders to release some of the Red Mosque’s alleged terrorists were sworn in under the PCO.

There are many indicators that Western worries about terrorism are unfounded. To date, the army has not faced any significant internal strife from Pakistani terrorist groups. Domestically, such individuals have limited social sanctity and are referred to as terrorists, not freedom fighters or revolutionaries. Thus the survival of armed vigilantes in Pakistan is unlikely in the long run, irrespective of who leads the country, due to such groups’ illegitimacy in the eyes of the people.

The same is true for al-Qaeda, which is a foreign outfit with no significant domestic support. The fear that such groups can take control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal seems exaggerated. This is not meant to trivialize real concerns about growing radicalization; however, an exclusive focus on this issue simplifies the situation, ignoring the actual diversity in Pakistani culture and politics.

Continue »

 |  December 13, 2007 4:33 PM

Climate Change Proposals - Readers Vote

 |  December 17, 2007 9:19 AM

For Fairness, Use Formulas

1) For Fairness, Use Formulas Use a mathematical formula -- not negotiations about targets -- to set binding emissions standards for each country based on factors like historical & current emissions, GDP, and population.

Jeffrey Frankel, Harvard University

Continue »

 |  December 17, 2007 9:28 AM

Strengthen Kyoto

2) Strengthen Kyoto: Expand the idea of binding, country-specific emissions targets that let developing countries “graduate” to stricter standards as their economies develop.

Axel Michaelowa, Perspectives Climate Change (Germany)

Continue »

 |  December 17, 2007 9:36 AM

Create Climate Clubs

3) Create ‘Climate Clubs’ : Only the major-player countries need to negotiate, in small regional groups, and meeting their goals through emissions trading.

David G. Victor, Stanford University

Continue »

 |  December 17, 2007 9:41 AM

Let Countries Handle It

4) Let Countries Handle It: Allow domestic (but not international) emissions trading, and let countries set their own national limits on emissions.

Warwick J. McKibbin, Australian National University and Peter J. Wilcoxen, Syracuse University

Continue »

 |  December 17, 2007 9:44 AM

Research More Flexible, Creative Solutions

5) Research More Flexible, Creative Solutions: Countries pledge actions, not targets, to reduce emissions, and support flexibility, research and development.

Scott Barrett, Johns Hopkins University

Continue »

 |  December 17, 2007 9:48 AM

Be Realistic

6) Be Realistic: Ask countries to pledge what they can with strong domestic support, then rely on public shaming to keep them on track.

William A. Pizer, Resources for the Future

Continue »

 |  December 17, 2007 10:45 AM

Forging a Climate Agreement That Works

By Robert N. Stavins and Joseph Aldy, Harvard University and Resources for the Future

Top climate negotiators from more than 180 countries convened in Bali, Indonesia last week to address one of the most pressing issues of our time: forging an international agreement on climate change. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol -- the governing agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases -- expires in 2012.

Continue »

Guest Voice  |  December 28, 2007 1:43 PM

Pakistan’s Wake-Up Call

By Farah Zahra

Pakistan’s “creeping Talibanization” has been in the national and international media for a while. Nonetheless, Benazir Bhutto’s assassination comes as a shock to the entire world. Before she went back to Pakistan from her self-imposed she publicly stated that she was aware of the risk involved and also that she was prepared to take the risk. Now that she has been assassinated, the question remains: What is next for Pakistan?

Will President Musharraf be able to calm down the whole nation by telling them that it is a ‘barbaric’ act of ‘a terrorist’? How do we discern where politics ends and terrorism begins in this country? Will the people of Pakistan and the world at large be lulled into a stupor where the usual phrase of “an act of terrorism” accounts for simply everything?

Continue »

« November 2007 | January 2008 »

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.