London 30.01.07 | The web is abuzz with the news that supporters of Rafael Correa stormed into Ecuador's Congress where a debate as to whether to approve the convening of a National Constituent Assembly was taking place. Sources report that the utterly democratic mob wanted to lynch congressmen, as some of them where heard shouting 'kill them, kill them all." For those of us that have observed the region for some time and seen how Chavez's mobocracy looms over democracy this is hardly news. However I would like to take issue with remarks of John Negroponte, who is quoted by Reuters as saying that Chavez is exporting his "radical populism" (sic).
Negroponte's assessment is wrong on a number of accounts, but crucially, it seems to me, on his understanding of the specific perils that dictator Hugo Chavez exports. Certainly radical populism isn't one of them. The single most dangerous export of Castro's mini me is the National Constituent Assembly. This little subterfuge is THE principal cause of Venezuela's current institutional void for it allowed Chavez to subvert democracy with a pseudo democratic mechanism that wasn't even part of the constitution. Shrouded in 'popular support' it effectively replaced in one fell swoop the powers that were with lackeys in charge of totally dysfunctional institutions: a truly 'democratic' coup. Today we learn that Venezuela's Congress, as predicted, granted Chavez the ultimate weapon: the ability to rule by decree.
Chavez has successfully convinced his claque of regional suckers that the National Constituent Assembly is the way forward. However none of them appears to have realised that the conditions under which the experiment was implemented in Venezuela in 1999 are non existent in Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador. For that reason, as already seen in Bolivia and soon to be realised by Correa, it will be impossible to replicate the model irrespective of how loud supporting mobs shout 'kill them all.'
Mr. Negroponte should be well advised in reading these pages more often.