Opinion: Hugo Chavez parties at Copenhagen like it’s 1959

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The Venezuelan president is becoming the world-stage equivalent of the drunk uncle you hope doesn’t show up for Christmas. First there was his complaint to the United Nations General Assembly that the speaker’s podium reeked of sulfur following a speech by devil-incarnate George W. Bush, and now there’s his pitchfork-rattling rant Wednesday at the climate conference in Copenhagen: Then President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really an imperial dictatorship … down with imperial dictatorships,” he got a rousing round of applause.


When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

But then he wound up to his grand conclusion -- 20 minutes after his 5-minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ -- ‘our revolution seeks to help all people … socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell. ... Let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.’ He won a standing ovation.
Read the whole article from The Australian here.

I’ll say this: The United States and other massive carbon-emitting economies shouldn’t be surprised by much of the scorn they’re getting from developing nations upset that they’re being asked to fix a problem they didn’t cause. But let’s be clear: Chavez’s socialism is as much about perpetuating his dictatorship over Venezuela and expanding his influence in Latin America as it is improving the lot of the poor (and if you can name a system on this Earth under which more people have been lifted out of poverty than free-market democracy, I’m all ears). It’s especially ironic that Chavez would berate free-market nations for causing catastrophic climate change when he helps fund his own Bolivarian Revolution by selling his country’s oil and natural gas to the United States.

The real tragedy here is this sort of belligerence by Chavez further hardens developing nations against agreeing to limit their carbon emissions. Countries that are traditionally marginalized at venues such as the United Nations have a powerful bargaining chip in Copenhagen. Chavez’s influence outside Venezuela and his small sphere of influence is minimal; at Copenhagen, where poor nations can air their grievances, he has ears.

-- Paul Thornton