Venezuela’s democratic opposition has finally united behind a single candidate, Manuel Rosales, to challenge the incumbent populist maverick Hugo Chávez in the presidential election scheduled for December 3rd. A Rosales presidency would represent an entirely different sort of government for Venezuela, one that would seek to undo the demagogic legacy of Chávez and his “Bolivarian Revolution.”
Since his election in 1998, Chávez has made confrontation and incitement to violence his primary political tools. He has engaged in blatant checkbook diplomacy by giving away, with little to show for it, Venezuela’s oil resources to countries like Cuba. Venezuela’s oil reserves are vast, but they should not be squandered on foreign adventures disguised as economic integration. Chávez seeks to buy regional influence, but mostly he props up ideological cronies like Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, and some as far afield as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Belarus’s Aleksander Lukashenko.
For many years, Venezuela had excellent relations with its neighbors, without having to buy their friendship. But Chávez unjustifiably vilified many of them including neighboring Colombia, which is one reason why his push to gain for Venezuela the Latin American seat on the United Nations Security Council was recently blocked.
A Rosales presidency will end Venezuela’s isolation by a cabal of radicals and encourage domestic and foreign direct investment in the country. Indeed, the next government will need, above all, to kick-start the economy in a sustainable way to create a positive climate of job creation, which is the only lasting remedy for the poverty Chávez has sought to exploit.