And two, as Venezuela scholar Julia Buxton notes, there is something "fundamentally wrong in thinking that democracy is judged through reference to the procedural mechanics of liberal democracy," which is often understood as demanding pluralism, in which the opposition controls some political levers. Buxton argues that democracy simply is not measurable using the yardstick of mainstream U.S political science, and that it should be understood as popular control of decision-making and popular engagement within the society as a whole. On those scales, Venezuela is no lightweight.If that's what she's saying, she's confusing democracy with plebiscite. Aside from the logical and political ethics problems (democracy without freedom to dissent? Come on!), there's the pragmatic problem of running a successful regime. If there are no constitutional checks, and no guarantees of pluralism, you lose the synergy that only a multiplicity of energies and ideas can create. Stupid ideas occur to everybody, even very smart people (remember Fidel Castro's "10 million tons" campaign? Or the coffee trees he ordered planted all around Havana? Or, to take a very different smart man's blunder, how about Winston Churchill's World War I strategy at Gallipoli?). If there's nobody around to talk back to the smart (or unsmart) strongman, disasters are more than likely.
Venezuelan politics seen from Venezuela
This piece by Max Ajl in the current NACLA gives another perspective on Hugo Chávez's latest electoral triumph: Venezuela: Local Reactions to the Re-Election Reform. Some interesting ideas here, though one of the oddest arguments in this collection of opinions has me perplexed: