As Castro passes into history, keep an eye on his prot?g?, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan strongman is just champing at the bit to step out of Castro’s shadow and into the limelight as the new leader of the Latin American anti-American Left. A couple of things you need to know about Chavez:
1. He’s a buddy of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who visited with Chavez just this past weekend for the fourth or fifth time in a year. Who knows, Tehran might Iran share its expanding nuclear program with Caracas?
2. Venezuela bought $3 billion in Russian arms last year. Since no one threatens Venezuela, you have to wonder why?
3. Chavez has interfered in the election process of several Latin American countries by providing financial support to leftist, anti-American presidential candidates in Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Ecuador. Awash in oil revenue, expect more of the same in other leadership elections in Latin America in the years to come.
4. Chavez continues to consolidate control in Venezuela, recently deciding to nationalize the telecommunications and electricity industries. Can the oil industry—which provides 15 percent of our oil needs—be far behind?
Don’t be fooled by Chavez’s cheap political stunts of providing some cheap fuel oil to needy Americans in the Northeast. It’s nothing more than an effort to embarrass the Bush administration as evidenced by the fact that poverty has gone up in Venezuela since Chavez took office, not down as you might expect.
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