I just finished books on Afghanistan (things are looking up) and Pakistan (things are looking bleak). Maybe I'll pick up a volume on Venezuela next. Hugh Chavez's country is clearly the most interesting nation in the hemisphere.
Chavez is calling for the United States to extradite Pat Robertson to face Venezuela justice for calling for the assassination of Chavez. I don't think Robertson committed a crime, therefore he shouldn't be arrested. Robertson didn't even threaten Chavez directly -- he just noted that the United States should act on its capacity to kill Chavez. That said, Tony Blair has come to just the opposite conclusion. If a radical Muslim cleric was advocating the assassination of a Western leader, Blair would seek to extradite the Cleric. I do see a distinction -- no one at the 700 Club has blown up a double decker bus lately. Of course, that can't be the standard, can it? Can we really judge Robertson differently because he's claims to be a Christian rather than a Muslim?
Meanwhile, Venezuela's upper class reminds me of a certain Belgian futurist:
We were joined by a Belgian Futurist, who lived under the, I think, assumed name of Jean de Brissac la Motte, and claimed the right to bear arms in any battle anywhere against the lower classes.
The forces opposed to Chavez claim that the August 2004 elections were rigged and are demanding a new National Elections Council. I'm sure all the right wingers here will be happy to pitch in a good natured "get over it" to our friends from the south. Meanwhile, here's one of the things that Chavez is doing with the surplus of oil revenue that has the opposition fuming:
[In November, 2004], the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Rodrigo Rato, urged oil producing countries like Venezuela not to spend their extra income from high international prices - but to save it.
The government here has decided to do just the opposite. The world's fifth largest oil exporter - and a principal supplier to the US - is pouring money into literacy, health and other social programmes.
Of course, Venezuela goes to Cuba for help teaching its citizens to read. Venezuela claims to have taught 1,000,000 citizens to read which would put their literacy rate (93% according to a 2003 estimate) roughly on par with the ours (97% in 1979).