The Corner

Chavez Achieves the Impossible: Making an Enemy of Brazil

One of the greatest frustrations for those of us who watch Cuba and Venezuela closely has been the excessive pampering given to their dictators by moderate Latin American countries considered friendly to the United States. Efforts to get crucial fence-sitters such as the Brazilian government to come out and say what it thinks of Hugo Chavez have made little headway.

But as one might have predicted, Hugo Chavez has now taken care of that problem himself. One diplomat in Caracas thinks Chavez “really miscalculated” with the closing of RCTV. With demonstrations continuing across the country into their second week, the diplomatic protests are also spreading.

Now, the Brazilian Congress has made plain its newfound enmity for Chavez, with leaders of the opposition and of the governing coalition comparing Chavez to Hitler and Mussolini, calling him a “dictator in disguise” and a “threat to the peace of the continent.” The President of the Senate declared that “if a head of State can’t live with democratic demonstrations, he is probably against democracy.”

Chavez reacted in his normal mode of communication — with vulgar insults. The Brazilian Congress is “dominated by the right,” he said. “It’s a parrot that repeats what Washington says.” And, the kicker, “It would be much easier for the Portuguese Empire to install itself once again in Brasilia than for the Government of Venezuela to return the license that ended the Venezuelan oligarchy.”

Asked about the Venezuelan dictator’s comments during a trip to London, Brazilian president “Lula” dryly remarked that Chavez should worry about Venezuela and let him worry about Brazil. This brought an immediate reaction in the Brazilian Congress, where an influential member of the governing coalition said that Lula “needs to overcome the restrictions of his diplomacy of excessive tolerance for adventurers and take a position in defense of the sovereignty of Brazil and the dignity of its Congress.” This suggests that Lula will now come under domestic political pressure to come out against Chavez — which could be a diplomatic tipping point and a real disaster for Venezuela.

Chavez may find that not all of the petrodollars in the world can reverse the affects of offending the inoffensive and hugely popular Brazilians. Sooner or later, this charlatan and cocktail intellectual was going to start to overplay his hand; the surprising thing is that it took this long.

Mario Loyola — Mr. Loyola is a research associate professor and the director of the Environmental Finance and Risk Management Program at Florida International University and a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. From 2017 to 2019 he was the associate director for regulatory reform at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.