Monday, Dec. 25, 2006

Hugo Chávez

Trying to Give Bush A Devil of a Time
South American independence hero Simón Bolívar warned his region's future leaders against trying to soar too high, lest, like the mythical Icarus, their "wings melt." A few months ago it seemed as though the pugnacious Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his left-wing Bolivarian Revolution might be feeling some heat. His Latin American allies were getting defeated in presidential elections in Mexico and Peru. After Chávez called President Bush "the devil" at the U.N. in September, the backlash helped the White House thwart oil-rich Venezuela's bid for a U.N. Security Council seat. But even though global oil prices are drifting lower, Chávez's political fortunes seem to have caught an updraft. As Bush got waylaid by U.S. midterm elections this fall, Washington's old cold-war nemesis, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, regained the presidency in Nicaragua and Chávez, 52, was re-elected by a landslide this month. Despite his diplomatic missteps, Chávez's grandiose social programs and his vision of an integrated Latin America less dependent on the U.S. remain popular in the region. Says Chávez: "We're altering the nature of power in this hemisphere."