As Venezuelans head to the polls today in order to decide whether socialist strongman Hugo Chavez will get to add an additional six years to his reign or if young governor Henrique Capriles Radonski will be able to unseat the power-hungry leader, some famous friends are out to help Chavez along in his ambitions. Chavez has long been a darling of the Hollywood left, forming friendly relationships with celebrities such as Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Some celebrities, such as Noam Chomsky, have started to understand the authoritarian threat that Chavez poses, but most have not.
Danny Glover, the actor well-known for his roles in movies such as The Color Purple and Lethal Weapon, and Rigoberta Menchu, the Guatemalan human rights activists and 1992 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, both greeted Hugo Chavez today at a polling station. Academy Award winner Sean Penn has hit the campaign trail for Chavez, and Jimmy Carter spends a great deal of his time lately talking about how Venezuela has the greatest and most transparent voting system on Earth.
That is two famous actors and two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates backing a man with authoritarian tendencies who spends most of his time demonizing anyone who ever disagrees with him. Though they are incredibly misguided, one can allow these celebrities to agree with Chavez's socialist vision and critiques of American foreign policy and thus support him on those grounds. However, it is a pathetic and dangerous joke for these so-called "peace" activists to back a man who supports the most oppressive regimes of our time and routinely praises mass murderers.
President Hugo Chavez is funneling Venezuelan fuel to Bashar al-Assad in order to let the Syrian regime continue its reign of terror and mass murder. He has warmly greeted as a friend Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, a human rights abuser widely regarded as Europe's last remaining dictator. He has defended Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, praised terrorist mastermind Carlos the Jackal, and hailed Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe as a "warrior of freedom." Chavez's best friend on the world stage was longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi: the Libyan named a stadium outside of Benghazi for Chavez, and the Venezuelan presented his "brother" with a replica of the sword of Simon Bolivar as a gift. He is also close with the human rights-abusing regimes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and genocidal Sudanese dicator Omar al-Bashir.
It is wrong to throw Hugo Chavez into the same exact boat as the autocrats and mass murderers he is actively supporting. Chavez has won free elections to come to power and must still face them (though, of course, many other autocrats have risen to power via election, including some of history's worst). This said, Hugo Chavez backs some of the most oppressive, deadly, and destabilizing regimes around today. By backing Chavez, these actors and "peace" laureates are by extension supporting the continuation of policiees that support mass murder, abuse of women and children, weapon proliferation, political oppression, terrorism, and genocide.
Hugo Chavez is no friend to human rights or to political freedom. He is no activist for peace. He is no one that anyone with a moral conscience should support. Glover, Penn, Menchu, and Carter harm the advancement of peace, freedom, and human rights around the world by continuing to support Chavez and his policies. It is time for the American Left to jump off of the Chavez bandwagon and recognize that he is a destabilizing and corrupting force in world affairs and both Venezuela and the world would be better off if he were sent packing.