Wednesday, February 14, 2007

And the alcoholic of the month is...

Doug Thorburn thinks Hugo Chavez shows a lot of behaviour of that an alcoholic. What do you think? Do you think Hugo Chavez likes to drink heavily or he is into other type of drugs? Or he is clean but plain crazy?

Hugo Chavez, Totalitarian Alcoholic

by Doug Thorburn from

The story of Hugo Chavez’ consolidation of power over his Venezuelan subjects will likely be viewed by future historians as one of the shrewdest Machiavellian power-grabs ever. The methodical, gradual—yet inexorable increase in control during his seven-year reign has been masterfully designed to avoid inciting social upheaval. Unfortunately for Venezuelans as well for people in neighboring countries, his brand of totalitarianism is likely to get much worse.

In myth # 66 of Alcoholism Myths and Realities, I mentioned that the United States initially dismissed Chavez because it was widely believed that “He’s probably just a harmless ‘big talker.’” I wrote, “We dismiss such talk, in which the rich or some other class is blamed for society’s problems, at great risk. If policy makers in Washington had understood alcoholism, they might not have underestimated Chavez.” I suggested that although we lacked definitive proof, alcohol or other-drug addiction was the best explanation for his extraordinary power-seeking behaviors. In addition, blaming the most successful economic system and nation ever for the poverty of his people is by itself an excellent clue to manipulation or confabulated thinking rooted in alcoholism. The trouble is, as those with at least ten years’ sobriety readily admit, when using addicts are capable of anything, including disrupting the lives of others in unimaginable ways.

Most observers concerned with an “alcohol problem” look for obvious late-stage signs of addiction such as loss of control over use or appearing drunk in public. Early-stage alcoholics, particularly those in positions of power, are often far too smart to ever look the part. Instead, they give away the secret by their behaviors, especially in the capricious exercise of power. They may exhibit a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude, act in compulsive, dogmatic and arrogant ways, use twisted logic, masterfully lie, disparage others and intimidate to get their way. Chavez displays all of these symptoms and more. He is described as having an “utter lack of inhibitions,” an “obsessive need to cast himself as hero of the people,” unpredictable, bombastic, arbitrary, bizarre and unreliable. Alcoholics in positions of power are nothing if not mercurial and cunning. The National Assembly, stuffed with his disciples, has now granted him the power to rule by decree. This marks the beginning of what is likely to be a far more obvious tyranny.

This concentration of power has been accomplished by systematically weakening competing branches of government. The legislative branch was trimmed from a bicameral body to a more easily controlled single chamber. He has packed the courts with cronies. The December 2006 election proved that he controls the reported vote, having received 61% “support” among 16 million voters in a nation of 27 million with over 60% too young to even register. In the 27 months up to the December 2006 election, voter rolls grew 30%. No one has any idea who the new voters are. Chavez makes former President Richard Nixon look like a piker when it comes to an “enemies” list: a local woman told a Wall Street Journal reporter that although many greatly dislike Chavez, they believe electronic voting and fingerprint tracking machines at the polls allow the government to know how they vote, resulting in a subsequent loss of employment if they vote incorrectly. What else can they do when the government is the only employer?

In a world that hasn’t yet learned that people are far safer from demagogues and tyrants when resources are privately owned, Chavez and others of his ilk are enabled. In private lives as well as public ones, money is the biggest enabler. His opponents told National Geographic writer Alma Guillermoprieto that Chavez has so many enemies, if it weren’t for his control of the oil company, PDVSA, and the funds it provides with which to bribe voters and foreigners alike, he would not be able to remain in power. Oil money has allowed Chavez to survive mistakes such as running the oil infrastructure into the ground, which would have otherwise destroyed his power-base. Socialism and its all-too-common by-product, corruption, have already resulted in a GDP collapse from $120 billion at the close of 2000 to an estimated $71 billion in 2003; more recent numbers probably aren’t reliable and oil revenues may hide massive economic deterioration. In a move reminiscent of Stalin’s 1937 purge of over half of his army and 80% of his most capable top brass, Chavez sacked two-thirds of managers and technical oil-field staff in 2002, along with what the Economist Magazine called their “irreplaceable understanding of the idiosyncrasies of its wells and fields.” Staffing promptly became more political: Chavez’ brother and cousin suddenly rose to the top ranks at PDVSA. Former employees who signed a petition advocating the recall of Chavez in 2002 have been blacklisted from jobs at both the government oil company and its contractors. Along with other petitioners, their names and national identification numbers were plastered on the web site of a pro-Chavez congressman and they were subsequently denied passports, government contracts and public welfare. The capricious power-seeking behaviors of an alcoholic are all-too-evident.

In the meantime, oil money has been used to fund propaganda and buy friends. Anti-American billboards litter the roads of Caracas and Venezuelan crude is sold at pennies on the dollar to other South American countries in a blatant bid to encourage their support (as well as over-consumption). In a cult of personality reminiscent of that of North Korea’s alcoholic Kim Jong Il, a 30-foot high close-up of his face and hands looms behind his podium at official ceremonies. As his opposition is squelched, cult-like manifestations of alcoholism can be expected to dramatically increase. The silence should soon become deafening. The innocuously titled “Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television,” passed in 2004, allows the government to suspend the licenses of stations that “promote, defend or incite breaches of public order or that are contrary to the security of the nation.” This will be used against the major opposition media, RCTV, as an excuse to non-renew the licenses of its 40 radio and TV stations. Even if he were to renew them, how much advertising will opposition stations sell when industry is nationalized and the few remaining private companies are afraid to air ads on stations that disagree with government policies? Alcoholics do everything they are in a position to do to bend rules for themselves and dictate rules to everyone else.

Chavez was elected on an “anti-corruption” platform. Yet corruption has gotten so bad that Transparency International, a Berlin-based watchdog, placed Venezuela 140th out of 163 countries in its annual survey of corruption, with a 2.3 rating out of a possible 10, on par with that of Niger’s and Zimbabwe’s. At his inauguration, he swore to overturn the 1961 constitution and create one that would facilitate “participatory democracy.” Apparently, his view of such democracy requires that all decisions be concentrated in his hands, from his own party’s lists of candidates for other offices to increasing murkiness of PDVSA’s finances, which stopped issuing reports in 2003. It has since transferred much of its earnings to a Chavez-controlled development fund for which revenues and expenses are not revealed.

Hypocrisy, particularly in conjunction with increasing one’s power, is one of the great unheralded clues to alcoholism. Chavez is pushing through a law that will restrict the ability of non-governmental organizations to receive money from abroad. However, it’s okay for his government to send as much as an estimated $50 billion in foreign “aid” to private people and organizations over the last couple of years including subsidized heating oil for poor districts in the Northeastern U.S. This is especially loathsome when we consider that this probably accounts for at least 25% of Venezuela’s GDP and as many as 50% of his own people live in a state of far worse poverty than the worst off in the U.S. Anyone found guilty of “disrespecting” the President or “inciting panic”—offenses that could arguably include unflattering photographs or nasty political cartoons—faces up to five years in jail. Yet he is cozying up to Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, backs Iran’s nuclear program and, according to The Wall Street Journal, “embraces” Ahmadinejad’s hateful anti-Semitism, which rivals that of Adolf Hitler’s. He describes Condoleeza Rice as “illiterate” and has suggested that she suffers from sexual frustration. He calls George W. Bush “Mr. Danger,” “asshole,” and “the devil,” and in one extraordinary harangue filled with hyperbole (at, a “coward, assassin and genocist (sic)…you’re an alcoholic, a drunk…” Alcoholics often engage in hyperbole and sneeringly identify others as alcoholics. When the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Miguel Insulza, said that Chavez’ threat to close RCTV appears to be “censorship against freedom of expression,” Chavez called Insulza to resign, saying he was an “idiot” who was acting like a “viceroy of the empire” (i.e., the United States). Recovering alcoholics have a saying describing themselves when using: one finger out, three fingers back.

His twisted logic is breathtaking in imagination. In threatening to confiscate ranches, he explained, “If someone doesn’t want [to reach an agreement with us], he can go to the courts, but we’re going to ask you for all the [documents] from 1821, and if [the property] wasn’t registered in 1821…” at which point he made the sound of a piece of paper being torn in half. The trouble is Venezuelan authorities didn’t get around to issuing titles until decades later. His childish antics would be amusing if they weren’t so intimidating: while making verbal threats not to renew the RCTV licenses, Chavez said, “RCTV has only a few days left…they can scream, stomp their feet, do whatever they want, but the license is finished. They can say whatever they want, I don’t care, it’s over.”

In a report at, Chavez is described as paranoid and fears assassination plots. While paranoia is a common symptom of cocaine and amphetamine addiction, Chavez appears too bloated to be addicted to anything other than alcohol and, perhaps, pharmaceuticals such as barbiturates to offset his copious caffeine intake (Chavez is reported to drink as many as 30 demitasses of coffee a day and could be replicating Hitler’s caffeine/barbiturate use). On the other hand, the site recalls a Cuban defector who in 2002 said that Castro’s men consider Chavez and many of his inner circle to be “drug addicts.” A private correspondent, who has long suspected Chavez is on something, points out that his pupil size and puffy face vary considerably and early in his career a complacent shrink medicated both him and his wife. Another correspondent says he uses his wife as a punching bag. One of the lesser-known indications of alcoholism is what Lucy Barry Robe in Co-Starring Famous Women and Alcohol called “telephonitis,” or “drunk dialing.” Chavez is known for calling friends late at night, with no particular agenda.

The signs and symptoms of alcoholism should be taken seriously by everyone who is at risk of being affected by his megalomania. With the purchase of 100,000 AK-47s, at least 40 Mi-35 assault helicopters and several fighter jets for his almost 1 million man reserve army, by far the largest in South America and far larger as a percent of population than that of the U.S., he has shown that his version of “democracy” requires a war machine with manufactured enemies. And because alcoholics are capable of anything—and I do mean “anything”—we are all at risk.

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