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Jesse [Jackson] In Caracas


Published on Tuesday, August 30, 2005 | Demagogues: Jesse Jackson was in top form, flying into Caracas to take a cheap shot at Pat Robertson and sing the praises of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. But amid the huzzahs, something ugly was happening outside.

Seems that Chavez was in top form, too, doing what dictators like his pal Fidel Castro do. Opposition leaders say that while Jackson was visiting over the weekend, Chavez's men sent mobs to ambush about 1,000 peaceful protesters with rocks, bottles and fireworks in downtown Caracas.

Venezuelan media reported nine injured, two seriously. An eyewitness said those hit hardest, and often from behind, were vocal dissidents.

The protesters weren't interested in Robertson's ill-chosen "assassination" remark, with which the Venezuelan government is making so much political hay. They want changes in Chavez's tainted election board so that fair elections can take place.

Somehow, Jimmy Carter's assurances that all's free and fair in Venezuela's electoral system didn't persuade them. Last year, Carter was an official monitor of the recall referendum that Chavez won amid cries of fraud. Chavez's opponents say he has stacked the election board with his cronies.

The protest marches show a lack of confidence, as does the 70% abstention in the municipal elections a few weeks ago. Results took a week to tally with the "latest" electronic equipment and had to be "corrected" again in a string of bizarre errors. It's left many Venezuelans thinking they're dealing with a dictator, not a democracy.

The protesters were marching to seek a chance to take out Chavez not by assassination, as Robertson suggested, but through a meaningful democratic election, something they don't have.

Jackson doesn't seem to grasp the significance of democracy. El Universal reported he told a local radio station: "We talk much about the right to vote democratically, but we should also have the right to a good life, health and the just distribution of resources."

So as Jackson was being feted by Chavez in the presidential palace, and Jackson was extolling Venezuela as "an example for the world," a violent organized attack was going on in the streets below. And Jackson was silent. Chalk it up to domestic politics.

Crying crocodile tears, Chavez has declared he's "deeply concerned" about the high cost of energy, especially for the poor in America. But rather than do something to keep prices down, like stop threatening to cut off oil to the U.S., Chavez wants to set up a system to distribute below-market energy to our have-nots.

If this attempt to stir Venezuela-style class resentment isn't meddling in U.S. domestic politics, nothing is.

His willing pawn is none other than Jackson, who's been chosen to distribute the largesse. Chavez announced this plan with Jackson on his weekly variety show, so we don't know how serious he is. But if he means business, Jesse (along with other luminaries like actor Danny Glover) will be the go-to guy for cheap energy as a democracy crumbles and blood runs in the streets.

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