Chavez wins reform = Walesa and Americans beware

I was appalled to hear the news coming from Venezuela today: its President, Hugo Chavez, proposed a reform to lift elected official term limits and it passed (again, barely) with just over 50% in a nationwide vote. This surely means Chavez will run again and could possibly mean he will remain Venezuela’s president beyond 2016.

If you’re sitting at home thinking this has nothing to do with you, think again. Chavez has long been an opponent of real democracy and has extreme and sometimes scary socialist notions when it comes to how nations should handle the world’s problems. He is one of the leading opponents of the U.S. as a world power, and seems to go to great lengths to lobby for the support of other socialist nations such as Cuba, Russia, and China.

The even scarier implications of this news brings rather unwelcome tidings to democratic nations. Just recently, Chavez prevented Lech Walesa, the former Nobel Peace Prize-winning Polish President, from entering Venezuela because Walesa had planned on speaking throughout the country in support of Chavez’s party opposition. We Americans love Walesa, and have also been treated rather brashly in Venezuela, so the prospects of safe and happy travels in Chavez country are not looking so great.

Cuba’s 50th anniversary

Cuba has a lot to mull over as it rushes in the new year. That’s because it’s no longer up to Fidel to make decisions about the nation’s state — particularly with regard to its relations with the world’s most powerful nations (Russia, China, and the United States to name a few…). It’s up to Fidel’s brother, Raúl, who officially took the reigns from an ailing Fidel back in February.

Fifty years ago today, Fidel Castro marched his revolutionary troops down to Havana and freed his nation from dictator Fulgencio Batista. It only seems fitting, then that this photo is Cuban propaganda that says, “Fight and conquer the impossible.” Let no one argue Fidel’s power and influence in Cuba. He entered the picture fifty years ago. The rest, they say, is history. Soon after Castro’s rising, the U.S. government banned exports and broke diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Bay of Pigs, the Cold War, Guantanamo are all marked in his nation’s history, indicating moments of victory, defeat, and uncertainty.
To be certain, this new year will be an exciting and perhaps tumultuous one for this Caribbean nation. The Guantanamo military prison, which Bush opened in January 2002 in response to the September 11 attacks, will likely close very soon. Some European countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, and Switzerland are considering taking in some Guantanamo detainees. Obama, once inaugurated, will likely open talks with Raúl Castro, possibly ending a near-fifty year cold shoulder and allowing greater ease in travel between the two countries. Citizens of both are optimistic.

Perhaps, when the next holiday season comes around, loved ones will not need to rely on web-based shopping sites to send gifts.

Central Europe in Trouble?

If you missed 1989, now is a good opportunity to sample the “revolutionary, yet peaceful” spirit of Central Europe once again. Head over to Budapest.

Hungarian students have been protesting the new socialist government of the Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány for a week now. Last weekend, he admitted to the nation, that his party lied about the real state of the Hungarian economy in order to win the election. Apparently, everyone lies, so he didn’t see anything wrong with admitting to it. Since then, students have been demonstrating in the streets of Budapest, demanding his resignation. Sure, you have some radical nuts and soccer hooligans joining the crowds, but that is the way things in Central Europe have been — ranging from the extreme left to the extreme right.

Some say this is the first indication that Central Europe is in trouble: Hungary is wrapped up in protest, Poland is on the verge of a government crises and Czech Republic has a “puppet” government in place before preliminary elections are called. I think being in the good old revolutionary days is pretty cool. It’s good to see students in the streets again, rather than only in their bedrooms playing computer games. You know people care. The spirit is contagious.

Maybe Neil was right in his post, suggesting that Budapest is stealing some of Prague’s spotlight.