Venezuela could soon be the largest producer of oil in the world and will almost certainly be sitting on the largest known reserves. The Chavez experiment is to translate epic natural wealth (already producing $120B of income per year) into broad-based national prosperity. No democracy has ever managed this (Norway?). No country has ever turned wealth in natural resources into universal wellbeing (theocratic dictatorships don’t count).
What’s frustrating about the mutual US-Venezuela hate-fest is that both nations are missing a huge opportunity to improve the outcome of the experiment. Friendly (or at least non-hostile) relations could turn Chavez’ plan to extend the most basic benefits of oil prosperity to millions of Venezuelans into reality. But Bush won’t tolerate a commie in his back yard and Chavez can’t seem to set aside his rabble rousing and tub thumping. As a result, inward investment is choked off, regional solidarity is reduced to a self-limiting club of left-wing governments and an opportunity to extend prosperity and peace across the whole of Central and South America is thrown away
I wonder if Democratic control of congress will result in a more accepting stance towards America’s upstart neighbours? Looks like Chavez’s big third term victory won’t bring about any moderation to his rhetoric either. That’s a pity. Result: another stupid international deadlock where agreement and progress would be quite possible (I also find myself wondering if things might have been different if these countries had been led by women).