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Friday, May 19, 2006

Chávez Has Money

...and that's a problem:

The U.S. decision on Monday to ban arms sales to Venezuela symbolizes the growing concern around the region about the saber-rattling President Hugo Chávez.

But it's not likely to have much of an effect. First, because Venezuela can probably get much of what it wants in the weapons department via its friends in Russia. And second, because Mr. Chávez's "Bolivarian Revolution" -- which promises to unite the entire region under a neo-Marxist flag -- is being carried out through less traditional means than modern brute force. So far he has picked off Bolivia and serious concerns are now emerging about his financial backing of Sandinista National Liberation Front candidate Daniel Ortega ahead of Nicaragua's November presidential elections.

The trouble is that Mr. Chávez is awash in cash and that is what he is using, both overtly and surreptitiously, to extend his influence in the poorest countries of the region...

Venezuelan democrats will tell you that there is not much hope for a change in government without an oil-price retreat. Until that happens, Mr. Chávez will be too powerful. That's bad news for 26 million Venezuelans who are experiencing sky-rocketing crime rates and declining living standards under Chavismo.

From Mary Anastasia O'Grady (subscription)

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