Hugo Chavez was sworn in for his third consecutive term as President of Venezuela today.
One of his first major announcements following the inauguration was a call for legislators to amend the constitution so he can run again. Under the present Venezuelan constitution the president is limited to a maximum of three six-year terms. Chavez wants "unlimited" terms, so he can stay in office well beyond his current 2013 deadline. He also wants the Congress to give him the power to enact laws without their consent, or in other words, rule by decree.
People accuse Chavez of being a communist tyrant in the making, and gestures like this don't do much to disprove it.
Chavez has also promised to further entrench socialism in his second term, with the first gesture being the complete nationalization of the country's telephone and electric companies. But these are matters for the higher-brow political commentators to discuss, so we won't get into it here. If you are interested in reading a critique of Chavez from a Venezuelan perspective, I encourage you to read the fine blog "Caracas Chronicles" which offers highly readable commentary on Venezuelan politics (in English!).
Chavez did not have much time to get settled after his swearing in, however. He had to high-tail it out of Venezuela and head over to Nicaragua, where his friend was getting sworn in as president of that country. Chavez showed up late, but the Nicaraguans were nice enough to delay the entire ceremony for him. Which just shows where the affinities of the new regime rest.
Mr Chavez, a social democrat turned US-bashing communist revolutionary, had a plane waiting to whisk him to the Nicaraguan capital to congratulate Mr Ortega, a US-bashing communist revolutionary turned social democrat.
- Felipe, Crown Prince of Spain- historic friendship, Felipe is the heir to the throne of the nation that originally colonized Nicaragua.
- Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Alvaro Uribe of Colombia- ideological allies, showing left-wing solidarity across the continent
- President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan- Nicaragua is one of about two dozen small countries that recognizes the government of Taiwan as the legitimate government of China. For this, the Taiwanese are eternally grateful.
2. Pinko tide
With Ortega now formally in power, the much ballyhooed leftist sweep of Latin America continues. Only a couple countries in that part of the world are still ruled by center-right parties, while all the most important ones remain firmly in the hands of left-wingers of varying stripes.
I've made a handy map which charts who's ruled by who, which you can see at the right here. The map will stay static for a little while, there aren't going to be any presidential elections in Latin America until the fall of 2007.
3. The end of neckties
For as long as there have been neckties there have been those who have denounced them as stuffy, uncomfortable symbols of snobbishness and corporate conformity. As more and more super-populist anti-establishment men continue to take power around the world, we are beginning to witness a rather interesting revolution in political dress.
At one time, it would have gone without saying that a Latin American president would wear a solemn suit and tie ensemble to his national inauguration. But Ortega just wore a loose white dress shirt and slacks, as you can see in the photo above. 30 years ago that would have been the height of disrespect, but today such under-dressing just shows off what a true man of the people you are.
Ortega will join the ranks of other notable non-tie wearing world leaders around the globe, including: