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Column 040212 Brewer

Monday, April 2, 2012 Are Democracy, Peace and Prosperity in Venezuela's Future? By Jerry Brewer Political upheaval in many areas of South and Central America remains problematic within the Western Hemisphere. Yet more, Mexico must elect a new President this year, who will face critical issues when he or she takes the helm on December 1 of a government that has experienced more than 50,000 people murdered in criminal violence since December 2006. The commonality of murder setting world records from Mexico and south to Venezuela is astounding. As Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez looks to October 7th of this year for the Venezuelan voter's presidential referendum, he also battles an aggressive cancer that threatens his potential third term in office. After numerous proclamations by the leftist leader of being cancer free following previous surgeries, many reports continue to surface of his continued treatments and conjecture by a myriad of pundits that he has little time to live. Chavez's ultimate position in mortality also holds a great deal of influence on the balance of causation and power vacuums throughout the neighboring nations. As Chavez's former popularity continues to wane within Venezuela, he faces a formidable -- his toughest yet -- opponent in candidate Henrique Capriles. Polls are currently projecting a close race that may subtly indicate that Chavez has lost

support among Venezuela's poor -- a major portion of the populace that he promised many reforms. Chavez's venomous verbal attacks against his opponent Capriles, the governor of the State of Miranda, demonstrate a desperate agenda that borders on strong intimidation and threat. The Venezuelan leader has repeatedly said a victory by the opposition would put the country on a path to war and violence, and he has referred to Capriles as a "low-life ... pig." Chavez recently stated that he may decree "the seizure of banks and companies financing any attempt by the opposition to foment unrest during this year's elections." He said that private banks are financing the opposition's destabilizing plans and that he had a list of them. "It wouldn't be bad at all to issue a decree and bring those firms under state control; large national and some international companies that earn more than enough money here," he said. Too, he promised firm action against any opposition attempt to "violate the Constitution." Chavez has seized billions of dollars in assets from foreign firms since 2006, this as part of his plan to install a socialist state in Venezuela and bring the economy under government control. Those unscrupulous actions have resulted in around 20 court arbitration cases after failing to reach compensation agreements. Chavez said his government won't accept "acts of violence" like in 2002 and 2003, when he was briefly overthrown in a coup and resisted a 2-month general strike that paralyzed oil production and the economy. Chavez says he is expecting the opposition to say there was fraud during the forthcoming elections, adding that "I'm making a list of actions for my government to take in the event that we see other episodes of violence. If they dare to try something they'll regret it for the rest of their lives." This all heady recrimination in contrast to his own former acts of destabilizing the Venezuelan

government's status quo. After leaving prison, following two years of incarceration for leading an unsuccessful coup d'tat against the government in 1992, Chavez founded a social democratic political party -- the "Fifth Republic Movement," and he was elected President of Venezuela in 1998. He subsequently introduced a new Constitution, which increased rights for marginalized groups, and he altered the structure of the Venezuelan government as a self-professed leader and guardian of the poor. Hugo Chavez was reelected in 2000, when he rode to victory on an electoral promise to eliminate corruption in government. This promise was no doubt the one that was most decisive in his victory, brought forward by a deceived and gullible electorate. However, his second presidential term quickly evidenced the beginnings of mismanagement, deceit, corruption and other wickedness for the future of a once proud Venezuelan homeland. The results of Chavez's leftist rule to date have been some of the most disorganized in the history of Venezuelan finances. The amount of money coming into the country has been the highest in Venezuela's history, yet massive squandering of billions of dollars to purchase weapons in Russia and other countries, and the disbursing of significant amounts of money to other Latin American countries in exchange for promises of political loyalty and support, have resulted in the poor continuing to live in squalor, with unsafe homes, little food, and rolling blackouts of electricity. In fact, the voices of the poor in Venezuela have essentially gone unheard. But now, Chavez is reported to financially be quite aggressive in his presidential campaign, filling the pockets of the poverty stricken to buy votes. Chavez's taking up the banner of Cuba's failed revolution of atrocities, human rights abuses, and Cuba's shameful misery must not be Venezuela's

legacy. ---------Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His website is located at TWITTER: