June 13, 2005


A Young Defender of Democracy Faces Chávez's Wrath (Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Wall Street Journal)

Thirty-seven-year-old Maria Corina Machado doesn't seem to have planned on a career in public life. After studying engineering at Catholic University in Caracas she earned a post-graduate degree in finance from the Venezuelan business school IESA and went off to work for an auto parts manufacturer in the Venezuelan city of Valencia.

Today, facing charges of conspiracy against her government, she has become an international celebrity for her efforts to defend Venezuelan democracy.

Ms. Machado is one of the leaders of Súmate, a nongovernmental organization resisting efforts by President Hugo Chávez's to turn Venezuela into a dictatorship. Because of its vocal objections to the many steps Chávez has taken to consolidate his power, Súmate has become an "enemy of the people," in the traditional language of tyranny. The conspiracy charge stems from the $31,000 that Súmate took for non-partisan educational work from the U.S.'s National Endowment for Democracy, which promotes free and fair elections abroad.

Ms. Machado could go to jail for up to 16 years. Yet, after the past two weeks, in which she met personally with President Bush in Washington and attended the general assembly of the Organization of American States in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., persecuting her would carry a high price, turning the millions of dollars Chávez has spent on polishing his image abroad into a waste of money. Her case has been internationalized by Mr. Bush himself as a means of showing Venezuelans and the region that he is watching Chávez's misbehavior.

Chávez has known all along that as long as what happens in Venezuela stays in Venezuela, he has the resources to control it. Foot soldiers of his "Bolivarian revolution" spread and enforce his populist propaganda. A gag law keeps media criticism in check.

Managing his international reputation is equally important to him, but far more difficult. Any assessment from his Western Hemisphere neighbors that he has destroyed democracy in Venezuela and has become a potential aggressor would strip him of international legitimacy.

If this is going to be Liberty's Century the decade shouldn't end with Castro and Chavez in power in our own hemisphere.

Bush meets prominent opponent of Venezuela's Chavez (Tabassum Zakaria, May 31, 2005, Reuters)

President Bush met a prominent opponent of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the White House on Tuesday in a show of support that could anger the firebrand leader of a major U.S. oil supplier.

Maria Corina Machado, a founder of Sumate, a citizens rights organization, helped promote an August referendum against Chavez and still faces a possible jail term of up to 16 years along with her colleague Alejandro Plaz.

Called a "traitor" by Chavez, she was accused by a Venezuelan state prosecutor last year of conspiracy after her organization received a grant from the U.S. Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which promotes democracy.

Her trial is still pending.

"He (Bush) said that he, as well as many other leaders around the world, is very worried about the information regarding the violations on the part of Venezuelan government to the democratic principles and to the Venezuelan constitution," Machado told reporters at the White House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 13, 2005 9:55 AM

The coup leaders had to finish the job. Whoever lost their nerve, whether here or there, has much to answer for...

Posted by: b at June 13, 2005 1:17 PM

Latin America got a taste of democracy and found it not so much to its liking.

A much smaller taste will serve to prove to the Islamic countries that they don't like it, either.

Religion and popular self-government are fundamentally incompatible, and most people would rather give up liberty than religion.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 16, 2005 3:43 AM

They aren't trying religion but socialism, which is the enemy of both religion and liberty. They're acting European.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2005 7:30 AM