There's both a story here, and a "backstory." There's both text and subtext. First the text.
Hugo Chavez has kicked out the American Embassy's US Naval attache on charges of spying, charges firmly denied by Embassy staff. This is likely to further upset the Bush administration, and administration officials stepped up their anti-Chavez rhetoric yesterday, although it is not certain whether that is a directly result of this case.
That's the story, for the most part. The backstory I find more interesting.
In his New York Times story, reporter Juan Forero writes
Speaking on the seventh anniversary of his ascension to power, Mr. Chávez also warned that he would order the detention and removal of any other American military officials caught spying."Ascension to power?" What is that all about? Hugo Chavez was elected to the office of President of Venezuela. He didn't "ascend" mysteriously to "power" (makes it sound that much more threatening, doesn't it?). It was the seventh anniversary of Chavez's election to the presidency. Why not just say that? "Ascension to power?" These damned liberals and their media bias...
Warning that Mr. Chávez is consolidating power at the expense of democracy, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld went so far as to compare Mr. Chávez to Hitler.Uh-oh...There he goes again.
"He's a person who was elected legally just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others," Mr. Rumsfeld said, referring to the Cuban leader and the new president of Bolivia, Evo Morales. "It concerns me."This is, of course, nothing new. Rumsfeld has compared people to Hitler before, like Saddam Hussein. Before our invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler. It's getting to be a little bit much, wouldn't you say? I mean, how many Hitlers can there be?
If the Hitler comparison is meant to suggest, perhaps, that someone "won" an election without a majority, with the help of political maneuvering, "rose to power" as a result of an attack on the "homeland," curtailed civil liberties but maintained support of conservatives by focusing national anger against outside threats, and made corporate leaders essentially another policy-making wing of the executive branch, it is not a comparison that suits Hugo Chavez. I will leave it up to you to decide if it suits anyone at all.
In testimony on Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, said Mr. Chávez "appears ready to use his control of the legislature and other institutions to continue to stifle the opposition, to reduce press freedom, and entrench himself through measures that are technically legal, but which nonetheless constrict democracy."Oh, man. The guys should really just listen to themselves before they speak. If there was ever an argument for making an administration wear the shoe--if it fits--this is one.
"Control of the legislature?" You mean, like the GOP? The fact is that Venezuela's legislature is controlled by democratically elected representatives of several political parties who appear to agree with the overall thrust of Chavez's idea of the "Bolivarian revolution." "Stifle the opposition?" You mean, by questioning their patriotism? "Reducing press freedom?" By hiring shills to pretend they are journalists, and to pay newspapers overseas to plant stories which will eventually leak their way into the US, is that what you mean? "Entrench yourself through measures that are technically legal?" Okay. I'll stop. You get the idea.
The backstory? PROPAGANDA.