It goes against the grain to put the name Hugo Chavez and the word "democracy" in the same sentence. It also seems strange to thank an army for maintaining democracy. But all of Venezuela has had that kind of through-the-looking-glass week.
The bizarre failed military coup that made Chavez a prisoner for 48 hours and then restored him as president of Venezuela went against expectations on several fronts. Latin American nations, several with an unfortunate history of military takeovers, rushed to demand the continuance of democracy. The United States, proclaimed champion of democracy, embarrassed itself by not denouncing the coup and was further shamed by the revelation that Bush administration officials had talked to the Venezuelan opposition for months before the coup.
The military action was born of a remarkable drop in Chavez's popularity in recent months as the economy went downhill. Protests against the president grew larger, oil workers went on strike and last week Chavez supporters opened fire on anti-Chavez demonstrators. That was too much for one faction of the military, which bundled the president off to an island prison. His opponents falsely claimed that Chavez had resigned; they installed Pedro Carmona, leader of the country's biggest business association, as president. Carmona, another man whose name will never be a synonym for democracy, dissolved the National Assembly and the Supreme Court. Then pro-Chavez demonstrators took to the streets and several were killed. That prompted other members of the military to reverse the coup.