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Venezuela's past and future

January 20, 2007

Re "History's warning to Hugo Chavez," Opinion, Jan. 15

Alexandra Starr's attempt to compare Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to former President Carlos Andres Perez is either negligent or disingenuous. Certainly, they have both been charismatic leaders who depended on high oil prices. But Chavez was just as popular when oil was $20 a barrel in 1999 as he is now. Meanwhile, it was Perez who embraced the Washington Consensus -- policies that have wrought only pain and poverty for the poor of Latin America. Today, Venezuela is a bastion of both democracy and a strong economy because Chavez has done what Perez failed to do: increase government programs that benefit the poor majority, maintain a state-owned oil company that generates great revenue and disregard International Monetary Fund policies. It seems that history's warning is directed toward those who continue to disregard facts in exchange for promoting an ideology, and not toward those who wish to end 500 years of open veins across a continent.

JONATHAN PIEGNET

Stockton

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Starr attempts to prove that history will repeat itself without saying how. Half of her argument is correct. Chavez is flexing petrodollars to centralize his power. What is missing from Starr's argument is exactly what is going to bring down oil prices. There have been no major discoveries of oil in decades, although worldwide consumption has soared. Maybe Chavez understands supply and demand better than we do.

JONATHAN PORCELLI

Brooklyn, N.Y.

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