When it was all over, Venezuelan???s Marxist strongman Hugo Chavez won a fourth term with a relatively comfortable 54 percent of the vote. As attractive a candidate as challenger Henrique Capriles was, it really didn???t matter in the end. After 14 years in power, Chavez has iron-fisted control over Congress, the courts, trade unions, and the electoral commission. Along with the oil companies, the electricity and telecommunications companies have come under state control. When the conservative Radio Caracas Television (RCT) channel began criticizing the president, Chavez drove them from the airwaves.
Incredibly, Mary Anastasia O???Grady reported in the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago, Venezuela???s electoral system was hailed by none other than Jimmy Carter as ???the best in the world.??? In the same address in Atlanta, O???Grady reports — and hold your breath on this one — the former president said that the United States ???has one of the worst election processes in the world, and it???s almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money.???
But even with these advantages, Chavez still had more arrows in his campaign quiver than his opponent: the strong endorsements and assistance of some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
That???s right. Along with helping liberal Democrats in this country, the ???glitterati??? of the entertainment industry and some sports figures embraced Venezuela???s father of ???21st Century Socialism??? in his moment of need.
Much as Errol Flynn made a film in 1958 hailing revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and whose final film romanticized the Castro movement (???Cuban Rebel Girls???), director Oliver Stone filmed ???South of the Border,??? a documentary on the rise of modern leftist leaders in Latin America such as Bolivia???s Evo Morales and Chavez himself. Stone became close friends with Chavez and was photographed with him during trips to Venezuela.
Argentine soccer superstar Diego Maradona and U.S. boxing promoter Don King offered public praise of Chavez and his revolution. King himself appeared on ???El Jeffe???s??? weekly radio and TV show and said, Fox News Latino reports, ???To see what is happening here makes me feel good all over.???
Fox Latino also reported that American movie action star Danny Glover can so count on the Chavez regime that when he wanted to make a movie on Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L???overture, ???[i]t was reported in 2007 that Venezuela???s state-sponsored studio complex Villa del Cine would funnel $18 million into the project ??? making a few Venezuelan filmmakers a little unhappy.???
The friendship and appearances with Chavez by two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn have been widely reported. From Penn to calypso great Harry Belafonte to Kevin Spacey (who had a three-hour session with Chavez while in Caracas in 2007), ???beautiful people??? have either embraced, met with, or campaigned for the man who is building what he calls ???21st Century Socialism??? in Latin America and an alliance with Iran???s Ahmahdinejad across the globe.
Coupled with Carter???s praise of Venezuela???s electoral system as ???the best in the world,??? one doesn???t have to look at the photos of Hugo Chavez these days and wonder: ???Why is this man smiling????