In Venezuela, people are coming to regard their president as a very expensive form of entertainment. President Hugo Chavez' recent bid to win a non-permanent seat on the Security Council failed, though he is not yet willing to give it up. Reportedly, his antics while at the UN earlier this year were a major turn-off even to countries that agreed with his basic message, that the developed nations, and particularly the U.S., have shaped the international community for their own purposes. Although Guatemala was originally intended by the Caribbean and Latin American community to take the seat, Chavez refuses to concede. He has offered Bolivia, run by his increasingly hapless admirer Evo Morales, as a "compromise" candidate, but the smart money across Latin America is on the Dominican Republic. There, president Leonel Fernandez Reyna of the center-left Liberal Party, has drawn considerable praise both at home and abroad, from across the political spectrum, for his practical approach to the country's problems.
Chavez' reputation as a loose cannon was enhanced recently when Latin American intelligence agencies uncovered covert arms shipments to guerrilla movements in Colombia, Peru, and, surprisingly, Bolivia. The "rebels" on the receiving end of all this are often drug lords on the side, and not the kind of people you would take to the UN with you. At home, his popularity is also slipping, since promises of "pie in the sky" reforms have fallen through, largely as a result of his lavishing of the country's oil revenues on arms purchases and foreign aid.
In an interesting recent development, talk on the street is that, although he has already rigged the presidential election scheduled for December, Chavez has decided to take no chances. As a result, he has arranged for a bogus coup against himself to be staged some time in November, which will fail, of course, and be blamed on the US, naturally. With that, he will invoke emergency powers to cancel the election, thereby attaining his actual goal of becoming President-for-Life.