With Amigos Like Hugo Chavez ...

By Miguel Perez

July 24, 2012 5 min read

As if President Barack Obama didn't have enough problems, especially with so many Americans who think he is a closet socialist, he gets an unexpected endorsement from the most obnoxious socialist of them all.

Without an invitation, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dove into American politics last week when he called Obama "a good guy" and compared Mitt Romney to Henrique Capriles, his own opponent in the Venezuelan presidential elections.

Among Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans and other Latino Americans who fled from socialism, became U.S. citizens and vote in American elections, Chavez's remarks — if left unchallenged — could be very damaging to Obama.

When an arrogant, anti-American bully endorses you, you have the responsibility to disassociate yourself.

Chavez said Obama "deep down is a good guy, if you remove him from the context of being president of an empire." But he said Romney and Capriles represent the callously selfish capitalist elite. He said Romney follows "the extreme right-wing agenda that borders on the fascism of the United States."

Wow! What an endorsement. With amigos such as Chavez, Obama doesn't need enemigos.

Among many Americans, Chavez's endorsement of Obama can have the opposite effect. And to those who see socialists even in their soup, this kind of rhetoric from a firebrand socialist such as Chavez can be very alarming. Republican fear mongers will try to terrorize people over this one.

Chavez's comments leave Obama in the perilous position of having to respond to a blabbering clown that our government normally tries to ignore. Yet if he ignores Chavez now, the endorsement will surely be used by American conservatives to depict Obama as a confirmed socialist, and it could cost him a lot of votes among those who are swayed by the threat of socialism.

If Obama expects to win Florida, by making some headway among the traditionally conservative Latinos in South Florida, he needs to reject Chavez's endorsement — pronto and in very clear terms. "No, gracias" would be a good start.

He wouldn't have to take sides in Venezuelan politics. Imagine what Chavez and all the world's bleeding-heart liberals would say if Obama were to publicly insert himself in the middle of a presidential election, in Venezuela or any other country. Because there is a clear double standard, Obama can't do what Chavez has done.

But without taking sides in the Venezuelan election, Obama could easily point out the vast differences between the Venezuelan and American democracies. After all, one has an incumbent president seeking a constitutionally allowed second term for a total of eight years and the other has an incumbent president seeking a fourth term after manipulating the courts, rigging elections and rewriting the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits.

Obama could simply say that he rejects Chavez's comparisons because the American constitution is not written in pencil and he is not seeking to become a dictator. But he needs to say something!

If Chavez beats Capriles in the Oct. 7 Venezuelan presidential election and if he beats the cancer he has been fighting for more than a year, Chavez could be in power another six years, for a total of two decades.

And since he recently declared himself "cancer free," after at least two operations to remove cancerous tumors, Chavez says he doesn't expect physical restrictions to be a factor in his campaign against Capriles — and now even Romney.

By the way, while Romney has earned the image of a rich, conservative elitist who is out of touch with the middle class and the poor, Capriles, who is also a former governor, is quite the contrary.

Chavez would like the world to think his opponent is another capitalist, right-wing extremist like Romney. And yet, although he criticizes Chavez's socialist policies, Capriles is a left-leaning moderate, a young lawyer who models himself after former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and promises to create a balance between government social programs and pro-business policies.

T hat's not Romney, right? In fact, Capriles is more like the kind of candidate Obama would love to be able to endorse — if he was to meddle in foreign politics like Hugo Chavez.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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