Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
30 January 2007

Dick Cheney vs Thabo Mbeki

Superficially there are some interesting parallels between Vice President Dick Cheney and President Thabo Mbeki. Not naturally warm, not media friendly and prone to making assertions that seem at the very least eccentric and at best wrong and dangerous, both have had their fare share of criticism.

Mbeki denied the link between HIV and Aids while Cheney claimed 18 months ago that the insurgency was “in its last throes” and last week said that Iraq has been a “tremendous success”.

Of course, Mbeki’s politics is far to the left of Cheney’s and he does seem to have a much better grasp on reality than Cheney who seems completely bonkers of late.

In any case, when I saw this clip by comedian John Stewart completely demolishing Cheney after he had been particularly unhinged when interviewed by Wolf Blitzer last week, I realised that it was not possible for any TV comedian in South Africa to treat President Mbeki in the same manner.

Somehow, we are not ready yet. Things are too tricky, given our apartheid past, to ridicule a leader in such a brutal way. The Hansie Cronje effect would kick in and Mbeki would garner much sympathy from many South Africans.

O well, meanwhile, sit back and enjoy a really honest comedian doing what he does best.

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