Caracas

THAT FAINT CLANKING SOUND, arriving through the open window of his home office: Was it coming from the courtyard? Was it being made by the pulley they’d attached to the house’s outside wall? Christ, it couldn’t be, thought Nixon, looking at his new digital watch: 6:15 p.m. No, they still had the round-the-clock nurse with them, and she wouldn’t be letting Pat get up from her long afternoon nap for another 15 minutes, when he’d join her for a glass of fruit juice and dinner off the TV trays. He heard the clanking again and realized it was just the halyard hitting the flagpole.

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If Chavez can no longer rule, who will take his place?

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The presidential election in Venezuela this Sunday really shouldn't be this close. What happened?

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Mitt Romney's response this week to President Obama's populist speech in Kansas was to warn that Obama "seeks to replace our merit-based society with an entitlement society." Daniel Henninger went even further in his op-ed yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, declaring the speech "what you'd expect to hear in Caracas or Buenos Aires." It's funny that Henninger should make the South American comparison.

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What does a photograph reveal and not reveal about a building? However consequential the question used to be, the Internet has become a seductive digitized world of photo stills and slideshows from which one might infer that actual knowledge—factual information—has been obtained. But buildings are real, indeed, real things that everyone needs and nearly everyone constantly uses. More or less reliably, too, a building stays put, at least until a tsunami hits or, more typically, someone comes along and tears it down.

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It was not easy for me to watch the drama of Tahrir Square; and I cannot imagine that it was easy for any of my fellow Venezuelan exiles to watch, either. To the millions of us who marched our hearts out in the anti-Chávez protests of 2002 and 2003, the sight of those huge, hopeful crowds in Egypt set off an instant shock of recognition. In late 2002, a steady build-up of massive marches—usually numbering in the hundreds of thousands—brought Caracas to a standstill for days on end.

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In August 2009, Hugo Chávez drew fire from international watchdog groups for his decision to shut down 34 opposition-minded radio stations and two local TV stations over supposed "administrative infractions." Reporters Without Borders issued a tough communiqué “vigorously condemning the massive closure,” while the Committee to Protect Journalists called the government’s official justification for the move a “pretext to silence independent and critical voices.” And Amnesty International pronounced itself “extremely concerned at the deterioration in freedom of expression in Venezuela.” Similar

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Bogota Brouhaha

Venezuela and Colombia are the original odd-couple of Hemispheric diplomacy. With the former run by a rambunctious socialist autocrat and the latter by a U.S.-aligned hard-right hawk, the two countries have been on a collision course for years. The proximate cause and biggest irritant has long been the Venezuelan government's tacit alliance with FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest Marxist guerrilla movement.  This week, tensions just about boiled over as Colombia presented detailed evidence of Venezuelan collusion with FARC and a smaller rival guerrilla, the ELN.

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Last year, Hugo Chavez amended Venezuela's constitution and abolished term limits. The entire business was a bit odd, but not because the constitution was changed, which is quite common in Latin America. Nor was it because the changes involved extended his rule (which is equally common). No, what was unusual about the constitutional reform of 2009 was that abolishing term-limits was all it did. You see, constitutions are uniquely plastic in Latin America.

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Venezuela is another one of those socialist nightmare/dream fantasies. While the tyranny may be Latin-lackadaisical, the slow but certain shutdown of centers of dissent goes on--and soon there will be nothing else to close. Except for the fact that there is a certain popular resilience to the tricks the dictator learned from Comrade Castro.

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