A Tale of Three Presidents


But Mr. Chávez had enormous empathy for the poor and the marginalized. He made great strides during his presidency, helping millions of people.True, he made many mistakes. Mr. Chávez aspired to make his model sustainable, but died without achieving that goal. His habit of choosing loyalty over competence was a fatal mistake. So was entrusting multiple responsibilities to a closed circle of people who were unprepared and unwilling to make hard choices. It nurtures a climate of secrecy and unaccountability, which can be a danger to democracy.I’ve seen that same behavior in Donald Trump, who has surrounded himself with family members, giving them jobs for which they have no experience or knowledge. It’s a standard autocratic tactic in order to keep a tight grip on power, stemming from the paranoia that power addiction creates, and the narcissistic belief that no one can do things better.Nicolás Maduro is no Hugo Chávez. He is an unpopular president with questionable legitimacy, accused of widespread violations of human rights, corruption and elections fraud. Though he tries to emulate Mr. Chávez, he is more similar to his northern counterpart, Donald Trump.Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Maduro thrives on deception, exaggeration and lies. He denies a humanitarian crisis exists in Venezuela and blames the United States for his own mess. Should he be ousted in a coup, crippled by economic sanctions or overthrown in a foreign invasion? No. Venezuela’s problems must be resolved by Venezuelans. Instead of entertaining the possibility of a military intervention to remove Mr. Maduro, Washington should focus on circumventing our own budding kleptocracy led by another aspiring autocrat.No president should ever rule unchecked. No person should ever be given free rein to disregard the basic tenets of society, law and order, freedom and respect. It is the people who must hold their leaders to account through active, conscientious participation and oversight, always keeping a watchful eye on the dangers and temptations of pervasive corruption and power addiction.Mr. Maduro returned to Venezuela empty-handed. No meeting with Mr. Trump, no easing of sanctions, no lessening of tensions. But, in perfect Trumpian fashion, he went on state TV to grandstand about his trip, making outlandish remarks.

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