American in Spain

Constitution Day

December 6, 2006
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Today is Constitution Day in Spain. It's one of the few holidays that is not a holy day.

I thought I'd write down a few thoughts that I had recently that actually relate to Constitution Day. A couple days ago, there was a lot of news coverage here about Hugo Chávez being elected president of Venezuela for a third term. The most important fact about Venezuela's current political climate, that I was previously unaware of, is that apparently Venezuela has quite a bit of oil under it. Chávez is mining this oil and pumping money into the economy. This is one of his biggest "Look what I'm doing to help this country" political platforms. One of the more astute political analysts criticized Chávez, saying, "By removing that oil, he's reducing Venezuela's future bargaining power. It's not that previous leaders didn't know that the oil was there, they just thought it best not to spend it all at once, like Chávez is doing." They also went on to point out that it's not really helping the country, it's just widening the gap between the filthy rich and the filthy poor. Stop me when this sounds familiar... Saudi.. [cough].. America.. [cough].

Apparently Chávez reminds his people, quite often, that Venezuela is oil rich and it is very likely that Mr. Danger, his pet name for President Bush, among others1, will be invading soon, like they did in Iraq, to take all the oil. "And when they do, we will be ready for them! We will retreat to the hills and fight them on our own terms!" Another political analyst pointed out that Chávez is maintaining much of his power by presenting this imaginary external threat to the country, and saying that the people need him to protect them. Man, that sounds so familar! Who else does that? Wait...don't tell me! Oh right... Caligula, Hitler, and many other megalomaniac tyrants throughout history. That's like the first chapter in the textbook for Dishonestly Maintaining Political Power 101.

They also said that Chávez likes to show footage of him being all chummy with Castro on his deathbed. I'm not sure why the 'zuelans dig Fidel so much, but apparently they do. This got me to pondering what's going to happen when Castro's cigar finally goes out. Although he's not directly wielding much power anymore, the fact that his heart is still beating is no doubt maintaining a lot of civility in Cuba.

So I started thinking, "Man, it's gotta be hard to go from a dictatorship to a democracy," and I started trying to think of an example in history where a country has successfully, and peacefully, transitioned from a dictatorship to a representative democracy. I thought and I thought, but my knowledge of history didn't seem to contain any instances of such a transition. And then it hit me, like a ton of bricks, each with "Duh!" written on them. Spain! The country you're sitting in, you idiot!

Only thirty years ago Spain made the incredible transformation from a horrible dictatorship to a peaceful democracy. No bloodshed, just political discourse. And on December 6, 1978, just three years after Franco's death, the Spanish Constitution was ratified. If that's not reason for a country to be proud, I don't know what is. Cuba should take note.

Although I've rounded this post off nicely now, I'd like to share another thought that sprang from those above. No doubt in my talking about a dictatorship-to-democracy transition, many of you thought of Iraq. There are two reasons why Iraq cannot (yet) make the transition to a democracy: religion and racial hatred.

Oh, and I have a solution to establish a working democracy in Iraq. But I'll save that for another post...

1If you haven't yet, you should check out this video of Chávez making fun of President Bush and calling him funny names. Although humorous, it is certainly no way to garner international respect. And can you imagine Bush addressing the nation, not from the Oval Office, but with the backdrop in that Chávez video?