8.25.2007 | Equal distribution of ...

Chavez: Timeless?
Fill in the blank. I'll give you a hint: one word, it's what Venezuela's socialist leader Hugo Chavez is attempting to achieve for his citizens, and it's something we all wish we had more of. Give up?


You were thinking wealth, right? Well, technically equal wealth is only achieved with a communist system, and even then, as Geroge Orwell pointed out in Animal Farm, some are more equal than others. What a government can do, apparently, is to ensure equal distribution of sunlight among its citizens.

Venezuela standard time?

In moving Venezuela's time zone back 30 minutes, Chavez says he wants "a more fair distribution of the sunrise," which he believes will help poor children go to school as they now wake up before dawn. And, according to the New York Times, it reverses a decision made in the mid-1960s to move Venezuela's time 30 minutes ahead to fall in line with its neighbors.

The decision places Venezuela in a small club of countries that place their time zones in fractional increments away from Greenwich Mean Time. That list, again according to the Times, is Afghanistan, India, Iran, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Nepal.

A little bit of history repeating

The Times article in question casts Chavez's time zone decision, together with his recent attempt to change the country's constitution, in both historical and symbolic lights — symbolic of Chavez's growing reach and influence, historical because it has happened before.

Chavez is close to Fidel Castro today, but at one time Venezuela was ruled by another Castro called Cipriano. From the beginning of his rule in 1899, there are many parallels to the types of changes Chavez is trying to bring to Venezuela key parallels between what Cipriano Castro did then and what Chavez is trying to do now: eliminate term limits, restore the Bolivarian unity between South American republics, and so on. For this pithy quote, the Times called on a professor of Latin American studies at Wesleyan University:

The good news for anti-Chavistas is that Castro stayed in power only until 1908. The bad news is that he was replaced by his vice president, Juan Vicente Gómez, who remained in power until 1935.

The Times also accuses Chavez of lobbying OPEC to cut production, contributing to today's higher oil prices. But as long as we are dependent on oil imports to fuel our cars, Venezuelan-owned Citgo stations remain neighborhood fixtures all over America.

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