Sunday, January 25, 2009

Not Quite A Slur

Newly christened Nepal’s Hugo Chavez, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is struggling to wash off the slur. Ever since three powerful western ambassadors went into a joint session with Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala to convey the epithet, Dahal has been cozying up with his wily predecessor.
Unable to ferret out what else the trio might have volunteered to Koirala, Dahal took to the nation’s airwaves. True, the ban on dowry, outlawing of untouchability and strictures against government extravagance were irrelevant to his immediate purpose. But the announcement could buy time for the premier.
Koirala was reportedly befuddled by the request for a joint meeting. The ambassadors of the United States (Nancy J. Powell), France (Henry Gilles Garault) and the United Kingdom (Andrew Hall) might have sought such a setting to assure Koirala that they weren’t up to their own games.
The Chavez slur emanates directly from the Venezuelan president’s Bolivarian Revolution, an admixture of democratic socialism and Latin American integration resting on opposition to neo-liberalism, globalization, and American foreign policy.
The closest Dahal ever came to espousing such a grand cause was during an interview with Time magazine a couple of years ago claiming he would turn Nepal into a launching pad for a global revolution. We thought George W. Bush put that all behind him after he briefly met with Dahal last September at reception he held for leaders attending the United Nations General Assembly. (A party, one might add, Chavez has been excluded from.)
But when Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher cancelled his visit to Nepal late last year – during which he was expected by some to announce the withdrawal of Washington’s terror tag on Nepal’s former rebels – it was hard not to connect it with the arrival in quick succession of two Chinese military delegations.
Now Dahal doesn’t have Chavez’s oil wealth to distribute among New York’s and London’s poor. Good gracious, he hasn’t even sought a meeting with Cuba’s ailing Fidel Castro, the man Chavez hopes to succeed as the world’s Leftist in Chief. So doesn’t the threat perception sounded in the final week of the Bush administration sound a bit exaggerated, even Iraqi WMDish?
There is a more important question here. How willing would President Barack Hussein Obama be to taming the global left? Sure, he has moved to center since emerging from the far left of the Democratic Party to win the presidency. His cabinet appointments portend a moderate Clintonesque foreign policy. There is one hole. He has named a lightweight Chicagoan to head the Department of Education.
This man, who ran the city’s public school system (not quite a resume enhancer), could be fronting for one of Obama’s mentors, William Ayers – former Weather Underground bomber turned professor of education. Ayers has been an enthusiastic supporter of Chavez’s education plan.
Would Britain and France be able to nudge Washington toward a harder line against Chavez? The Maoists aren’t about to wait until the new American ambassador arrives. Rumors of a military coup backed by the Nepali Congress and former king Gyanendra Shah are swirling too fast.
Privately, though, Dahal probably relishes the Chavez comparison in his own way. The former paratrooper has survived countless US-backed democratic and disruptive attempts to dislodge him. Yet he keeps stacking up allies in the neighborhood who have won democratic elections.
Dahal knows he can savor the epithet at leisure later. There are more pressing matters at hand, like, say, the Nepali Congress unveiling a model constitution the day before Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood urged Nepalis to learn from his country about forming an inclusive statute.