Not all tyrants are created equally. Distinguishing between them can be rough work, but nature seems to apply a scale to all things and tyranny is as natural as water, apples, and radiation.
They appear so parallel, almost indistinguishable, but for what it’s worth, Muammar Gaddafi is no Hugo Chavez.
While Chavez is busy inflaming his border with Colombia and warning President Obama of regional interference, Gaddafi is hoping to put Egypt and Algeria's soccer shenanigans to rest. Libya’s state-run JANA news agency Jana reported that Arab League chief Amr Musa had asked Col Gaddafi to play the role of mediator.
"As chairman of the African Union, the Guide of the Revolution is going to work to bridge the gulf that has opened up between Egypt and Algeria," Jana reported.
Musa’s outreach is a propaganda coup for Gaddafi. As Chavez builds up his strongman rep, Gaddafi will attempt to play dove between two Muslim countries. Everyone wins. Ibrahim Youssri, former Egyptian ambassador to Algeria, told Al Jazeera that the introduction of Gaddafi as a mediator would “give the leaders a chance to save face.”
And Gaddafi receives good face time.
Chavez and Gaddafi appear closer than ever; Chavez was the guest of honor at a military parade celebrating Gaddafi’s 40th year in power. As Chavez searches Gaddafi’s political history for clues to extend his own rule, Gaddafi appears to be running his African campaign through Chavez.
Gaddafi and Chavez called for a “NATO of the South" during a September summit between African and South American leaders. A document to redefine terrorism, widely ridiculed, is also in the works. It rejects, “attempts to link the legitimate struggle of the people for liberty and self-determination.”
But their proximity provides an opportunity to study their variation. Chavez’s stock is falling due to a combination of poor governance and political distractions. Nagging inflation, power outages, and IOU’s for government workers have forced Chavez, at least in part, to start a fire on the Colombian border.
Tensions between the two countries are undoubtedly real, but the length Chavez is going to posture himself suggests a red herring. And the plan collapsed too. Four out of five Venezuelan's opposed conflict with Colombia, according to a poll by Alfredo Keller.
By contrast, Gaddafi is back in business now that US sanctions have been lifted, a reward obtained by good behavior. After scrapping his nuclear program in 2003 and tightening the flow of cash and weapons to militant groups, his reward is the return of foreign investment and tourism.
Libya’s economy is booming, relatively speaking. Maybe Muammar Gaddafi will patch the hole between Egypt and Algeria, maybe it’s a publicity stunt. But he’s trying.
Currently the same cannot be said for Hugo Chavez.