The Washington Office on Latin America hosted a big ol’ Venezuela conference yesterday, assembling a diverse assortment of academics, government officials, human rights workers, and Venezuela experts on all sides of the political spectrum. All very DC-proper, right? But it was not without it’s moments of hilarity. Here are a few highlights:
* Michael Shifter of the Inter-American “Dialogue” stayed true to form by bailing as soon as his panel, the first of the day, was over. Frozen pipes at home or something. Once again, Shifter redefines the meaning of the word “dialogue.”
* Speaking of redefinition, Venezuelan lawyer Carlos Ayala (second from right), whose firm famously “consulted” on the Carmona Decree that dissolved Venezuela’s judicial and legislative branches of government during the 2-day coup against Hugo Chavez a few years back, doubles as a “Human Rights Activist.” He’s concerned, concerned I tell you, about security and individual liberties.
* Development specialist and visiting Georgetown professor Julia Buxton (pictured) was a goddamned Ginsu knife, slicing and dicing the ideologues with cold, hard facts. She implored other academics to get past the politics and look at the numbers, and will no doubt be drummed out of academia for her clarity.
* Republican Hill Staffer Carl Meacham proved that more than just his politics are sleazy by hitting on Dr. Buxton from the podium before explaining to the stupid Venezuelans how they should run their country. One of his benevolent ideas: “You’ve got all this oil money, why not spend it on health care and education?” Will do, asshole!
* Audience member, blogger, and anti-Chavez gadfly Gustavo Coronel inserted himself as the fourth panelist in each session by hijacking the Q&A periods with increasing tedious diatribes. By his third time at bat, even the State Department monitors in the back were rolling their eyes.
* And my favorite moment of the day: some guy from the International Republican Institute, which famously funded and praised the coup against Chavez, awesomely complained that Chavez was “interfering” with other countries’ sovereignty.
Don’t you wish you coulda been there?