And the award for Best Dictator goes to…

While President Bush and Sen. Kerry spent the weekend patting themselves on the back and spinning the U.S. media dizzy, an old U.S. adversary, Moammar Gadhafi, was proving that the celebration of empty politics is not just reserved for the Capitalist West.

The ceremony for the “Moammar Gadhafi human rights award” was held this weekend, kicking off the long anti-imperialism award season that culminates with the Oscars in early 2005.

The Gadhafi award – whose past recipients include Fidel Castro, Louis Farrakhan and Nelson Mandela – was given this year to Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, for his “brave heart, intelligent mind, eloquent oratory and firm hand” in his resistance of imperialism and his championship of the poor. Second runner up “unprecedented number of suicide bombings in Iraq” could not attend, but President Chavez rejoiced, stating that he “felt bathed in honor.”

A longtime fan of the Cuban model of government, Chavez has inflamed U.S. leaders both through his celebration of Cuba’s president Fidel Castro and his highly publicized visits with the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. He further riled U.S. aggression by denouncing George Bush for “fighting terror with terror,” in response to the September 11th attacks, and for raising taxes exponentially on foreign companies who extract heavy crude oil from the rich Venezuelan resources. The Libyan decision to honor Chavez seems directed at the United States, perhaps in response to Western pressures to halt Libya’s plans to develop nuclear programs.

President Chavez, an ex-paratrooper and confirmed populist, is head of the nation with the world’s fifth largest oil reserves and has been at odds not only with the U.S. government but with his own country for some time. He was removed from office in 2002 after a series of national strikes immobilized the Venezuelan economy, only to be reinstated two days later when his supporters, mostly consisting of Venezuela’s poor, flooded the streets demanding his return.

While President Chavez’s detractors can fairly criticize his occasionally violent communist aspirations and easily scoff at the very idea of a Gadhafi-themed human rights award, Chavez has proven his dedication to the Venezuelan people time and time again, in rhetoric at least. Venezuela had from 1958 enjoyed the spoils of democratic government, complete with financial inequality and unstable national economy. Chavez’s 1998 landslide election was fueled with promises of, at last, leveling the monetary playing field.

In response to Venezuela’s financial windfall associated with rising oil prices since the invasion of Iraq, President Chavez has been at odds with his national bank. His insistence that the bank release $1 billion of the $21 billion surplus to be used for government-funded assistant programs for the poor has created a monumental rift among leaders. The bank fears the move would upset its standing within the world market, where Chavez insists Venezuela’s money belongs to the people.

This is the crux of both the praise and criticism of the Chavez government. His unflagging and unsuccessful dedication to equality of wealth in Venezuela and his almost complete apathy towards Venezuela’s role in the global economy has garnered him a mix of approval and condemnation. Critics range from the wealthy oligarchs, who face constant harassment, to the impoverished masses themselves, who have yet to see much improvement in the quality of their lives. In fact, recent polls show a more than 50 percent drop in Chavez’s popularity, based almost entirely in his inability to follow through on promised development.

While there is no official comment from the Bush administration concerning the award, it’s easy to assume President Bush is not impressed. An award that celebrates the complete undermining of traditional U.S. values and rejoices in threatening the very fabric of our lives and President Bush didn’t win? Heresy!