It’s hardly appealing:

WHEN a group of Venezuelan women staged an impromtu protest recently by dropping their trousers in front of armed national guards, President Hugo Chavez cheekily observed that the women were obviously in need of more attention than they received from their opposition husbands.

It was a characteristically inflammatory insult from the self-styled revolutionary who once called the former president George W Bush “the devil” and has already labelled President Barack Obama “el negro”.

Next Sunday Chavez’s bombastic wit and autocratic presidential style will once again be put to the test in a second referendum on his attempts to remove constitutional limits that prevent him from becoming president for life.

After narrowly losing a similar vote in 2007, Chavez has returned with a ferocious crackdown on opposition supporters and dire warnings of plots to overthrow him and hints that evil imperialists want to take over the oil industry, which supplies 93% of the country’s export revenues.

Last week he announced that two national guard officers had been arrested after “making contacts with the United States via e-mail [and] preparing destabilising plans against the president”.

Recall that a few years ago, there actually was a debate over whether it was accurate to call Hugo Chavez a dictator. Links aren’t handy, but I seem to recall a number of bloggers from the other side of the partisan divide actually claiming that George W. Bush outstripped Chavez in the dictatorship department.

If my memory is correct, I wonder what those bloggers might think now, assuming, of course, that they even address the issue in the first place.