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| 11/13/2009 12:00:00 AM

Chavez's headline addiction might cause conflict

Nov 13--Watching Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez call on his armed forces to ``prepare for war'' with Colombia, I couldn't help wondering whether he will end up like the late star of the TV series The Crocodile Hunter -- a victim of his own addiction to headlines.

Chavez's headline addiction might cause conflict Chavez's headline addiction might cause conflict
Remember The Crocodile Hunter? It was the TV series in which Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin -- amazed us every week by coming dangerously close to poisonous snakes, lions, crocodiles and other wild animals. As Irwin's ratings rose, so did his need to perform ever more daring acts in order to keep his ratings from falling.

Every time I watched Irwin pulling off an intrepid feat --like putting his hands inside a lion's mouth, or tying up a crocodile's mouth with his bare hands -- I shook my head with an eerie feeling that his need to surprise us with increasingly bold actions would end in tragedy. He died in 2006, when he got too close to a stingray in Australia's Great Barrier Reef and was pierced in the chest by the animal.

I don't mean to take the tragedy lightly, but his television career invites comparisons with that of many attention-hungry politicians. Like the Crocodile Hunter, Chávez owes much of his staying power to his audacious moves to grab headlines.

When the going gets tough at home, Chávez diverts public attention by blaming the ``oligarchy'' or ``the empire,'' playing the victim, and -- above all -- doing whatever it takes to remain at center stage.
 
Read more here.
 
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