CANDIDATES for both U.S. political parties are free to run against President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. But don't pretend that will bring down oil prices.
Mr. Chavez is the charismatic, new-leftist, military, elected strong man of the country that thought-up the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and later subverted it by exceeding production quotas.
Mr. Chavez is busy reviving OPEC as a meaningful cartel that can cost the carefree U.S. motorist and home-heater a bundle over a sustained period. Along the way he is posturing as a Third World leader who will stand up to Washington, which plays well back home.
Mr. Chavez is on a whirlwind tour of the 11 OPEC nations plus Iraq to promote the Sept. 27 OPEC meeting in Caracas as the first OPEC summit since 1975. He not only wants the big guys to attend but to agree on disciplined production quotas to manipulate price at a high, sustained level.
The wrong U.S. reaction is to get incensed that Mr. Chavez spurned Washington's admonition and drove over Iraq's border from Iran to provide President Saddam Hussein his first summit visitor in a decade of isolation. Mr. Chavez stayed on the ground and broke no United Nations sanctions.
More alarming are Mr. Chavez' visits to this nation's allies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the smaller gulf states.
He got Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah to promise to attend the Caracas meeting.
Mr. Chavez has opposed Saudi Arabia's recent increase of oil production to hold down oil prices. Now the two countries have declared their agreement on price stability, though it is clear that Venezuela thinks consumers can withstand higher prices without economic slowdown than Saudi Arabia does. For OPEC to work, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have to agree.
Mr. Chavez has yet to improve the lives of Venezuelans through his statist ideas, even during high oil revenues. But he is riding high, and is yet to be proved wrong about price from a Venezuelan point of view.