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May 21, 2007

A Dictator in All but Title

Hugo Chavez isn't officially "President For Life", but the permission he has for ruling outside Venezuela's legislative body and his crackdown on dissent shows he's acting like one.

Tens of thousands of protesters on Saturday denounced President Hugo Chavez's plans to close an opposition television channel, accusing their leader of maiming Venezuelan democracy as he forges a socialist state.

Chavez says RCTV, the country's oldest private broadcaster, supported a bungled coup against him in 2002. He has had a long-running battle with opposition television stations, calling them "horsemen of the apocalypse."

"Let us defend democracy, let us defend freedom, let us defend free independent media such as RCTV," RCTV's managing director, Marcel Garnier, told demonstrators in Caracas.

The majority that voted him in is now getting a taste of what real dictatorship is like. Buyer's remorse is setting in.
Chavez, re-elected by a landslide last year, still enjoys support of about 60 percent of the public on the back of massive social spending. But a leading pollster has also found a majority of Venezuelans oppose the closure of RCTV.

Datanalisis found almost 70 percent of Venezuelans would rather RCTV kept broadcasting, but worried more about the loss of their favorite soap operas than free speech.

RCTV has been showing a nostalgic collection of clips from comedies, soap operas and Christmas specials that have been part of life in the Caribbean country since it started transmission in 1953.

"It is like losing a close relative," said Renaldo Gonzalez, a student at the protest, whose family members have worked at RCTV as actors, producers and directors.

Do Venezuelan's really aspire to be like Cuba? It's a few steps backward. Hopefully, this will wake up the populace, even if their concept of free speech comes mostly from which entertainment shows are available.

Posted by Doug at May 21, 2007 10:14 AM

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"The majority that voted him in is now getting a taste of what real dictatorship is like."

Um, it's not a dictatorship if he's voted in and can be voted out again if he loses public confidence, right?

Right now, according to your source, Chavez still has broad support (MUCH greater support than OUR president has) with the People of Venezuela. They just disagree with him on this issue and they have had the freedom to take to the streets and express that disagreement.

Chavez has problems, but let's not start down the demonization path wherein we twist facts and words to gather support to overthrow another nation's democratically-elected leader.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at May 25, 2007 01:26 PM

Um, it's not a dictatorship if he's voted in and can be voted out again if he loses public confidence, right?

I also consider it one when, after he takes office, he gets the Congress to give him 2 years of unfettered and unchecked power. As the post heading notes, he may not be a dictator in title, but he is in action. As I said, it's a taste.

Right now, according to your source, Chavez still has broad support (MUCH greater support than OUR president has) with the People of Venezuela.

And even greater support than our Congress has. What is the significance of that, exactly? A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.

Chavez is taking over the oil industry and buying his power from the people with the proceeds. Short term gain. The oil industry is reducing its investments in Venezuela, so Chavez will, at some point, have to come up with an alternate cash source, or risk losing favor. Think he'll accept the latter?

A free market is falling by the wayside. And now free speech is being curtailed. Is it that great a leap to suggest that at some point in the near term, the freedom to take to the streets will become a casualty too? Are you at all aware of the history of socialist / communist states?

And please, I'm not talking about invading Venezuela. I am pointing out how naively people throw their support to him (not just the Venezuelan people, but our own Glover, Belafonte, Sheehan, etc. etc.).

If Bush took over CBS, you'd be up in arms, possibly calling it "dictatorial", regardless of the fact that his term of office would be up in 2 years. And you'd be right. Chavez does it, and you argue against the label on a technicality.

Posted by: Doug Payton at May 25, 2007 02:24 PM

Read what I said:

"Chavez has problems..."

I'd disagree with Chavez on this radio and many other points. But he's not a dictator and when we've begun the demonization process in the past, it's been a prelude to invasions or economic coercion (as in the FTAs) contrary to that nation's interests. We make the "enemy" into a boogeyman and then it's easier for us to take whatever actions are necessary to stop the boogeyman in the name of freedom or whatever strawman we've set up.

The people of Venezuela voted for Chavez BECAUSE he was pushing a more socialist direction, we can assume it's what the people want. I'm not of the mind to assume that because they want something different than what I may want that they're naive or stupid or can be bought out by pretty promises.

I'm very aware of the history of socialist states. Are you aware of our history of meddling in other nations' affairs (for starters, read Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and/or Venezuela histories and read the names of the dictators we've supported and sins we've committed)?

Posted by: Dan Trabue at May 29, 2007 11:13 AM

I also know about our meddling in the liberation of France and the other Axis-occupied nations during WWII. I do not disagree that we've committed wrongs in the world. Regarding Venezuela, we're not there yet.

But when a guy proclaims he wants to bring socialism, and people are shocked--SHOCKED--that he shuts down a media outlet (and more are on the chopping block), somebody's not been paying attention. The people of Venezuela have been getting free ride courtesy of the pillage of oil companies. If they thought socialism just meant "free" government money, they were sadly mistaken. My opinion is that they were sold a bill of goods, and they bought it up.

This pillaging is not unlike the Left here, who seek to redistribute wealth in much the same way. Not quite as overt, granted, but the effect is the same; reducing economic growth, which is good for everybody, by chasing away investment money with confiscatory tax rates. Witness how many on the Left just adore this guy; a lot of big names.

George Bush, for all his faults and mistakes, hasn't curtailed freedom of speech as war protesters who weep about the stifling of dissent claim. Yet here is a blatant attack on free speech and freedom of dissent from their darling, and I've yet to hear a peep from them on this.

Posted by: Doug Payton at May 29, 2007 11:36 AM