A few years back, Jesse Jackson, Cornel West, Tom Hayden, and Gore Vidal sent a petition to the White House demanding that the United States government "respect the democratic process in Venezuela" and "not deny the voters of Venezuela the same right to democracy that we uphold for ourselves." So it is with alacrity that I await an updated petition from Vidal and Co., all deeply concerned with freedom in the Americas after all, upbraiding the authoritarian government in Caracas for dismantling what's left of that country's bruised and battered democracy. Last week, Venezuela's Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz tabled a law in Chavez's rubber stamp parliament that would punish "media crimes."
"What I wonder is, who will define the crime and based on what criteria?" said Marcelino Bisbal, a professor at Central University of Venezuela and editor of Communication magazine. "The arbitrary way such a law could be applied is very worrisome."
Another proposal that critics say will limit freedom of expression is a law being pitched by Cabinet Minister Diosdado Cabello that would channel all Internet communication through servers controlled by the state telecommunications company, CANTV.
Cabello has said the law would enable the government to suspend all telecommunications for security reasons in times of national emergency. But Bisbal and Keller believe it's designed to control social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook as rallying points for the opposition.
This weekend, the government stepped up efforts to eliminate opposition media, shutting down 34 radio stations and threatening hundreds more:
Conatel's head, Diosdado Cabello, said Friday that 32 radio stations and two television stations would be shut down in the latest bid to tighten reins on the media as Chavez advances his leftist-populist program.
"It is not that we have shut some radio stations, we are implementing the law. We have put them back in the hands of the people and not the bourgeoisie," Chavez said in a televised address on Saturday.Cabello said the closures were due to the stations' failures to meet legal operating requirements. The government has warned another 200 stations may face the same fate.
It is worth reiterating what should be (but isn't) obvious to Chavez's Western sycophants: Venezuela is no longer a democracy, despite Chavez's victories at the ballot box.
After a cache of Venezuelan weapons were discovered in the possession of the Colombian terrorist group FARC, The New York Times' indispensable South American correspondent Simon Romero filed this fascinating story detailing Chavez's collaboration with the group:
One message from Iván Márquez, a rebel commander thought to operate largely from Venezuelan territory, describes the FARC’s plan to buy surface-to-air missiles, sniper rifles and radios in Venezuela last year.It is not clear whether the arms Mr. Márquez refers to ended up in FARC hands. But he wrote that the effort was facilitated by Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, the director of Venezuela’s police intelligence agency until his removal last month, and by Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, a former Venezuelan interior minister who served as Mr. Chávez’s official emissary to the FARC in negotiations to free hostages last year.