Friday, December 17, 2010

Venezuela's Continuing Slide Toward Dictatorship

Red all over, and ready to write laws.
Venezuela's National Assembly just voted itself into irrelevency by giving Pres. Chavez the power to rule by decree for 18 months over wide areas of national life. Chavez has already turned the courts into puppets,  nationalized large parts of the country's economy and intimidated or shut down much of the once-independent media.

Chavez, who has also eliminated his own term limits, was happy to rule through the National Assembly as long as nearly all of its members were his yes-men and women. But in recent elections, opponents got about half of the votes and Chavez's allies held onto only a tiny majority in the assembly.

All for one and all for Chavez. Chavez's sort of parliament. 
For Chavez, evidently, an Assembly with a vigorous opposition had the potential to be troublesome, so better to rule alone, using as an excuse the country's disastrous flooding. Is that any justification to rule by decree for 18 months in areas such as finance and telecomunnications? Or, might this be a way to seize even more power, as his domestic troubles grow.

Unfortunately, Chavez's critics leap to compare him to Adolf Hitler, the arch-evil. Chavez is bad, but he's still a long way from Hitler, and such arguments give the professional Chavez apologists an opening to defend the man as being 'well, not so bad.'

For Colombia, this is worrisome. Chavez is an unstable ideologue, who seems to have a religious belief in a bizarre form of socialism and in himself as saviour. He thrives by stirring up nationalism against 'foreign threats' (read, 'Colombia'). He's also been buying weapons and apparently arming and financing Colombia's leftist guerrillas. With more power and less oversight for Chavez, those tendencies might accelerate.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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