Venezuela Archives

Russia, Venezuela, and Global Warming: Catching Up

I’ve been on an extended Thanksgiving vacation, but I didn’t completely ignore the news. Here are some of the things I noted during the past week:

* Russia’s Vladimir Putin lashed out at the West for allegedly meddling in Russian politics. But he didn’t stop there.

He accused unidentified Russians of planning mass street protests, like those that helped usher in pro-Western governments in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine in 2003 and 2004.

“Now, they’re going to take to the streets. They have learned from Western experts and have received some training in neighboring (ex- Soviet) republics. And now they are going to stage provocations here,” he said.

Putin seemed to refer to anti-Kremlin demonstrations planned for this weekend in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Police have used force to break up several marches and demonstrations, beating and detaining dozens of protesters.

Putin doesn’t seem to value democracy all that highly. Even if his vague charges are true, aren’t protests part of the process? Yes, even in the US we have problems when protests get out of hand, but read the whole article. It’s rather disconcerting.

* This weekend, the referendum in Venezuela will determine the fate of Hugo Chavez’s constitutional “reforms”. Recent polls show that support is coming up short, so Chavez is ratcheting up the rhetoric, calling those who vote against it “traitors”. An article on the liberal site AlterNet is predictably in favor of this power grab, and on a point-by-point basis makes its case for the reforms. The problem is the big picture, and how it matches up with autocrats from history. Chavez may be getting these changes by a popular vote, but he’s doing it by buying those votes. He grabs all the oil industry profits, and gives back a smidgeon to the people so that they’ll keep him in office, and give him the power to stay there a long, long time. Each thread of his proposal looks reasonable, but the tapestry is instead a straightjacket, woven by a paranoid nut.

* The whole idea of tying global warming to hurricane activity has been dealt another blow.

Despite alarming predictions, the U.S. came through a second straight hurricane season virtually unscathed, raising fears among emergency planners that they will be fighting public apathy and overconfidence when they warn people to prepare for next year.

I think those that are most fearful are the ones that made those “alarming predictions” in the first place. Their government funding is at stake, dontcha’ know?

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El Presidente for Life

The warning signs just keep coming.

President Hugo Chavez was presenting his blueprint Wednesday for sweeping constitutional changes expected to allow him to be re-elected indefinitely.

Chavez, who is seeking to transform Venezuelan society along socialist lines, announced late Tuesday that he would unveil his proposal before crowds of supporters at the National Assembly. He predicted it would bring renewed political upheaval to Venezuela.

Chavez’s political allies firmly control the National Assembly, which is expected to approve the plan within months. It then would have to be approved by citizens in a national referendum.

Chavez has revealed few details of his proposal, but has stressed the need to do away with presidential term limits that currently prevent him from seeking re-election in 2012.

Critics accuse Chavez of seeking to become a lifelong leader, like his close friend Fidel Castro in Cuba. They argue his main goal is to expand his power and assure he will be able to run again in 2012.

“Chavez is seeking to reduce the territory held by the opposition and give his intention to remain in power a legal foundation,” said Gerardo Blyde, an opposition leader and former lawmaker.

He said many other reforms are likely to be “red capes” like those used by a bullfighter “to distract Venezuelans from his real objective.”

And, as with most dictatorships, the lies to soften the blow are coming fast and furious

Angel Angulo, a government worker, denied the wealthy would be targeted as Chavez moves to bridge the gap between the rich and poor.

Except the rich oil companies. Really, they’ll stop there. Socialism isn’t about targeting the rich.

Except that, when all else is said and done, it is.

“Socialism will bring benefits to those who need it the most, but all of us can live together,” said Angulo.

As long as the rich pay for those benefits, they can all live together. But they’re not targeting the rich.

He argued that opposition leaders oppose indefinite re-election “because they don’t have any chance of being elected in forthcoming elections.”

Mostly because they won’t give away as much free money and benefits as Chavez. The man who robs Peter to pay Paul can generally count on the support of Paul.

Update:  Welcome Pajamas Media readers (and thank-you to PJM for the link).

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Eyes Wide Open at Venezuela

In Mark Weisbrot’s article, “Eyes Wide Shut: The International Media Looks at Venezuela” at the Huffington Post yesterday, Mr. Weisbrot just glosses over the importance of some of the actions of Hugo Chavez in the recent RCTV controversy. According to Mark, it’s no big deal, really.

Most consumers of the international media will be surprised to find that the controversy over Venezuela’s oldest TV station, RCTV, is still raging. We were repeatedly informed that President Hugo Chávez “shut down” the station on May 27th. But in fact the station was never “shut down” – since there is no censorship in Venezuela. Rather, the Venezuelan government decided not to renew the broadcast license that granted RCTV a monopoly over a section of the publicly-owned frequencies.

This is a big distinction, although the U.S. and international press blurred it considerably. Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, noted last month that the “Venezuelan government is empowered to do what it did (non-renewal of the license)” and cited Brazilian President Lula Da Silva’s statement that not renewing RCTV’s broadcast license was as democratic an act as granting it. Insulza added that “democracy is very much in force in Venezuela.”

See, it’s legal for Chavez to do it, so nothing to see here, move along. All you thousands of Venezuelans who protested the closure, er, non-renewing action, you just don’t know what’s really going on in your own country.

The fact that it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. The fact that the Venezuelan government has survived lo these many decades with RCTV often being a thorn in the side shows just how out of the ordinary this action was. And to blame whatever perceived misunderstanding there might be on the international press blurs the fact that Venezuelans themselves were outraged at this. Some polls put the number of those against this as high as 70%. Who’s eyes are “wide shut”, exactly?

Agreed, RCTV has behaved rather poorly in the past, as Mark notes.

RCTV’s owner, Marcel Granier, is an opposition leader who seeks to de-legitimize the Venezuelan government. He has had some success in this effort, most importantly in April 2002 when his station faked film footage to make it look like pro-Chávez gunmen were shooting down demonstrators on the streets of Caracas. This and other manipulations by the Venezuelan media helped provoke a military coup against the elected government. This is one of several reasons that the government of Venezuela declined to renew RCTV’s broadcast license.

Wrong, even from a “free speech” point of view. That still doesn’t mean that what Chavez did is right. Chavez took action against a media outlet for political reasons, and that brings the stakes up even higher regarding the politicizing of the media. A more appropriate action would be to bring Granier up on charges, not attempt to turn off the station.

And Mr. Weisbrot is completely failing to place the RCTV controversy in the context of further restrictions on free speech made by Chavez. Foreigners are not allowed to speak ill of him and his policies while in-country. Weisbrot says:

Granier is betting that the international media and other U.S.-dominated institutions will also frame his current battle as a “free speech” issue, rather than a legal dispute over whether his station is a national channel and hence subject to the same regulations as other Venezuelan cable stations. This is a good bet.

But regardless of the other reasons the Venezuelan government would use to attempt a shutdown, there is a free speech issue at stake. Perhaps not with the RCTV situation taken individually, because there’s a lot more going on than just free speech, but it is an element of that and many other actions that the Congressinally-uninhibited Chavez has been taking recently. All of it must be looked at, but Mr. Weisbrot doesn’t look that far.

So Venezuelans know that there is no “free speech” problem in their country. While there are problems with the rule of law, including street crime – as throughout most of the region – Venezuelans have not suffered a loss of civil liberties under the Chávez government, as we have for example in the United States since 2001. That is one reason why Hugo Chávez was re-elected in December by the largest margin of the 12 most recent Latin American presidential elections, despite facing an opposition-dominated media. Democracy is indeed “very much in force in Venezuela.”

Does any of this sound like the Liberal descriptions of the Soviet Union back in the 60s? “They have it better than we do.” “There’s is a more fair government.” Back then, eyes were wide shut, too.

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Shire Network News #99

Shire Network News #99 has been released. The feature interview is with author and commentator, Douglas Murray. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary segment.

Hi, this is Doug Payton for Shire Network News, asking you to “Consider This”.

Actor Sean Penn recently went to Venezuela as a freelance journalist and was escorted all around the country with Hugo Chavez in Chavez’s private jet. Penn said that he was saving his conclusions on what he saw for print. But we here at SNN, through our connections in Hollywood and using the bribe money you the listeners have contributed via PayPal, have been given a leaked copy of what those conclusions are going to be.

So, from the home office in Camillus, New York, here are the Top 9 News Items “Journalist” Sean Penn Will Report from Venezuela.

Number 9: TV shows depicting the wonders of socialism are much more educational than the soap operas on RCTV.

Number 8: There never really was an RCTV. The latest history books don’t mention it.

Number 7: The latest prohibition on foreigners speaking ill of Chavez really wasn’t needed, since everyone he spoke to was saying nice things about Chavez.

Number 6: Chavez claims to know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, and will deport anyone who says he doesn’t.

Number 5: An unnamed source, requesting anonymity due to fear of reprisals, gave a strongly worded “no comment”.

Number 4: Penn is getting Michael Moore to produce his next movie. Working title: “Pinko”.

Number 3: In his unbiased, fair and balanced opinion, Hugo Chavez is the savior of South America and Bush is Hitler.

Number 2: Chavez ends all his speeches with, “and that’s the truth >pblllt<“.

And the number one news item “Journalist” Sean Penn will report from Venezuela:

Hugo’s private jet runs on clean, non-polluting, CO2-free Venezuelan oil. He knows this because Hugo said so.

That’s right, here at SNN, you get tomorrow’s headlines today. Back to you, Brian.

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Chavez Slips Down the Slope

First they came for the TV stations, but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t own a TV station. Then they came for the critical foreigners, but I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t a critical foreigner.

President Hugo Chávez said Sunday that foreigners who publicly criticize him or his government while visiting Venezuela will be expelled from the country.

Chávez ordered officials to closely monitor statements made by international figures during their visits to Venezuela — and deport any outspoken critics.

”How long are we going to allow a person — from any country in the world — to come to our own house to say there’s a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?” Chávez asked during his weekly television and radio program.

So if someone comes to his country and calls him “the devil”, that’s a deportable offense. But if Chavez does it in America, the world applauds. (Well, the UN at least.)

Closed circuit for Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Cindy Sheehan, and other Chavez supporters: Can you say “stifling of dissent”? Can you recognize it when it’s really happening? Do you remember this ever happening before in history? Do you remember how it all ultimately turned out?

Hat tip The Liberty Papers via Q&O (who points out the similarity with North Korea).

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Quick Takes

A couple short items for Monday morning.

* Heard a caller on “Bill Bennett’s Morning in America” talk about an idea for a bumper sticker. “If you liked The Killing Fields, you’ll love The Killing Dunes.” And I would ask Democrats, if you didn’t like the former, why would you want to do something to allow the latter?

* “Iran to invest in $4 billion Venezuela oil JV” Just what we need; an Iranian foothold in the western hemisphere.

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Million Man March Against Terrorism

Would be nice to see here. Instead we get marches supporting illegal immigration and against a President fighting terrorism. We’d need both sides of the political aisle to pull something like this off, but methinks one side would be difficult to recruit.

In the meantime, Gateway Pundit takes us to Colombia.

Over one million Colombians marched from the Amazon jungle outpost of Leticia to the Caribbean city of Cartagena to demand liberation of the country’s kidnap victims from Leftist terrorists.

People attend a protest against violence and kidnapping, in Medellin July 5, 2007. Hundreds of thousands of Colombians headed for the streets on Thursday to show outrage at last week’s news that 11 provincial politicians had been killed while held hostage by leftist rebels.

And guess who is backing the terrorists? The Left’s favorite socialist.

The BBC reported that this was a rare national unity protest against the FARC terrorists who are known to be supported by the Chavez government.

Color me unsurprised.

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“Chavez and Farfour and Lenin, Oh My!”

When I returned from vacation and caught up on my news reading, a couple of items caught my eye.

Farfur the Mouse is dead. Back in May, I talked about the Hamas children’s show “Tomorrow’s Pioneers” and it’s main character Farfur the Mouse, an obvious Mickey Mouse knock-off, that told kids of the wonders of martyrdom and of the ultimate destruction of the terrorist state of Israel. Fun for the whole family, no? At the time, the head of the Palestinian version of the FCC (a Fatah fellow) said the program would be removed and reviewed. The Hamas station basically said, “Nuts to you” and kept it on the air. Well now, for whatever reason, the station did cancel the show. According to this Jerusalem Post report, it had nothing to do with the government; they’re just making room for new programs. Either that’s a final statement of defiance just before succumbing to a government order, or it’s the actual reason and the government really was toothless in this area.

Regardless, the mouse is dead. Literally. In the final episode (click here for the video) Farfur is martyred by a Jewish character in sunglasses when Farfur won’t sell him his land. He’s punched out on camera, and the little girl who co-hosts the show announces Farfur’s martyrdom. Remember, this is the official TV station of the government that the Palestinian people voted to be their representatives to the world.

Hugo Chavez is still…Hugo Chavez. He’s making common cause with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an “axis of unity” against North America, he’s making enemies of his South American neighbors after they rightly criticize his silencing of dissent, and he’s asking Russians to remember the lessons of Lenin. Chavez is talking about Lenin’s anti-imperialism views (though the Soviet Union certainly had its imperialist streak), but I think there are other lessons of Lenin that millions of the dead in Russia would like to teach us.

And here’s an interesting tidbit.

Insecurity, “malignant narcissism” and the need for adulation are driving Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s confrontation with the United States, according to a new psychological profile.

Eventually, these personality traits are likely to compel Chavez to declare himself Venezuela’s president for life, said Dr. Jerrold Post, who has just completed the profile for the U.S. Air Force.

Chavez won elections for a third term last December. Since then he has stepped up his anti-American rhetoric, vowed to accelerate a march towards “21st Century socialism” and suggested that he intends to stay in power until 2021 — a decade beyond his present term.

But Post — who profiled foreign leaders in a 21-year career at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and now is the director of the Political Psychology Program at George Washington University — doubts that Chavez plans to step down even then. “He views himself as a savior, as the very embodiment of Venezuela,” Post said in an interview.

“He has been acting increasingly messianic and so he is likely to either get the constitution rewritten to allow for additional terms or eventually declare himself president-for-life.”

Post portrays Chavez as “a masterful political gamesman” who knows that his popularity largely rests on being seen as a strong leader who takes on the United States, the Venezuelan elite and a host of other perceived enemies — often with public insults that are rarely used by other leaders.

“To keep his followers engaged, he must continue outrageous and inflammatory attacks,” Post said.

Even Chavez’s most determined opponents concede that he is a gifted orator and has a rare ability to mesmerize audiences. In the language of political psychology, this is a “charismatic leader-follower relationship.”

We’ve watch this script played out enough in history. Are we just going to sit back and watch the next act, or are we going to resist it?

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Shire Network News #92

Shire Network News #92 has been released. The feature interview is with Venezuelan blogger Daniel Duquenal about Hugo Chavez and the way he’s killing democracy. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary segment.

Hello, this is Doug Payton for Shire Network News, asking you to Consider This.

He’s been called a generous man. He’s a patron of the arts. He’s considered by some to be a supporter of life and peace.

He’s also appropriated oil companies for control by the government, closed one opposition TV station and has his eyes on another.

He is, of course, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. He may be a man of stark contradictions, but for those on the Left, like Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and Cindy Sheehan, they are contradictions they can live with; just petty disagreements, really. Surely, the evil oil industry and a couple of media outlets are a small price to pay for the good of the people, right comrade? Or should I say camarada?

Chavez recently managed a stunt that not even Bush or Blair have been able to accomplish. While he won the last election with 60% of the vote, his closure of RCTV, a single act, got 70% of the people peeved at him all at once, rioting in the streets. They’re shocked–SHOCKED–that a socialist leader would shut down opposition voices. That’s never happened before, has it? Well, OK, you can probably name one or two, or a few dozen, but this time it’ll be different. The temporary absolute power given to him by the Venezuelan Congress has just gone to his head for a moment. He’ll be better soon, right?

And over here in the corner of the bookshelf, a history book is crying, “Read me, read me!” One hundred years of socialist and communist history would beg to differ.

RCTV called Chavez a “dictator”. OK now fellas, isn’t that just a little over the top? I mean, technically, Chavez is not a dictator; he was democratically elected. Here’s what Merriam-Webster Online considers a dictator:

1 a : a person granted absolute emergency power; especially : one appointed by the senate of ancient Rome b : one holding complete autocratic control c : one ruling absolutely and often oppressively

So you see, while Chavez may have complete autocratic control, and uses it oppressively against his opponents, he was granted it by the Venezuelan Congress, not the senate of ancient Rome. That make me feel a whole lot better. Nothing to see here. Hey look, a picture of Castro holding today’s newspaper!

The best indication of what is to come came from Venezuela’s Communication Ministry itself. The Inter-American Press Association put out a statement saying that the closing of RCTV would result in “a very bleak outlook for the whole hemisphere.” María Alejandra Díaz, the social responsibility director at the Communications Ministry (who’s motto is, “Shutting down free speech is socially responsible”), asked news organizations to refrain from reporting on the association’s statement, since it could allow viewers, readers or listeners to think Mr. Chavez’s government was “tyrannical.”

Certainly sounds like the stifling of dissent to me, much like what the anti-war Left claims is happening in America. And what do we hear from Chavez’s high-profile supporters now?

>crickets chirping<

Shh, they’re asleep. They’re asleep at the wheel. Don’t they look so cute when they’re oblivious? Back to you, Tom.

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Venezuela’s Brain Drain

Actually, this is right on cue. One of the “canaries in the coal mine” for totalitarianism is the fleeing of those with means and education.

For the past eight years, rich Venezuelans have been trickling out of the country, spooked by the socialist bluster of their populist President, Hugo Chávez. But since being inaugurated for his third term in January, Mr Chávez’s talk has begun turning into substance, with an evermore radical series of moves to transform Venezuela into the world’s first “21st-century socialist state”. Now the super-rich are being joined by middle-class professionals and, increasingly, families.

At the US Embassy, citizenship claims and visa enquiries have doubled since January. A Canadian job fair, with a capacity of 500, was swamped by a crowd of 1,500. Every morning snaking queues form outside the embassies of Australia, Spain and Portugal to inquire about emigration there.

My expectation is that this will increase as more things like closing RCTV happen.

Hat tip: The Anchoress

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