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Red Flags in Venezuela (And I mean Red!)

by Alexandra Beech, sixthrepublic.com

23.11.04 | The Bush Administration and five other governments dropped the ball in the events leading up to Venezuela’s very flawed recall referendum, which allowed the OAS and Carter Center to validate the results. Now, and I cannot emphasize this point enough, Venezuela is in complete disarray. Far from solving the crisis, the OAS (which would probably accomplish more as a museum than as a hemispheric body) and the Carter Center have washed their hands of the crisis, as key events take place which threaten, not only Venezuela, but the hemisphere. Having gained complete and undeniable control of every branch of the government, Chavez is about to accomplish the impossible: he is poised to become what the luminaries in Washington have said would never happen: he is about to become the next Fidel Castro, only a vibrant and young Fidel, with unlimited access to cash.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly will pass the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television which grants the government the discretionary (and arbitrary) power to control media content. For example, if the government were to determine that a news broadcast threatens the nation (such as those which frequently criticize Chavez), it will now hold the power to punish networks by removing their licenses. Goodbye, Freedom of Expression, Hello Granma. The government could also pass a law which forbids Venezuelans from protesting. Finally, Chavez is now persecuting anyone who believed General Lucas Rincon, his own Chief of the Armed Forces, when in 2002 he announced that Chavez had resigned. Up to 400 people face prison for having signed the so-called “Carmona decree”. At least one person has been arrested and accused. In fact, anyone who opposes him is a target. Goodbye, political freedom, Hello Cuba! As Chavez so eloquently yelled in Spain only hours ago, "¡Viva España, Fidel and the Che!"

Let us not forget in these romantic times of selective memory that it was Che Guevara who begged Castro to execute his political enemies, a fact not lost on the current Venezuelan administration. It is no coincidence that the government waited a full three years to persecute its political enemies, tapping its fingers as Carter packed the last of his trousers before moving on to greener pastures. Currently, one person missing, after allegedly being arrested. Government propaganda chief Andres Izarra, (also a star in the government farce, The Revolution will not be Televised), claims that Retired Air Force Colonel Silvino Bustillos has been seen by family members, but his wife denies it vehemently, saying that no one has seen her husband since October 31st. Reports have surfaced in the local media that he died under the stress of torture though nothing has been confirmed. Now, military chief General García Carneiro has confirmed that three intelligence officers from the National Guard (Lieutenant Daniel Pérez, Henry Carrizo and Pedro Velis) followed Bustillos to his home. If it is true that he was tortured, can testimony from any opposition witnesses be believed in the coming persecutions?

Needless to say, Venezuelans need not six but sixty six international friends. Now more than ever, those who care about freedom and democracy in the international community should keep a close eye on Chavez, especially the United States. Only today, before thousands of spectators in Spain, Chavez quoted Simon Bolivar: “The United States seems destined by Providence to plague the Americas with miseries in the name of liberty.” The Spaniards responded, “Chavez yes, Yankees no!” To breed anti-American sentiment around the world as US soldiers die every day fighting for freedom, (whether misguided or not) is abominable and should not be tolerated. Only recently, Spain mourned its own terrorist victims. For many of the young men and women dying in Iraq, and for their families, this isn’t a fight against Iraq but against whatever mentality allows the beheading of innocent people, the crashing of planes into buildings, the explosion of trains, and the burning of bodies. For US soldiers, this is a fight against barbarism more than terrorism.

As the Chavez propaganda wheel in Washington spins and spins, Venezuelans are facing the erosion of democracy and freedom. Chavez cannot continue to persecute people at home and breed US hatred while signing agreements with the most powerful nations in the world. He is not a champion of the poor, but a champion of the opportunists, and there’s a big difference. It is the opportunists in Washington who keep eating, while many in Venezuela continue to go hungry. It is the opportunists who defend the indefensible, as Chavez tears the fabric which holds our democracy together.

This morning, Chavez also called on everyone to “reject the unipolar world with a police which goes around imposing its caprices with blood and fire.” In the same speech, he said, “we are going to save the world from the destruction which threaten it,” a laughable proposition, given that the people he has yet to save from hunger, ill health, and homelessness are in his own country.



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