Hugo Chavez spooked
02.11.05 | At first, it seemed like just another of Chavez's folkloric
eccentricities. On Sunday, he valiantly faced down the latest
imperialist threat from the USA: Halloween. Calling it a "game of
terror", Chavez denounced the gringo tradition of dressing kids up like ghosts and witches to extort candy from neighbors.
The Associated Press wrote it up, and the story got picked up by newspapers around the world. I guess editors in South Africa, Pakistan, and Vietnam
ran with it because it's the kind of delightfully absurd little "color
piece" that can usefully plug a hole in the inside pages of the
international section. A bit of magical realism...no more...right?
not right. Within hours of the speech, Internal Security Police (DISIP)
agents were arresting a group of Primero Justicia activists for putting
up anti-government posters with Halloween themes. Three of the
activists had to spend the night in jail, while the other four were
cited to later court dates to face charges of "inciting hatred."
[You can see some pictures of the entirely benign posters here.]
message is not hard to grasp: Chavez's eccentric little outbursts are
not cute. They long ago stopped being funny. With every state
institution under his thumb and public officials competing to suck up
to him, they have real consequences. Of course, the foreign papers that
jumped on the Wacky-Chavez story notably failed to jump on the
Authoritarian-Chavez story. "That zany Chavez guy!" their readers will
think...having no clue that, in Venezuela these days, the guy's
outbursts, however silly, will land you in jail.
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