In the past week, he has purged his cabinet of ministers deemed insufficiently radical, bringing in a new group of loyalists that includes his brother, Adan. He has begun to merge the more than 20 parties in his governing coalition into a single force under his control. And, under a controversial new law, he is set to take control of nongovernmental organizations that could oppose his government.
"I don't think there is a lot of ambiguity about what Chávez is doing," says Michael Shifter, an analyst at Interamerican Dialogue in Washington, DC. "He wants to hold on to power for as long as possible, and even though he just won a resounding reelection, he doesn't want to take any chances of dissent building."
Independent groups are going to get regulated out of existence. I've been getting emails warning me that Nancy Pelosi is trying to implement a weaker version of this approach with more grass roots organizations required to register with the federal government and to abide by more federal restrictions.
Chávez is also moving to take control of civic groups, some of which have been critical of his government. Under a proposed law now in Congress, NGOs will have to reregister with the government, even if they have been operating legally for years. Foreign funding will have to pass through the government, and NGOs would have to open their files to anyone that requests it. Human rights campaigners say it would effectively end their work.
"If approved, it will [effectively] outlaw all nongovernmental organizations" working in Venezuela, says Liliana Ortega of the Venezuelan human rights group, Cofavic. "There will only be groups approved by the government."
Amnesty International has called on Chávez to revoke the bill, with a spokesperson saying it would "restrict the legitimate work of human rights defenders in Venezuela." But Chávez shows no signs of retreating.
VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez's plans to nationalise the nation's largest phone company and utilities, gain greater control over the oil industry and seek authority to make laws by executive order are sending investors racing for the exits.
Chavez wants to rule until 2021 and wants to rule by decree.
Mr Chavez's move to assert state control over the economy mirrors his efforts to cement his political control; with Cuba's President Fidel Castro ailing, the speech amounted to a claim of leadership of the Latin American left. In his speech, he said he would ask the Venezuelan Congress to allow him to rule by decree, a power he enjoyed for a year in 2000-2001. Last month, the 52-year-old President said he would seek to change the constitution to end presidential term limits.
This man was democratically elected and reelected.
If democracy is such a total cure-all for what ails the world then why did Hugo Chavez win a landslide reelection victory in December 2006?
Chávez, who won a second six-year term in a landslide election victory in December, also hinted at moves to increase state control over privately run oil refineries, change the laws governing private business and revoke the constitutional autonomy of the Central Bank of Venezuela.
To all the Panglossian democracy campaigners around the world (and especially in neoconservative and liberal think tanks in Washington DC): Democracy only works if a populace is smart enough, truly believes in political freedom, and is willing to restrain their own desires to take everything from the most productive. Not every populace has the needed qualities to make democracy work. Democracy is failing abysmally in Venezuela, Nigeria, South Africa, and other countries.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2007 January 17 10:41 PM Democracy Failure|