If you haven’t yet heard, Hugo Chavez is trying to push through a series of constitutional reforms, among them an end to constitutional term limits. Here are some others:
He called for a work day of no longer than six hours, the power to designate military regions for “defense reasons,” the creation of regional governing entities that would be managed by vice presidents appointed by the president, and demarcating Venezuela’s sovereignty in parts of the Caribbean by possibly building artificial islands.
If this smacks of creeping authoritarianism, then you would be mistaken. Matt Good explains why:
Like other Latin American statesmen in the past, there is no doubt that Chavez has become paranoid to some degree given the external forces arrayed against him. While it is vitally important that political opposition parties are allowed to freely exist and partake in the political process, there can be no excuse for accepting covert support from the likes of the United States to help them in their bid to oust another party from power. Because that is also entirely undemocratic and wholly abusive of the Venezuelan people’s trust and belief in the process itself.
You see, there are forces arrayed against Chavez, so we should give him some leeway in implementing socialism, like kicking out foreigners who disagree with his policies. These foreigners might be CIA–you never can tell. When faced with a foreign threat, you’ve got to take action and be on the lookout for those trying to subvert your policies; you’re only trying to protect your people. For example, Venezuelans know that scandals generate terrorism. So watch out for that.
It’s also important to remember:
Hugo Chavez’s government’s human rights record makes that of Saudi Arabia look demonic by comparison.
Then there is the matter of the closing of RCTV, a television station that was complicit in the coup that attempted to oust Chavez from power. Human Rights Watch called the closing of the station a blatant attack on freedom of speech and the press, while others pointed to the fact that were RCTV to exist in any Western democracy that it would have been shut down long before RCTV’s license expired given that it had acted in conjunction with those known to be supported by foreign interest groups seeking the deposition of Chavez.
Venezuela is also no Darfur nor Stalinist Russia, so, again, who’s to quibble with some illiberal policies. Also, it’s not like Chavez came to power in a coup. That would be undemocratic. He was elected after spending time in prison for a coup attempt. Supporting
Chavez’s the opposition’s coup was blatantly wrong. Who does Human Rights Watch think they’re kidding?
Without these actions, how is Chavez to keep up his socialist reforms, like holding inflation to the manageable rate of 19.5 percent? There may be a lot of Western critics of Chavez, but I know that when Venezuelans look at their nominal paychecks they see Chavismo in a different light.