The move by Hugo Chavez to shutter a television broadcaster that has criticized him and his dictatorial rule over Venezuela has apparently alerted more than just the Venezuelans to his megalomania. Nations that didn’t get the clues from his bizarre behavior at the UN or when he demanded and received dictatorial powers have suddenly awoken to the fact that Chavez is an imbalanced dictator who means to quash all opposition to his aspirations of Castro-like rule:
While condemnation from the Bush administration, an ideological foe of Venezuela, was expected, criticism has come from many quarters around the world, some of them surprising.
Spain’s Socialist government, in a joint declaration with the United States, called Friday for Chávez to renew RCTV’s license. The European Parliament voiced concern, and Brazil’s Senate passed a resolution calling on Chávez to reconsider, drawing a sharp rebuke from the Venezuelan leader.
“A head of state who doesn’t know how to live with democratic manifestation, such as that of the Brazilian Senate, is probably against democracy,” the president of that body, Renan Calheiros, said in response.
The previous cluelessness didn’t just apply to nations, either. Some NGOs have suddenly found themselves on the Damascus road, albeit reluctantly:
Reporters Without Borders, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the Chilean Senate and the Atlanta-based Carter Center have said freedom of expression could be in peril in Venezuela. “I think this weakens the Chávez government’s argument that it furthers free expression,” said Carlos Lauria, who has studied the case for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “It debilitates that argument.”
Note the weasel words Lauria uses in this statement. He thinks that using government force to shut down critics in the media weakens the argument that Chavez supports free speech. It debilitates that argument. Well, what would it take for Lauria to say that it negates it entirely? Does Chavez have to line journalists up against the wall and shoot them before Lauria will admit that Chavez is a tyrant?
It’s not as if Chavez has any subtlety to his position at all. The last independent broadcaster, Globovision, got the word from Hugo yesterday in this warning: “I recommend that you take a tranquilizer, that you take it easy, because if not, I’m going to make you take it easy.” And yet, all that Reporters Without Borders, the CPJ, and the Carter Center can do is issue mealy-mouthed statements about how this course of action could possiblymaybeperhapsundercertaincircumstances be construed as an attack on free speech.
Meanwhile, thousands of university students bravely take to the streets to fight for their freedom. They show courage and defiance. The nations of the West have finally noticed the danger in Venezuela, no thanks to Hugo’s pals in the media and the NGO community.