Archive for the ‘Venuzuela’ category

Democracy under threat

August 16, 2007

Not in New Zealand, but Venuzuela. It’s near dictator, Hugo Chavez, has anounced changes to the country’s constitution to give more power to himself and allow him to run for a third term.

 Update (August 17): The Economist has details of the proposed constitutional changes. My worst fears are confirmed. They include allowing the Government to arbitrarilly confiscate private property by decree (this could be a useful weapon against political opponents), removing the independence of the Central Bank (which will give Chavez the ability to spend all the country’s foreign currency reserves),  and creating new “communal councils” (dependent on Chavez) to reduce the power of provincial governors. In the hypocrisy Helen Clark will be proud of, term limits will remain on Governors and Mayors (possibly so popular opposition ones can be replaced by ones he likes when their terms expire). The Economist rightly says the constitutional amendments will “remove the last checks and balances to presidential power in Venezuela”. If any more proof was needed to show that Chavez is trying to turn Venezuela into a Cuban-style communist dictatorship thisis it.

Original: I’m not normally in favour of term limits, but when someone tries to remove term limits for themselves, it looks suspicious. Given Chavez’s record, It should be of little suprise that I suspect him of trying to establish a Cuban-style communist dictatorship. lets look at what he has already done.

His lack of repsect for democracy shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the fact he tried to otherthrow a democratically elected government in a military coup in 1992. Another indication of his lack of respect for democracy is his labbeling of Robert Mugabe a “warrior for freedom”.

In more recent years he has been “systematically hacking away at the institutional checks” on his authority, including stacking the courts with supporters. According to Amnesty International, human rights abuses in Venuzuela include frequent Police brutality, including several murders, against political opponents. Rarely do the perpetrators of this abuse get punished, as there is no independence of the Judiciary or Police. The CSIS states that his regime has been “selectively arresting opposition leaders, torturing some members of the opposition (according to human rights organizations) and encouraging, if not directing, its squads of Bolivarian Circles to beat up members of congress and intimidate voters- all with impunity. he recently got on the news for trying to shut down a TV and radio station opposing him.

Fortunately he hasn’t quite turned Venuzeala into a one party state yet. But he is heading in that dirrection.