Thursday, August 16, 2007

New horizons for a new era: Hugo Chavez and the abolition of democracy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What more can be said about Hugo Chavez and his tyranny? It's something, then something else, then something else again, and it just keeps coming and coming, more and more, this and that, so on and so forth. (I've blogged a lot on this already -- see here.) Why isn't there more outrage? It's clear what he's doing. He may not be leading mobs of brownshirts through the streets, but the incrementalist nature of his seizure of power, and ever more power, amounts to much the same thing. It just isn't quite as dramatic. Let's review:

Get the point?

Well, now it seems that Chavez intends to tyrannize for as long as possible, that is, for as long as he wants, and he will change the constitution to allow him to do just that:

President Hugo Chavez has announced plans to change to Venezuela's constitution, allowing him to remain in power indefinitely.

Under the current rules, Mr Chavez would have to step down at the end of his term in 2012.

His plans would also increase presidential control over Venezuela's municipalities and states.

Mr Chavez has rejected criticism of the proposals, saying they would bring "new horizons for the new era".


Other changes include:


  • Removing term limits for the presidency, and extending the term of office from six years to seven
  • Bringing in a maximum six-hour working day
  • Strengthening state economic powers, allowing the government to control assets of private companies
    before a court grants an expropriation order.
Venezuelan democracy has been a sham under Chavez, but now there won't really be any democracy at all. The six-hour work day sounds nice, but everything else would only serve to enhance Chavez's tyranny -- in fact, to entrench it, to make it largely permanent.

For it isn't just a one-year extension of his term that we desires. He has said that "[i]t will be the people who make the final decision about how long [he] stay[s]" in office. But what does that mean? Will there ever be an open and fair vote (as there was, more or less, in Chile, when voters booted Pinochet from office)? Just as Chevez will ensure victory for himself in the planned referendum on his constitutonal changes -- and he claims, fervently and almost humorously trying to downplay his acquisition of power and suppression of liberty and democracy, that the changes would only affect 10 percent of the constitution, as if that should somehow make them all quite acceptable, nothing to worry about -- so would he ensure his preservation in some future plebiscite on his rule.

No term limits? Then it's Chavez for life.

New horizons for a new era? Sure. But have we learned nothing from the tyrannies of the past? This -- the tyranny of Hugo Chavez, the acquisition of absolute power and the rhetoric of historical destiny -- is yet more of the same.

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