Friday, January 19, 2007

The Tyrant of Caracas

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Let no one think that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is anything but a tyrant. He may have "won" a third term in December, but there is no democracy in Venezuela. The BBC reports:

Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants "revolutionary laws" to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.

He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve...

The bill allowing him to enact laws by decree is expected to win final approval easily in the assembly on its second reading on Tuesday.

You know what they say about absolute power. Or what Aristotle said about tyranny -- it is truly the worst of all possible regimes. And now there may not even be the facade of democracy in Venezuela. Chavez talks up his Bolivarean revolution -- his efforts to transform his country and Latin America, in alliance with like-minded rogue states like Iran, into a grand anti-American bloc -- but what forms the core of his rule is not liberation but absolutism. In this case, the rule of "revolutionary" law -- in effect, the arbitrary rule of a single unchecked man -- is nothing but tyranny, authoritarianism, the oppression of the people. Arbitrary rule always is. Which is why the rule of law, as opposed to the rule of man, is so central to democracy. And which is why, in our advanced democracies, we must safeguard the rule of law vigilantly and diligently, protecting it from the trespasses of those who would weaken it, scrap it, in the name of executive authority.

Bringing this back to an American context, let's hope Bush and the executive power fanatics who prop him up -- Cheney, Addington, etc. -- don't get wind of this. With Congress no longer rubber stamping the president's arbitrary rule, those fanatics may seek other and more radical ways to undo the rule of law and, with it, the very foundations of American democracy, if not democratic rule itself.

[Creature's Note: Once again, Michael has put me to work posting his words. So, I must add the disclaimer: I take no responsibility for the opinions discussed above -- though I thoroughly agree.]

Bookmark and Share


  • I think we've found a definate left wing counterpart to Pat Robertson.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:05 PM  

  • Yeah, gotta watch out for people who want to rule by decree. Anybody who would say something like "stroke of the pen; law of the land...kind of cool" (PDF) are obviously dangerous fantatics that should not be allowed anywhere near the levers of power

    By Blogger Some Schmuck, at 10:18 AM  

  • I have to say I was a big supporter of Chavez five years ago but he's lost me now. Still, I worry when I see him villified. I believe he still has the support of the majority of his people and I would hate to see the US find a reason to meddle in Venzuela's affairs.

    The failed coup that was covertly sponsored by the US was what solidified his power in the first place. Let that be a lesson to us. Trying to fix a sovereign country's problems usually makes it worse.

    By Blogger Libby Spencer, at 11:18 AM  

  • Michael,

    As you know, I have been quite critical of the administration's arguments (and actions) concerning the assertion of executive power.

    However, the attempt to draw a comparison to Chavez is flawed. For one, the decree authority in question is being granted by the Venezuelan legislature. As you yourself note in the post, the US Congress is in no mood to go off granting the President expanded powers, let along of the magnitude of what Chavez is getting (not that it could constitutionally anyway).

    Further, in Bush's case the abuse of authority has been narrow in terms of policy (linked to counter-terrorism and prisoners and such), while Chavez's new authorities make him essentially a one-man legislature.

    As serious as some of Bush's moves have been, they pale in comparison to what Chavez is doing in Venezuela. As such I think that trying to make direct comparisons between the two cases dilutes critiques of both, as they aren't directly comparable situations.

    By Blogger Steven Taylor, at 11:40 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home