Chávez’s Dictatorship is Consolidated

Venezuela’s president, or dictator – depending on whom you ask – Hugo Chávez Frías, has declared that according to him, the government now owns a minority stake of 25.8% in Globovisión, and insists that he has the right to appoint a director. The person he has in mind is Mario Silva, a talk show host on state TV who is using his platform to vilify Globovisión.

The majority owner of Globovisión, Guillermo Zuloaga, says to Miami Herald that the claim is “absurd” and that Chávez has his facts wrong.

Last month an arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Zuloaga and his son, who fled the country and are now, reportedly, considering seeking political asylum in the US.

Globovisión is the last TV-network critical of Chávez that remains in Venezuela. They reach 42% of the population with 24-hour news that has a critical angle to the regime.

On September 26 parliamentary elections will be held. If Chávez follows through on his intentions, there will be no free and fair elections, since free and fair elections requires a free debate, which requires that there is more than one voice in media.

Judging from the acts of Chávez this year, he is getting increasingly desperate in his efforts to remain in power. The last parliamentary elections 5 years ago the opposition unwisely boycotted, giving him an easy victory. This time they are instead united behind a single candidate in each precinct.

In February Chávez had the judge María Lourdes Afiuni imprisoned for setting a person free after three years without trial. He was released since the prosecutor consistently failed to show up at scheduled trials. Although the law says he couldn’t be held for more than two years, his release caused Chávez to get furious on TV, and order her incarceration. This caused the European Parliament to issue a condemnation of Venezuela on July 8, 2010 and calling for them to be invited to monitor the elections September 26. To which as we have seen, Chávez responded by figuratively giving them the finger, arresting his outspoken political opponent Alejandro Peña Esclusa on patently false charges, on July 12.

In March one of Chávez’s judges had an opposition politician imprisoned just for demanding an investigation (on Globovisión) of the accusations made by a Spanish judge regarding possible contacts between the Venezuelan government and drug-smuggling and terrorist organizations such as FARC and ETA.

Unless very drastic measures, and extreme pressure is put on Venezuela now, there seems to be no hope for democracy this year. There must be a free opposition media, and there must be independent election observers, both during the election campaign and the actual election and vote counting. However, remember Stalin’s words, “it is not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.” Venezuela uses its own, state-controlled electronic voting machines.

It may be that the only way the Venezuelan people can get rid of Chávez is through a legal process that does not involve elections. The fact that such a process can work, peacefully, has been demonstrated many times the last 20 odd years, from East Germany to Honduras. There is no reason why it would not work also in Venezuela.

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