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November 17, 2002

HUGO CHAVEZ HAS USED TROOPS TO SEIZE CONTROL OF POLICE IN CARACAS. Hmm. If Bush and Ashcroft used troops to sieze control of the D.C. police, people would say it was a dictatorship being born. But I expect we'll hear the usual cavils if I characterize Chavez as a dictator. . . .

Not from Jorge Schmidt, though, who emails:

BBC report omits some important background: Chavez and his allies announced as early as January their intention to take control of the PM. They took a number of steps to that end, including conducting an inventory of the PM's arsenal, and manufacturing a phony hunger strike by a handful of pro-Chavez officers who invaded the PM's communications center. This "intervention" is an indispensable step for Chavez if he is to avoid ouster; local and municipal police departments have protected anti-Chavez demonstrators and leaders, and have sufficient firepower and traning to limit the effectiveness of the thuggish Bolivarian Circles. As Mayor Pena declared, "the Government is disarming the police and giving weapons to the violent [Bolivarian] circles." The timing of this step is also given by the opposition's decision to soon announce the date of a national strike of indefinite duration.

Stay tuned. This isn't getting the attention it deserves. El Sur has more, including results of a poll showing that most Venezuelans are unhappy with Chavez.