Five days ago, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez got his cherry-picked lame-duck legislature to pass a new law allowing him to “rule by emergency decree” for the next 18 months, thereby allowing him to bypass the newly elected legislature, in which the opposition won scores of seats. Chavez calls it an “Enabling” act that will allow him to successfully deepen and extend his “socialist Bolivarian revolution.” You can read about it in various press reports, such as this one from the AP and a report from Reuters, or you can read a first rate analysis from the conservative website The New American.
Teodoro Petkoff is a former Marxist guerrilla leader and now a major opponent of Chavez’s goons. He correctly called Chavez’s announcement a “Christmas ambush,” writing in his daily Tal Cual that Chavez is preparing totalitarian measures that amount to “a brutal attack … against democratic life.” These measures include a new vat tax, restricting access to the internet, regulating posts on the internet, and, of course, closing down more of opposition newspapers, and television and radio stations. All this, of course, in the name of real “democracy.” Joel D. Hirst at the Council on Foreign Relations presents a full account of what Chavez intends to do with his new powers.
Here, from Hirst and the Council, are Chavez’s main goals:
- Media and Telecommunications. The modification of the Media Responsibility Law and the Telecommunications Law place severe restrictions on the Internet, centralizing access under the control of a government server. They re-categorize the airwaves as a “public good” and set in place harsh penalties for arcane and obtuse violations of the law. The laws require TV stations to re-apply for their licenses and for the owners to be in the country (a clear reference to Globovision, whose owner, Dr. Guillermo Zuloaga, is in political exile in the United States).
- Electoral Reform. The reform of the Political Party Law establishes the crime of electoral fraud. Fraud would be committed if a politician changed parties, voted against legislation that was “ideologically represented” by their “electoral offer” (on file when they registered their candidacy with the National Electoral Council), or if they make common cause with ideas or people who are not ideologically akin to their electoral offer. Sanctions are the expulsion from parliament and inability to run for public office for up to eight years. This law is meant to protect against individuals or political parties turning against Chavez, as happened with the opposition parties of PODEMOS (We Can) and PPT (Fatherland for All).
- Economy and Governance. Chavez is pushing through a block of five laws: Popular Power, Planning and Popular Power, Communes, Social Control, and the law of Development and Support of the Communal Economy. These laws establish the commune as the lowest level of Venezuelan economy and government. They set in place the Popular Power, which is responsible to the Revolutionary leadership (Chavez) for all governing (eliminating the municipalities and regional government’s constitutional mandate). To facilitate the creation of this new governance model, the Assembly is approving the Law of the System for Transferring the Responsibilities of the States and Municipalities to the Popular Power.
Clearly, the above is a full recipe for totalitarian power and the creation of another full-fledged Cuban-style regime in our hemisphere. The American far left, or what remains of it, will be quite happy. Bill Ayers, who is on record as extolling Chavez’s educational system as the one he wants imposed in the United States, must be elated today after learning that university autonomy will be abolished, and that the university will now require “teaching courses on Popular Power and communes, and [that it] focuses the pedagogy around revolutionary principles.” Perhaps Chavez will import Ayers’ instructional manuals on how to achieve this end for the mandatory new programs.