A few weeks ago, when many were celebrating the defeat of Hugo Chavez's candidate for Peruvian president, I noted that Chavez held a significant advantage over those who oppose him: as president for life, he would have plenty of opportunities to regroup.
We have already seen two events that suggest opportunities for him to do so, the first being a rebellion by supporters of the leftist Brazilian government, the second being his ability to extort billions of dollars from Venezuelan businesses, particularly landowners.
Now we have recent reports from various sources that tell us Chavez's next targets will be the free press and NGO's, and that he will use tactics already perfected by the tyrants of the 20th century: intimidation and murder.
First, via Boli-Nica, a report in the Spanish-language American press of a Chavez speech in which he threatened to revoke the broadcast licenses of Veneauelan television stations that do not support his regime. Publius Pundit and VCrisis also covers this news, mercifully for me by linking to an English language source.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he may shut down television stations for criticizing the government and broadcasting "messages of hate." [translation: message which even suggest opposition]
Chavez said the government has begun to review all television concessions, which expire in 2007. Chavez did not specify which stations may be shut down.
"We can't keep giving concessions to a group of people who use television stations against us," Chavez said in a televised speech in Caracas. "Every day they broadcast messages of hate, of disrespect toward institutions, of doubt among us, rumors, psychological war to divide the nation."
Chavez, 51, said some television stations helped plot a two-day coup he survived in 2002. The former army lieutenant colonel, who led a failed coup in 1992, is seeking a second six- year term in office in the December elections.
"They hide behind a supposed freedom of speech," said Chavez, who was wearing a green army uniform and red beret. "I don't care what the oligarchs of the world say. We've shown that we aren't authoritarian or arbitrary."
It is not encouraging for the people who work at these stations that these remarks were made at a ceremony celebrating the delivery of 30,000 Kalashnikov rifles recently purchased by the Venezuelan government. However, the licenses are not up for renewal for another few years and some of those who might be effected are so far defiant.
More gruesome is the news that a journalist has been murdered in Caracas. At VCrisis, we learn the fates of several other journalists:
Juan Manuel Carmona, owner of El Impulso newspaper was killed in a 'car accident;' Filippo Sindoni, owner of El Aragueño, another provincial newspaper and a TV station, was kidnapped and killed; Salvador Termini, owner of La Prensa de Monagas, yet another regional newspaper also died in a 'car accident;' and now Jose Joaquin Tovar has been killed. All deaths have occurred recently...
Two excellent posts at The Devil's Excrement discuss the threat Chavez poses to NGO's and the crime wave overwhelming Venezuelan society. It is the former that is of most importance to how Chavez will both maintain himself and thrive:
The latest pet project by the autocratic and dictatorial Government is a law to control NGO’s. Whether they are political, defenders of human rights, against AIDS or the environment, this new law would impose absolute government control over NGO’s, which would make them subject to Government inspection and supervision.
By removing sources of independent authority, he removes sources of embarrassment; that organizations exist to provide for Venezuelans only shows that his administration is not capable of providing for them itself. By removing these organizations, or at least dominating them, he controls the standard by which he is judged and can better prevent the people from judging his regime wanting.
Finally, two updates, here and here, from Venezuela News And Views on the status of elections planned for December. From the latter:
But it is not enough that Chavez is able to distract the country from his misdeeds by having people endlessly discuss the CNE shenanigans [regarding audits of the electoral lists], it is not enough that abstention seems again to be gaining ground even if all sorts of pundits (including yours truly) want to fight for out right to vote until the bitter end. I am afraid that Chavez is actually thinking deliberately about canceling the election altogether. He has been toying with the idea of a plebiscite for a while and experience has taught us that what he himself thought of as a mere provocation, he makes it eventually a state policy. He is crazed enough for power.
Castro did say that elections were a waste of time. Who is Chavez to disagree?