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November 15, 2007
Washington Post Calls Chavez Drive for Power a "Coup"
In a scathing editorial, the Washington Post has called out Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, referring to his "socialist reforms" as nothing less than a constitutional coup:
In fact, Mr. Chavez's rewrite would complete his transformation into an autocrat. It would lengthen his presidential term from six to seven years and remove the current limit of two terms, allowing him to serve indefinitely. He would have broad powers to seize property, to dispose of Venezuela's foreign exchange reserves, to impose central government rule on local jurisdictions and to declare indefinite states of emergency under which due process and freedom of information would be suspended. And it is encouraging that a liberal newspaper like the Post would call a spade a spade and take to task Chavez supporters in this country:
As a populist sop, one provision would reduce the workday from eight to six hours; that benefit, the state's control over national television and the voting process, and the apparent intention of many Venezuelans to stay away from the polls are expected to deliver the necessary ratification. The strength and courage of the resistance to Mr. Chavez is nevertheless growing. Despite the attacks by government goons, students have continued to march by the thousands. Bloggers have posted photos and videos of the government-sponsored violence.
Opposition leaders have continued to speak out despite being labeled "traitors" by Mr. Chavez and harassed with death threats. Venezuela is on the verge of succumbing to a dictatorship that will isolate and retard the country, maybe for decades. It's encouraging that so many of its people aren't prepared to give up their freedom without a fight.
Mr. Chavez's apologists like to dismiss the Venezuelan forces opposing his deconstruction of democracy -- which include the Catholic Church, the private business community and labor unions as well as students -- as a corrupt elite. So it's worth noting what some of Mr. Chavez's long-standing allies are saying about his constitutional changes. The political party Podemos, whose members ran for parliament on a pro-Chavez platform, call it "a constitutional fraud." Mr. Chavez's recently retired defense minister, Gen. Ra¿l Isa¿as Baduel, said it was an "undemocratic imposition" and that its approval would amount to "a coup." With the opposition so fragmented - both by politics and by fear - it seems a foregone conclusion that Chavez will succeed in his coup. And with the price of oil as high as it is, Chavez will apparently be able to bankroll his dictatorship by buying off the poor.
But sooner or later, as it happens in all socialist countries, the economic realities of socialism's failures will overcome any good that might be done and the Venezuelan economy will go south. How Chavez maintains power then will be difficult. But judging by his bullyboy tactics recently, he won't go into retirement easily.