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July 17, 2009
Venezuela newspapers under siege
Hugo Chavez has apparently found a new way to crack down on Venezuela's press -- by denying newspapers the chance to buy U.S. dollars needed to import news print. In one sense, this is business as usual in Venezuela -- albeit with much more ideological bullying and dictatorial impulses on the part of the Chavez administration.
Venezuelans and foreign companies -- under the exchange controls implemented by the previous administration of Rafael Caldera -- also had problems obtaining dollars under exchange controls. But those who were politically well-connected, or who kissed the rings of the right bureaucrats, were able to go to the front of the line and buy all the dollars they needed to import goods needed to keep their businesses afloat --and profitable.
Chavez, when campaigning for office in the late 1990s, had promised to stop widespread corruption, restore living standards, and make Venezuela's government accountable. Instead, he repackaged three bad ideas from Venezuela's past -- Statism, populism, and authoritarianism -- and took them to new heights. What's more, he rebranded these bad ideas under a socialist, anti-American banner. Not surprisingly, this has made Chavez a hero to the international left, even as Venezuela sinks deeper into chaos and poverty. The latest casualities are Venezuela's newspapers.