BACKGROUND & CHARACTER
JUDGES & COURTS
The Final Curtain in Venezuela?
By Gustavo Coronel
HumanEvents.com | 8/13/2008
The mood that permeates Venezuela today is one that seems to signal impending doom for autocratic Hugo Chavez. The lyrics of Paul Anka’s “My Way” seem to float in the Caracas air: “And now, the end is near… ”.
Three moves by Chavez, all taken during the last month, comprise his attempt to maintain control over an increasingly frustrated country. The first one is the passing, on the very last day of the period of legislative power granted to him by the National Assembly, of 26 decree-laws that will give him most of the powers that he tried to get, unsuccessfully, through the December 2007 Constitutional referendum.
Defeated by the voters in the referendum, he is now using this blunt force to obtain what the popular vote denied him. No one in the country, except those who drew up the over 2000 articles of the new decrees, knew about them in advance or had a chance to discuss them. In another major move, Chavez used his General Comptroller and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to ban 260 Venezuelans from running for office in the November regional elections. Not surprisingly, several of the best candidates of the opposition, favored to win by all polls, are included in the ban, which openly violates articles 42 and 65 of the current Venezuelan Constitution.
The third move has been his takeover of Banco de Venezuela, the third largest private bank in the country, owned by Spanish Bank of Santander. Chavez characteristically announced this move during one of his TV shows, without any notice made to the owners. Chavez had been in Spain only days before, trying to mend his relationship with the King, but did not disclose his intentions.
Although these moves would seem to indicate overwhelming power and complete political control of the country, a more careful reading suggests them to be attempts at asserting authority by a weakening leader facing increasing opposition from Venezuelan civil society. The ban on opposition leaders is being challenged in the streets, giving rise to popular protests in which the students are once more leading the way. A delegation of MERCOSUR, the free trade organization from the southern cone, has visited Caracas to investigate the ban and finds it undemocratic, which will prevent Chavez from joining the organization.
Public opinion in the U.S. and Europe is beginning to see Mr. Chavez’s tactics in the same category with Zimbabwe’s Mugabe. The reaction against the decree-laws is starting to unfold and could develop into open civil rebellion.
One of the new decrees would give Chavez the rank of four-star general, not currently existing, and the pompous title of “Generalissimo” in the same level with dictators like Tito, Franco, and Chiang Kai-Sheck. Another decree will convert the state-owned petroleum company, PDVSA, into an agricultural and industrial conglomerate, and still a third would create a new army, loyal to Chavez and not to the nation.
Leaders of the opposition, including industrialist Rafael Alfonzo and recent Milton Friedman award winner and student leader Jon Goicochea, are calling for a popular rebellion, including, if need be, a general strike against the Chavez regime, while members of his own political coalition are speaking in open disagreement with the measures. The takeover of Banco de Venezuela has pushed the country risk of Venezuela to record highs, now 679 points — highest in the hemisphere. The fear of private investors is turning into terror as some of the decrees, especially one on “food sovereignty,” could justify the takeover of important privately-owned food companies.
Once again, Hugo Chavez has brought Venezuela to the brink of open social conflict. He now seems determined to become an absolute ruler. He is forcing a showdown with the Venezuelan people that he has little chance of winning, given the mood of the country. This time he cannnot expect much solidarity from his allies in the hemisphere since Morales, Kirchner, Ortega, and the Castro dynasty are experiencing similar — if not even worse — problems. As the Venezuelan private sector, the Catholic church, the student movement, the opposition parties, civil society in general and many of the members of his own political coalition take the media and the streets against him, Chavez will be fighting for his political life, weighed down by the burden of ridicule and possibly facing the final curtain. He could probably claim he did it “his way,” but history will say that his way was not the people’s way.
Gustavo Coronel is a petroleum geologist, author and public policy expert, who was elected to the Venezuelan Congress in 1998 before it was dissolved in 1999 following the election of Hugo Chavez as president. Coronel is currently designated as an “enemy” of the Chavez regime.
Venezuela’s leftwing, populist dictator, Hugo Chavez, has personally approved funding for a covert propaganda campaign against alternative fuels, including ethanol and bodiesel. The money will be diverted from Venezuela’s oil revenues; and there is reason to believe Chavez may have sought financial support for the project from Iran, after successfully persuading Cuba’s Communist dictator, Fidel Castro, to condemn biofuels as “capitalist genocide.”
With or without Tehran’s aid, the Crackpot of Caracas aims to discredit the biofuels industry by subsidizing the production and placement of a series of negative articles, essays and TV programs promoting claims that it robs the poor of productive agricultural land, drives up the price of food for humans and animals alike and actually consumes more energy than it produces.
The brunt of the campaign will be directed at Brazil’s thriving ethanol industry. But biodiesel will also be a target. Sources in Venezuela’s capital say Chavez insists that the renewable fuel, which is made from virgin or used (recycled) vegetable oils, be branded “deforestation diesel” because of alleged environmental abuses by the palm oil industry.
The anti-biofuels campaign will naturally ignore the promise of cellulosic ethanol, made from trees and switchgrass, as well as biodiesel produced from Jatropha–a perenneial plant that grows in arid wasteland–and algae. Hydroponic, hothouse cultivation of the latter feedstock could yield thousands of gallons of oil per acre.
WASHINGTON – Venezuela, whose leader Hugo Chavez has stood with Iran against the U.S., is providing documents that could help terrorists infiltrate the U.S.-Mexico, charges a new congressional report on homeland security.
“Venezuela is providing support – including identity documents – that could prove useful to radical Islamic groups,” says the report of the subcommittee on investigations of the House Homeland Security Committee. “The Venezuelan government has issued thousands of cédulas, the equivalent of Social Security cards, to people from places such as Cuba, Colombia and Middle Eastern nations that host foreign terrorist organizations.”
The documents can be used to obtain Venezuelan passports and American visas, which in turn allow the holder to elude immigration checks and enter the United States.
The report found that the Chavez government has issued thousands of these identity documents that could help terrorists elude immigration checks and enter the United States.
“The potential is certainly there for terrorists to infiltrate the U.S. through Mexico,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chaired the subcommittee. “We apprehended five Pakistanis on the U.S. Mexico border with fraudulent Venezuelan documents.”
The report, “A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border,” says the number of aliens other than Mexican, known as OTM, illegally crossing the border has grown at an alarming rate over the past several years.
Aliens from “special interest” countries known to harbor terrorists or promote terrorism are routinely encountered and apprehended according to the report. The countries include Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Federal law enforcement personnel told the subcommittee’s staff it is difficult to provide the total number of special interest aliens entering the U.S. because they pay large amounts of money, between $15,000 and $60,000, to employ the more effective Mexican alien smuggling organizations and are less likely to be apprehended.
In August, an Afghani man was found swimming across the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo, Texas. Last July in Jim Hogg County, Border Patrol agents found a discarded jacket with patches from countries where al-Qaida is known to operate. The patches feature Arabic-language martyrdom slogans that read “way to eternal life” and depict a jetliner crashing into the World Trade Center towers.
McCaul is concerned that Chavez is turning Venezuela into a staging area for terrorism in America’s backyard.
“We know that Mr. Chavez in Venezuela has openly embraced the Islamic jihad world,” he said. “We know that Hezbollah operatives have been given safe haven in Venezuela. So the threat is very real.”
Last year, FBI Director Robert Mueller Jr. revealed to members of Congress that “individuals from countries with known al-Qaida connections have attempted to enter the United States illegally using alien smuggling rings and assuming Hispanic appearances.”
He also testified that a Hezbollah cell had been “dismantled” after discovering that the terror organization was smuggling operatives across the U.S. -Mexico border to carry out terror attacks inside the U.S.
The McCaul report also points out that radical Islamic groups that support Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamiya Al Gamat are all active in Latin America.
“Given the ever-present threat posed by al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations – a threat that has been underscored by the recent events in London and the vulnerability of our borders – the need for immediate action to enforce our borders could not be more apparent,” says the report.
Venezuela is locked in a battle with
Guatemala to take over a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, representing the Latin American region. While neither country has been able to garner the necessary two-thirds majority from the General Assembly,
Guatemala has soundly beaten
Venezuela in virtually every round of voting to date. The 35th round of voting ended on October 20th with 103 votes for
Guatemala and 81 for
Venezuela. Further voting has been put off for several days. As one reporter put it during a daily press briefing at UN headquarters, the process is morphing into the theater of the absurd.
Venezuela has already served four times on the Security Council, while
Guatemala has never served. It is time for
Venezuela, the perennial loser in balloting this time around, to either remove itself voluntarily in favor of
Guatemala or a consensus candidate, or to be forced to step aside. According to the UN Charter, in electing a non-permanent member to the Security Council, the General Assembly is to give “due regard…in the first instance to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization.”
Venezuela fails that test, hands down.
There are at least two grounds for disqualifying
Venezuela from further consideration. First,
Venezuela is committing serious human rights violations today, according to its own regional group’s human rights spokesperson.
Guatemala’s past human rights record is far from stellar, but its record is improving while
Venezuela’s is rapidly deteriorating. Second,
Venezuela has demonstrated its contempt for the Security Council’s decisions by actively backing
Iran’s outright threats to international peace and security in defiance of the will of the international community.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States issued a statement on August 31, 2006 condemning the murder of Jesús Rafael Flores Rojas, a journalist of the daily Región, in
Venezuela. This was no random act of violence. On the night of August 23, 2006, Rojas arrived at his house in the locality of El Tigre, when an individual shot Rojas eight times in the presence of his daughter before fleeing in an automobile. He had received prior death threats in response to his investigative political reporting.
Nor was the murder of Rojas one isolated case. It followed two prior murders in 2006. Joaquín Tovar, the editor of the weekly Venezuelan paper Ahora, was shot and killed June 17th, while Jorge Aguirre, a photographer with El Mundo newspaper in
Caracas, was killed April 5th.
And the violence directed against journalists in
Venezuela continues. On October 7, 2006, journalist Pedro Bastardo was killed by several shots to the head. On September 30, 2006, a team of reporters working for news channel Globovisión was assaulted, allegedly by supporters of President Hugo Chávez, during the march of presidential candidate for the opposition, Manuel Rosales, in the state of
Venezuela. On September 19th, a reporter, Paulimar Rodríguez of the newspaper “El Nacional”, was also assaulted during a Rosales march, allegedly by Chávez supporters. We are seeing violence directed at journalists by a bunch of fascist bullies, with Chavez’s regime the obvious beneficiary of a frightened press.
Chávez has also railed against privately owned television stations, whose licenses are due to expire in 2007, charging that they broadcast content designed to “divide” the country. With Presidential “elections” in
Venezuela coming up this December, the policy of press intimidation is obvious.
Chavez has not confined his intimidation to the press. He also has jailed political opponents. In ordering the trial of four civil society leaders on dubious charges of treason, a Venezuelan court has assented to government persecution of political opponents, Human Rights Watch declared in July 2005. “The court has given the government a green light to persecute its opponents,” said José Miguel Vivanco,
Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Prosecuting people for treason when they engage in legitimate electoral activities is utterly absurd.”
Venezuela’s deplorable human rights record at home is Chavez’s demonstration of contempt for the United Nations itself. Perhaps his personal denunciations of President Bush as the “devil” before the General Assembly last month can be dismissed as the grand-standing of a lunatic buffoon. But his unswerving apologia for
Iran’s defiance of the Security Council cannot be so easily excused. Last February,
Syria in opposing the referral of
Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.
Iran ignored the Council’s August 31st deadline to freeze its uranium enrichment program and continues to call the Security Council “illegitimate” as it finally prepares for possible sanctions against the rogue regime. Chavez continues to serve as
Iran’s perfect lackey, supporting
Iran’s nuclear ambitions and promising to thwart any international consensus toward sanctions against
Iran. Parroting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel tirades before an adoring crowd at
University during a recent visit to
Iran, Chavez accused
Israel of “terrorism and pure fascism.” And Chavez’s trade with Iran, now in excess of $1 billion, may include lethal materials being brought into
Venezuela, including nuclear technology. Like
Iran’s leaders, Chavez denies any intention of developing nuclear weapons. Yet his government has reportedly signed agreements on nuclear energy and sought to buy a nuclear reactor, with no involvement of the civilian Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research. A prominent Venezuelan physicist has suggested that his country may indeed be embarked on a path to join the Nuclear Club along with North Korea and
Iran awarded Chavez its highest state medal in gratitude for his “support for
Iran‘s stance on the international scene”, according to an Iranian station. In contrast to
Venezuela’s complicity in undermining the authority of the very same Security Council that it wishes to join,
Guatemala has actively supported that institution’s decisions. It contributed personnel for UN peacekeeping operations in each of the years 2006, 2005 and 2004.
Venezuela has not contributed a single person during any of those years.
Chavez fancies himself as Castro’s successor, leading the world’s “oppressed” against the capitalist imperialists of the West. Maybe, he does deserve the title. After all, he has been Castro’s loyal puppet for many years. Now he is adding Ahmadinejad as another puppeteer. In his pathetic campaign for relevance on the world stage, Chavez is diverting oil revenues from meeting the needs of the poor back home in order to buy his way onto the Security Council. He should be soundly rebuffed as a fraud who wants to sabotage the Security Council for his buddies, to the detriment of international peace and security.
As a group of self-described “Venezolanos suffering (no peace, no prosperity, no hope) from Chavez lies” recently commented on the Internet (but would dare not write in any local Venezuelan newspaper for fear that they would end up like the murdered journalists): “We are Venezolanos living in Venezuela that want to apologize to the American People for the entropy that HUGO wants to create. He only has created fear and mistrust among the Venezuelan people and wants to do the same all around the world.” The people suffering under Chavez’s yoke know him best and detest him.
In its previous four elections to the Security Council,
Venezuela received over 90% of the votes and was elected in the first round. This time, it appears that less than half of the countries of Latin America are currently supporting
Venezuela. Some of these countries have expressed resentment at Chavez’s interference in their elections. They know their neighbor better than any country could outside of the region and do not trust him.
It is time for the President of the General Assembly to end Chavez’s theater of the absurd immediately and call for the election of a member state from the Latin American region that meets the minimum qualifications for a seat on the Security Council.
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