martes, 9 de enero de 2007

Chávez muzzles his foes

The Miami Herald, January 9, 2007



Hugo Chávez intends to shut down Radio Caracas Televisión. He won't renew its license. The reason alleged by the government is that the company supported the muddled coup d'etat of April 2002.

But that's not true. Col. Francisco Arias Cérdenas backed the coup passionately, as anyone who takes the trouble to find the video with his statements on YouTube can see, yet Chávez appointed him ambassador to the United Nations.

What Chávez rewards or punishes is the degree of submission to his exalted person. He acts not on principles but on strategic calculations. If you kneel, he'll bedeck you with honors and even make you rich. If you oppose him, he'll destroy you. It's the ''silver or lead'' proposition of South American drug lords elevated to state policy.

After winning the December 2006 election, Chávez prepares to give some turns to the authoritarian screw. It is likely that soon he will find ways to shut down or curb Globovisión and the newspapers El Universal and El Nacional. Because he has total control over the judicial system and the feared Finance Ministry, he will be able to punish the media by imposing million-dollar fines or inventing fiscal crimes.

Cruel messages

That would be referring to the ''lead.'' But Chávez may prefer to use the ''silver.'' Through friendly intermediaries, the president's men can purchase the enemies' channels of communication with a big bundle of petrodollars. The owners would understand the message with cruel clarity: Either they sell the channels, or they lose them. They can even put a high price on them. Money is no object.

Just as what's important to Chávez are not the procedures but the results, his ideological commitment is also difficult to pinpoint. It changes with each interlocutor or advisor who gains access to his addled little brain. In the 1990s, he was under the influence of Norberto Ceresole, an Argentine fascist close to the Libyan and Iranian madhouses. Ceresole became enamored of the putschist lieutenant colonel and got him to read Moammar Gadhafi's The Green Book, a compendium of gibberish that consecrates hatred for the West, the market and democracy. Later, beginning in 1994, Fidel Castro took Chávez by the hand and gradually redirected him toward Marxism-Leninism and militant anti-Americanism, until they gave birth to ``21st century socialism.''

What is that? The conviction that Havana and Caracas will replace Moscow in leading humanity toward paradise. Of course, the task requires the defeat of the United States, Europe, Japan and other small obstacles, but the first step consists of conquering Latin America. How? By repeating the Venezuelan experiment. You reach power legitimately, by the ballot box, and then you dismantle the rule of law while creating populist measures that are both demagogical and effective.

`Chronic ineptitude'

Curiously, where Chávez is finding the heaviest resistance is in the Venezuelan phase of the construction of socialism. With great fanfare, he launched an agrarian reform but discovered that there are no peasants in Venezuela and that the land was distributed more than 40 years ago. He thought about nationalizing the big companies but realized that the Chavista cadres exhibit a chronic ineptitude when it comes to administration. Everything they touch they corrupt, destroy or ruin.

If, by revolutionary decree, Chávez were to nationalize the 1,000 largest Venezuelan companies, all of them would have to dip into their reserves in less than 180 days, because they would be financially drained. And if Chávez, a victim of the legendary ineptitude of his political tribe, cannot collectivize the economy, how will he continue to express his revolutionary radicalism?

Very simple. True to the tenets of political dictatorship, he will continue to silence his opponents with either silver or lead. Radio Caracas Televisión is just the beginning.

Editor's note: This column was written before President Chávez announced plans Monday to nationalize electrical and telecommunications companies.

©2007 Firmas Press

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