Chavez granted dictatorial powersThis essay is part of a (more or less) weekly feature on this blog that presents interesting stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, Israel, Iraq, North Korea and Iran.
I've written before how many on the left are ready to canonize Venezuela's strongman Hugo Chavez for the primary reason of his contempt for US president George W. Bush. Anyone who truly supports human rights should condemn the excesses of his regime. Attacks on the free press. Assaults on judicial independence. Extrajudicial killings. Police abuse and torture. A Gulag-like prison system. Some believe these things are fine and dandy so long as it's someone on the ideological left doing them. I do not.
Chavez has taken things a step further and decided to formalize his dictatorship. He already has a National Assembly that rubber stamps all his decisions. Opposition parties boycotted the most recent legislative elections so the parliament is completely dominated by his supporters. But even a legislature of sycophants was too cumbersome for the one-time paratrooper. He rammed through legislation that would grant him the power to rule by decree for the next 18 months.
His proposals to nationalize much of Venezuela's economy could easily have been done without the legislature giving him dictatorial powers. But it's yet another step in Chavez's attempts to dismantle the country's institutions and forge an autocratic state based entirely on his cult of personality.