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Column 122710 Brewer

Monday, December 27, 2010

Venezuelans are Facing a Bleak and Undemocratic New


By Jerry Brewer

Panic and turmoil erupted in Venezuela this month as

President Hugo Chavez moved again to posture his power and
strong will on what the opposition in Venezuela are referring to
as “dictatorial rule and Communism.” Much of the opposition
claims that this is a quick power grab to neutralize the newly
and democratically elected National Assembly, to be seated
January 6, 2011.

Chavez’s actions should not come as a surprise to anyone,

nor should anyone claim that this was not popularly predicted.
Chavez’s tenure in power to date began with the undermining
of civil and democratic institutions.

Chavez virtually eliminated free expression in Venezuela years

back, circumventing effective checks to arbitrary government
via the media. The Chavez regime instigated violent verbal
and physical attacks against the owners, editors, and
employees of the media. Their buildings have been bombed,
reporters killed and injured, and property destroyed by armed
members of Venezuela’s security apparatchik.

Prominent Venezuelan journalists have had their homes

raided and been compelled to testify to Chavez government
enforcers and police. This prompted the International
Broadcasting Association, Inter American Press Association,
and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the
Organization of American States to plead in vain to the
government to protect freedom of the press.

The President of Globovisión, Guillermo Zuloaga, became the

latest victim of Chavez’s wrath against the last opposition
television station remaining in Venezuela. Globovisión has
often taken an anti-government stance, and its broadcasts
have been frequent targets of Chávez's instant attention.

The government claims to own a minority stake in Globovisión,

as according to their calculations they possess 25.8 percent of
the shares in Globovisión that belonged to one of the owners
of the Banco Federal. Chavez’s government took over the
bank last month, citing financial problems. It is said that the
leftist government may now have a right to name a board
members of Globovisión, according to Chávez. Zuloaga and
his son fled Venezuela last month after their arrest was
ordered on allegations that there were irregularities at their
Toyota dealership.

From its inception, Chavez’s regime telegraphed its intentions

to dominate the will of the Venezuelans. He quickly instituted
a penal code that stated “anyone who offends with words, or in
writing or in any way disrespects the President of the Republic,
or whomever is fulfilling his duties, will be punished with six to
30 months in prison if the offense is serious, and half that if it
is light.” Journalists who “expose another person to contempt
or public hatred” can receive a prison sentence of one to three
years. Incredibly, that code specifies that anyone charged
with these crimes will not be entitled to legal due process.

With the crime of “civil rebellion” in Venezuela that carries a

minimum 12-year and maximum 25-year sentence, brave
Venezuelan students still took to the streets last week in
protest insofar as students perceive the elimination of
university autonomy — this as professors will be appointed by
the regime. Too, the Chavez regime could decide what
courses will be taught and where they will be offered.

Students valiantly protested among security forces that used

rubber bullets and fired water cannons to disperse them. They
voiced concerns of Chavez’s new decree (Enabling Law),
saying the law “gives too much power to the government, aims
to promote socialist ideology, and will be used to crackdown
on autonomous universities that have long been centers of
opposition to the president’s leftist agenda.”

Though faced by National Guard troops in helmets and riot

gear, this protest was the latest in a string of others against the
new laws that were rushed through and passed by the
National Assembly before the new parliament is sworn in next
month. It has been further described as, "to entrench
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s self-styled socialist
revolution.” Students waved signs reading: “We will not obey
your law,” and “I’ll swap Christmas for freedom.”

Venezuelans have previously witnessed this regime take

control of the courts, military, police forces, budget, electoral
council, and virtually every other branch of power, and
controlled by the presidency. Obviously, abuse of power
comes to mind. With these facts, is it not difficult to conceive
that the opposition believes this is a desperate bid by a self-
styled dictator to perpetuate a regime in the face of adversity?
Even the control of expression via the Internet is at stake.

Venezuelans — the democratic electorate, expressing the will

of the people, are voicing outrage at the potential great peril to
their own safety. The opposition voices are announcing their
fears against the authoritarian nature of the government and
the socialist production model. They wish to not be made a

Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International
Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered
in northern Virginia. His website is located at
TWITTER: cjiausa