Chavez tries Mugabe style 'democracy'
VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chávez, who says he intends to remain in office for decades to come, lost a referendum 14 months ago that would have removed the constitutional limit on his tenure. When he announced another referendum in December, the first polls showed him losing again by a wide margin. Yet, as Sunday's vote approaches, his government is predicting victory -- and some polls show him with a narrow advantage.Chavez needs this distraction to avoid talking about his handling of the economy has been a disaster creating the highest inflation in this hemisphere while squandering the countries windfall from oil revenues. Now that they are substantially reduced the need for distraction grows more. The kind of "democracy" that Chavez is peddling is phony.
How did Latin America's self-styled "Bolivarian revolutionary" turn his fortunes around? Not through rational argument, it is fair to say. Mr. Chávez's regime has mounted a propaganda and intimidation campaign of a ferocity rarely seen in Latin America since the region returned to democracy 25 years ago. Pro-Chávez rhetoric dominates the national airwaves, from which opposition voices have been almost entirely excluded. Pro-government thugs have targeted student demonstrations, the home of an opposition journalist and the Vatican's embassy, which gave shelter to one student leader.
Then there is the assault on Venezuela's Jewish community -- which seems to have replaced George W. Bush as Mr. Chávez's favorite foil. After Israel's offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last month, the caudillo expelled Israel's ambassador and described Israel's actions in Gaza as "genocide." Then Mr. Chávez turned on Venezuela's Jews. "Let's hope that the Venezuelan Jewish community will declare itself against this barbarity," Mr. Chávez bellowed on a government-controlled television channel. "Don't Jews repudiate the Holocaust? And this is precisely what we're witnessing."