A Special Kind of Stupid

You have to be a special kind of stupid to believe that Hugo Chavez, the now former president of Venezuela, was a good guy. And yet, people who claim to be liberal, who claim to be believers in freedom and tolerance, seem to be very happy to praise the most descipicable tyrants. Of course, it has been this way for a very long while. Hollywood is filled with people such as Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Oliver Stone and others who think that Chavez was a wonderful man who only sought the best for the poor and downtrodden. Somehow, if you say the right sappy words, you can get away with tossing your opponents in prison, prohibit those you dislike from running against you, muzzle the press, install your cronies, and stuff your Swiss bank accounts.

Chavez sided with the Communist dictator Fidel Castro, loved the mullahs of Iran, and couldn’t say a bad word about any of the world’s dictators. Consistently, there are those in Hollywood and elsewhere who turn a blind eye to human rights abuses as long as those committing them say nice words about the poor and say bad things about the US.

These people are a special kind of stupid.

What was Hugo Chavez actually like? Consider this description from Freedom House in 1999:

Hugo Chávez, the coupist paratrooper-turned-politician elected who was elected president in a December 1998 landslide, spent most of 1999 dismantling Venezuela’s political system of checks and balances, ostensibly to destroy a discredited two-party system that for four decades presided over several oil booms but has left four out of five Venezuelans impoverished. Early in the year, Congressional power was gutted, the judiciary was placed under executive branch tutelage, and Chávez’s army colleagues were given a far bigger say in the day-to-day running of the country. A constituent assembly dominated by Chávez followers drafted a new constitution that would make censorship of the press easier, allow a newly strengthened chief executive the right to dissolve congress, and make it possible for Chávez to retain power until 2013. Congress and the Supreme Court were dismissed after Venezuelans approved the new constitution in a national referendum December 15….

Venezuela’s political rights changed from 2 to 4, its civil liberties rating from 3 to 4, and its status from Free to Partly Free, due to the decision of President Hugo Chávez, ratified in a national referendum, to abolish congress and the judiciary, and by his creation of a parallel government of military cronies.

More recent information from Freedom House in 2010:

Freedom House today condemned ongoing efforts by the Venezuelan government to bring criminal charges against the owners of Globovision, the only remaining independent television station in the country. Freedom House called the continuing persecution of the station’s ownership a transparent effort to silence one of the few remaining voices that are willing to criticize the policies of President Hugo Chavez in advance of upcoming parliamentary elections.

Two major shareholders in the private television station have recently come under pressure from the Chavez administration. Co-owner Guillermo Zuloaga was forced to flee the country to avoid arrest on charges many believe to have been fabricated by the government. Additionally, the government took over the bank of another shareholder, Nelson Mezerhane, and threatened to seize Mezerhane’s Globovision shares as part of the bank takeover. Currently in Florida, Mezerhane cannot return to Venezuela without fear of arrest.

“President Chavez’s denial that these actions are politically motivated would be more credible if not for his systematic efforts over the last decade to close the space for independent voices, particularly the voices of those who oppose his policies,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “Chavez’s continued intolerance for criticism only serves to further weaken what little is left of Venezuela’s democratic credentials.”

Frank La Rue, special rapporteur at the United Nations for freedom of expression, denounced the “harassment” of Zuloaga and said that the arrest warrant was “politically motivated, aimed solely at silencing Zuloaga.”

Reports of crack-downs on independent media have continually plagued Venezuela during the Chavez administration but have increased in intensity as the opposition prepares for parliamentary elections in September. Venezuela dropped two points this year in Freedom of the Press due to increased violence against journalists and the closing of more than 30 radio and television stations under the controversial Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.

Venezuela is ranked Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010 and Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House’s survey of political rights and civil liberties.

Things have not gotten better.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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