I fully expect that there are Chavez apologists out there who remain more than willing to argue that their man is the greatest thing to happen to democracy since Jefferson himself. I just don’t think that such statements can be made with a straight face:
Ever since a minor earthquake rumbled through the concrete sprawl of Caracas in early May, the foundations of Venezuela’s last remaining flagrantly anti-government television station have looked unstable.
The 24-hour news channel Globovisión’s coverage of the earthquake so incensed President Hugo Chávez – who accused the reports of inciting fear – that the channel worries its days are numbered. Although many argue free speech itself is not yet under threat in Venezuela, Globovisión has become the favourite new target of the combative president, who accuses it of “media terrorism” and of “poisoning” the people.
The government has raided the property of Guillerma Zuloaga, Globovisión’s president, whom it accuses of usury and “environmental crimes”. It has also fined the channel $4.2m (€3m, £2.5m) for allegedly failing to pay taxes six years ago. Such action has provoked widespread criticism that the government is harassing a powerful opponent.
Mr Chávez has made his feelings abundantly clear. “I can assure you, this network will not remain on the airwaves much longer” if it does not change its ways soon, he warned this week.
He ticked off senior officials last month for not cracking down hard enough on Globovisión, rounding on a close ally who heads the national telecommunications commission as well as the president of the supreme court and the attorney-general.
“I hope that the institutions take the decisions that they have to take. I don’t just hope so, I demand it. Enough of this!” Mr Chávez stormed. Earlier in the month he said that he would stop calling himself Hugo Chávez if “that madman with a cannon” – Globovisión’s manager Alberto Ravell – was not checked.
In addition to be dictatorial, it would appear that Chavez is also unstable. Nice combination, that. Venezuelans must be so pleased.