During his first stop in Argentina on a four nation tour through South America, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez visited the University of Argentina, La Plata, to receive the Rodolfo Walsh journalism award lauding him for his, “unquestionable and authentic commitment” to freedom of the press and breaking the so called media monopolies. Never mind the questions about how and who decided within the University that he should deserve such an award, or the fact that President Cristina Kirchner was present at the ceremony. Kirchner, like Chavez, sees privately owned media as a threat. She is seeking legal measures to break-up Argentina’s existing communications industry in favor of state controlled outlets.
Let’s take a moment to review the accomplishments of President Chavez since he was first elected in 1998. To be sure, Venezuelans turned out in droves at the ballot boxes to vote for change. Gone were the days of power sharing between the Partido Social Chirstiano de Venezuela (COPEI) and Acción Democrática (AD). Venezuelans were fed-up and wanted change. Enter Hugo Chavez, a charismatic former junior military officer who tapped into Venezuelan frustrations and won with the largest percentage of votes in four decades.
Thirteen years later Venezuela is plagued with a leader who continues to manipulate the democratic process, restrict press freedom, intimidate his opposition, and most alarming – foster formal diplomatic relations with the likes of Ahmadinejad in Iran where Iran and Venezuela have agreed to collaborate on a secret nuclear plan to help Iran obtain uranium.
In addition Moammar Gaddafi in 2004 bestowed upon Chavez the Qaddafi International Human Rights Prize; an award that placed value on freedom and peace to all mankind.
Remember: There was a time, a few years ago, when pundits on the Left questioned whether Chavez should be considered a dictator, and/or a destabilizing force.