Reactions from Santo Domingo
The news of the rise potential dictator in the richest nation to the south arrives here in Santo Domingo on the 46th anniversary of the death of Trujillo, the strongman who ruled without mercy for thirty one years.
Last night thousands of protestors and supporters took to the streets of Caracas prostesting the closure of the only oppostion television station with national coverage whose license was not renewed by the government. The TV station had long been a critic of Chavez and was implicated in the attempted coup against hm in 2004.
Michelle Bachelet, the socialist president of Chile, alluded to the closure, saying:"Freedome of expression is a gift of gold."
Hugo Chavez has great popularity throughout Latin America, not only perhaps for his rages against the imperialism of United States which has so often been on the side of the oppressors, but also for his solidarity with the poor, his ability to free his country from submission to the IMF and the World Bank, his identification with Africa, and last, but certainly not least, his generous discount oil programs to poor countries. Yet his totalitarian methods are inspiring fear, particularly here, in this country which has only known a generation of freedom.
Chavez has been a welcomed visitor on this side of Hispaniola and hailed as a hero in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince. Haiti, as an independent nation in 1804, was the launching site for the independence of Latin America, the first "Bolivarian" revolution, hosting first Francisco de Miranda in 1806 the precursor to Simon Bolivar, and then in 1817 under President Petion, giving aid and support to Simon Bolivar. Chavez does not forget his nation's debt to Haiti.
President Chavez has ruled by decree since the National Assembly gave him that authority in 2005. The opposition party boycotted the elections in 2005 and therefore had no representation in the government. Chavez said that he wanted extraordinary powers in order to swiftly move forward the socialist revolution, nationalizing the oil fields (which he completed by the beginning of this month), and gaining state control of the media, which he has just done. The Venezuelan state now owns a controlling interest in all the oil fields although private companies have been invited to continue as minority share holders.
Norway, arguably a strong democracy and top of the United Nations Human Development Index, the 3rd largest oil exporting nation in the world, (Venezuela is the 6th according to the CIA factbook) has a 50% tax on oil production so that claiming the natural resources of the nation as belonging to all the citizens is also possible within a democracy.
Chavez, having now supressed a powerful voice of the opposition, has taken a large step down into the darkeness of totalitarianism, which was certainly not the revolution dreamed of by Simon Bolivar.