Every morning I get an e-mail with the top stories of the major US papers. Usually the subject of the E-mail carries the top story of the day according to the editors (most of the time these days it carries the words Obama or Clinton). And to my great surprise, and dread, Venezuela made it to the top front of the New York Times, to subject of the E-mail as well as the top right corner of the print edition. Indeed it is a worthy piece of news, to observe how a government publishes a law decree, without previous consultation with any public sector, not even the National Assembly, a law decree that will transform Venezuela in a nation of informers, just like Cuba.
Because make no mistake: this new decree law is worse than the Patriot Act of the US. If I bring up this last remark it is because the Bush administration Patriot Act is perhaps its most controversial legal action, the one that has damaged the most its popularity over the years. Not for me to discuss the virtues and sins of the Patriot Act here: I want to limit myself to note that the Patriot Act was lengthily discussed, had to be voted and exists in a country where considerable safeguards exists. Not to mention that September 11 did take place and that the US is truly under constant terrorist threat. Maybe there were better ways to enhance US security but the Patriot Act is still under the constant monitoring of an independent judicial system and a strong press, thus many abuses have been corrected.
None of this would hold true for Venezuela as the new decree law goes into practice.
The Romero article is thorough and is a required reading for anyone living outside of Venezuela. Mr. Romero does not need to be condemnatory of the Chavez regime: the facts speak loudly by themselves, Chavez has entered into an era of repression and this new decree is the first of many to come as his political fortunes keep waning. Make no mistake: Chavez was never a democrat, is unable to understand democracy and the concept of checks and balances. If he managed to retain an image of democrat outside of Venezuela it is because his agenda coincided with many grievances of Venezuelan society, and because oil at 1000 USD a barrel allows for the easy correction of many mistakes and the purchase of much good will. But there comes a point where even a barrel at 200 USD will not be enough. That is when the true Chavez comes out, the Cuban controlled Chavez that we are seeing so clearly with thsi new diktat.
To entice you to read this essential article I will post two paragraphs:
The new law requires people in the country to comply with requests to assist the agencies, secret police or community activist groups loyal to Mr. Chávez. Refusal can result in prison terms of two to four years for most people and four to six years for government employees.
“We are before a set of measures that are a threat to all of us,” said Blanca Rosa Mármol de León, a justice on Venezuela’s top court, in a rare public judicial dissent. “I have an obligation to say this, as a citizen and a judge. This is a step toward the creation of a society of informers.”