Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Washington Post Corners Obama and Clinton on Chavez

I am certainly willing to give President Obama some slack on his handling of the Venezuelan situation, but I am also on record that wishing Chavez away will not do. The honey moon period is over and the handshake with no aftermath at Port of Spain is now allowing Chavez to increase the pressure at home.

That is, after an initial good will at the Americas summit of Port of Spain, the lack of follow up is starting to have an effect and cause very justly the Washington Post to call on the policies of Obama and Clinton toward Chavez and Venezuela. I am posting below the complete editorial because I felt the need to highlight some of the important points, but the original is here. The editorial is so crystal clear that no further comments are needed.

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Is Silence Consent?

The Obama administration's 'engagement' policy is convenient for Hugo Chavez's latest crackdown. [There is no way around, the WaPo sets the blame straight]

WHILE THE United States and Venezuela's neighbors silently stand by, Hugo Chavez's campaign to destroy his remaining domestic opposition continues. On Thursday night state intelligence police raided the Caracas offices of Guillermo Zuloaga, the president of the country's last independent broadcast network, Globovision. They claimed to be looking for evidence of irregularities in the car dealership that Mr. Zuloaga also runs. In fact this was a thinly disguised escalation of an attack that Mr. Chavez launched this month against Globovision. The channel has been officially accused of "inciting panic," based on its accurate reporting of a mild May 4 earthquake in Caracas; under the regime's draconian media control law it could be shut down. Few doubt that that is Mr. Chavez's intent: Two years ago he revoked the license of the country's most popular television network after a similarly trumped-up campaign.

To recap: In February Mr. Chavez eliminated the limit on his tenure as president after a one-sided referendum campaign that included ugly attacks on Venezuela's Jewish community. Since then he has imprisoned or orchestrated investigations against most of the country's leading opposition figures, including three of the five opposition governors elected last year. The elected mayor of Maracaibo, who was the leading opposition candidate when Mr. Chavez last ran for president, was granted asylum in Peru last month after authorities sought his arrest on dubious tax charges. The National Assembly, controlled by Mr. Chavez, is considering legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining and replace independent trade unions with "worker's councils" controlled by the ruling party. Another new law would eliminate foreign financing for independent non-government groups.

This is hardly the first time that a Latin American caudillo has tried to eliminate peaceful opponents: Mr. Chavez is following a path well worn by the likes of Juan Peron and Alberto Fujimori -- not to mention his mentor, Fidel Castro. But this may be the first time that the United States has watched the systematic destruction of a Latin American democracy in silence. As Mr. Chavez has implemented the "third phase" of his self-styled revolution, the Obama administration has persisted with the policy of quiet engagement that the president promised before taking office.

"We need to find a space in which we can actually have a conversation, and we need to find ways to enhance our levels of confidence," Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. said two weeks ago, echoing earlier remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. We have no objection to dialogue with Mr. Chavez. But isn't it time to start talking about preserving independent television stations, opposition political leaders, trade unions and human rights groups -- before it is too late?

-The end-

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