This post is not a reply to my esteemed colleague Juan Cristobal, but he certainly demands, unwillingly perhaps, that we all clarify our terms before entering our new life under Internet censorship and official dictatorship.
As far as this blogger is concerned we have been under a dictatorship for quite a while, in fact, as soon as Chavez refused to recognize the 2007 referendum result by making up laws in direct violation to the people's will and constitutional requirements. That he was already, since 2003, ruling as an autocrat is one thing, but we needed to be clearer about an actual date at which he left the constitution to call him in earnest a dictator. At the very latest Chavez became a pre-dictator in 2007 when he refused to recognize the referendum results and started enacting laws whose principles had been clearly rejected at the polls. Maybe it is nitpicking of my part but for me, truly, Chavez as a dictator started in February 2004 when for the first time the Nazional Guard brutally shot protesters for no real reason. Of course all of these considerations are under Venezuelan understanding of the constitution where minor violations by the big boss are not looked upon as fully damning. Dictatorship in Venezuela can be defined as the time when the violations are just too many. In a truly democratic, rule of law, country, Chavez would have been declared a dictator when he forced an unconstitutional referendum in 1999 to change the constitution.
What has changed this two past months is that it is now official, that the regime assumes openly its dictatorial nature, even its forthcoming neo-totalitarian bent. True, Globovison is on the air still, but that is not the point. The point is two fold:
1. Chavez will now rule unencumbered for the next 18 months. This exorbitant power will cease a mere few months before the 2012 scheduled elections. During that time he will have generous power to decide on all, from the mundane to the divine, without anyone being able to to even attempt control. As such the opposition will be cornered from the start of the electoral campaign which for all practical purposes has already started. The aim is to make it impossible for the opposition to win the 2012 election. The electoral cheating will take place right now, not on election day.
2. The second point is that under his new powers Chavez will be able to create and define crime at will, thus making normal democratic attitudes and actions a political crime. This is really the change that we saw happening these past few weeks, a grave aggravation of the running dictatorship. We must note that among the attributions given to him by the Nazional Assembly there are matters of national security, penal matters and redistribution of political land boundaries. In other words, any opposition mayor or governor can simply be "redistricted out" and if he fights back can be declared a criminal for not respecting the "law". Along all of the people that will defend him or protest other laws.
The comparison I made of that specific enabling law with the one of Hitler in 1933 does indeed stand. If it is true that Chavez is far from having committed crimes seen in totalitarian states, now he is on the slope to perpetrate them. By the way, I personally consider the Tascon list a totalitarian crime already, which makes the Chavez dictatorship odd in that it became totalitarian before it became a dictatorship. As far as I am concerned the crime of Juan Cristobal for which he sort of needed to apologize was not the use of Nazi terminology to describe Chavez actions, but to use the wrong one: Kristallnacht does not apply, yet.
In other words, being in the XXI century, we cannot go back easily to the gorilla model of years past, which makes dictatorships easily identifiable. But make no mistake, the one that started officially this week is a bona fide dictatorship because it serves the very purpose of a dictatorship: perpetuate a cast in power.
And of course this implies violence, lots of it.