CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela shut down an opposition television channel on Monday and replaced it with one promoting President Hugo Chavez's self-proclaimed socialist revolution in a move widely criticized as a threat to democracy.He sounds practically Republican in this action.
Chavez has long sparred with opposition channels, which he calls "horsemen of the apocalypse" for backing a botched coup against him in 2002.
His opponents say the internationally condemned closure of RCTV will damage freedom of expression in the OPEC nation.
"This has exposed the abusive, arbitrary and autocratic nature of Chavez's government, a government that fears free thought, that fears opinion and fears criticism," said Marcel Granier, chief of RCTV, the country's oldest broadcaster.
Hugo Chavez is an intriguing political figure, at once attractive to the left in this nation for standing up to the hegemonic regime of Bush and his junta, and repulsive to those of us who fear repression by a centralized authority.
His favor-currying feats are the stuff of legend: selling cheap heating oil to the urban poor this past winter through his (nationalized) Citgo oil company leaps to mind, as well as his jumping on any bandwagon that makes him appear to be anti-Bush.
His repression of his own people should be a great concern to those who feel Chavez is a model of a modern leader in the 21st century. This move comes on the heels of his wresting control of all the oil facilities in Venezuela, no matter who owned them.
Not that the RCTV was angelic in this matter. After all, as the voice of the opposition, they could hardly be counted on to fairly represent the news out of Caracas if it ran counter to their beliefs, such as in 2002 when in the middle of a coup, Chavez's forces began to turn the tide, and suddenly the network, which had been running political programming 24/7, switched to old movies and cartoons.
He has politicized the judiciary system of Venezuela (sounds familiar, doesn't it?), he seized power (admittedly for only one year) away from the legislature, which gave him broad powers to rule by decree, ignoring anything the National Assembly did in 2001 (again, sound familiar?), and essentially wrested control of the military by firing generals who disagreed with him (ditto?).
Granted, many of the reforms he has implemented have been to the benefit of the poorest Venezuelans, giving free education to the college level, for example. The price of these giveaways to the average working Venezuelan cannot be ignored, however.
Where Bush might be a sheep in wolf's clothing, Chavez is distinctly a wolf in a sheep suit.