The Barbarism of Chavismo: Populism, Military Uniforms, Homophobia & Antisemitism
For their trouble, Lomnitz and Sánchez have been subjected to the usual slander and innuendo, and Chavismo's defenders have trotted out all the standard apologetics. Lomnitz and Sánchez answer their critics point by point, here concluding: "In a Humpty Dumpty world, when Christ killers and Jews are mentioned in the same breath, the referent is merely the oligarchy; in any other world, expressions have histories, and denotation cannot shake off ideological connotation. Not even Commander Hugo Chávez can make words mean only what he opportunistically wants them to mean."
But that isn't stopping him from trying.
Just last week, after the Chavez government shuttered 34 radio and television stations across the country, Reporters Without Borders asked: “Is it still possible to publicly express any criticism at all of President Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian” government? This massive closure of mainly opposition media is a dangerous for the future of democratic debate in Venezuela and is motivated by the government’s desire to silence dissent. It will just exacerbate social divisions.”
The crackdown followed fast on the heels of a series of dissent-crushing measures Chavez has adopted in recent weeks. Television and radio advertisements critical of government measures were ordered off the air, cable stations have been told they will soon be required to broadcast Chavez's speeches live, and radio stations have been warned that they will not be allowed to pool their programming in order extend news coverage throughout the country. On July 30, a new "media crimes" bill was introduced, setting out prison sentences of up to four years for printing or broadcasting "false" information that would "harm the interests of the state."
Says José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch: "What we are witnessing is the most comprehensive assault on free speech in Venezuela since Chavez came to power."
According to Marino Alvarado, of the human rights group Provea: "The criminalization of protests has become a state policy, They are trying to instill fear so people don't protest."
Over the past four years, more than 2,200 Venezuelans, including dozens of trade unionists, have been indicted on criminal charges stemming from their participation in anti-government protests.