Chavez The Totalitarian

In Friday’s Miami Herald, U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California) had a column about Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez’s closing of RTCV, the last private and opposition TV station in Venezuela. I bring up Congressman Lantos’s thoughts for several reasons. First, he’s the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and his column gives an insight into how Congress is viewing the situation in Venezuela. Secondly, Lantos is both a Holocaust survivor and a refugee from Communist Hungary and a lifelong supporter of human rights so his words do lend some kind of moral weight.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez is nearing the end of his campaign to stifle independent media — not due to a change of heart, but because through the years he has been singularly successful at cutting off dissenting voices in Venezuela. If he succeeds in his latest ploy, another will fall silent in the coming days.

Chávez intends to pull the plug on the country’s oldest and most popular station, Radio Caracas TV (RCTV), a source of radio programming for 76 years and television for 53. Chávez has refused to let the station renew its license, which expires on Sunday.

The roster of critics of this impending move grows daily. So far, we have heard from the Secretary General of the OAS, the Inter-American Press Association, the National Association of Newspapers of Brazil, Reporters without Borders, The Committee to Protect Journalists and no less than the Congress of Chile.

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission has objected as well, and it has been criticizing the gradual collapse of free expression in Venezuela since 1998.

None of this has deterred Chávez, who plans to whip up a crowd and lead a march to RCTV’s headquarters formally to shut it down.

The facts surrounding the looming closure point to a political vendetta by Chávez against a band of broadcasters who have consistently criticized him. So Chávez has decided to close what he calls a ”fascist channel,” adding ominously in a recent speech that, “We won’t tolerate here any media outlet that is coup-mongering, against the people, against the nation, against national independence, against national dignity.”

No doubt Chávez would want every program on the air to be like the hours-long broadcast Hello President, which he hosts. And for speaking out, I’ll probably earn a rant on the next show. But the stakes are too high to keep silent.

The next question is, will Congressman Lantos sponsor a resolution in the US House condemning Chavez’s closure of RCTV? If he does sponsor one, will Speaker Peliosi let it come to the floor? The obvious answer to both questions should be yes. If the United States is serious about freedom and human rights around the world, condemning these actions are necessary.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
  • Jason Pye

    I don’t think it’s any of our business.

  • tarran

    Kevin, one thing I should point out. RCTV was the last independent national network. There are independent stations who broadcast to indivicual cities or regions, but none that reach the entire nation of Venezuela.

    There is one other privately held national network, but they have been operating under an agreement with the govenrment which gives the govenment de facto control over their programming and editorial policy.

  • tarran

    BTW, I agree with Jason. It is none of the United States government’s business.

    Let Chavez fail not because of foreign interference, but rather from the failure of his policies.

  • Mark

    It was none of our business when Hitler was slaughtering Jews, was it?

    How disgusting that the liberal media are totally silent on this issue, yet they run their mouths continuosly about every othe issue in every other minor country. Cuba, China, Russia, all Middle East dictators, and Venezuela all get a pass on human rights abuses, violation of freedoms, and corruption. They do find time to slam Bush for make believe violation of their vaunted beliefs, but not dictators.

    Hypocrites. Guess they really don’t want freedom of the press for anyone, except themselves.

    As for Chavez falling, maybe you need to read history. That was the same nonsense they said about Saddam. He did pretty well for about 3 decades.

    I find it disgusting that liberals are so selective in their outrage. If you are a liberal (like Chavez) you can do as you please. If you are a Conservative, like Bush; you can do no right.

  • tarran

    Mark, if you want to oppose Chavez, then oppose him. You have money, your skills and labor.

    To demand that the U.S. government oppose him is to demand that people who live in the U.S. have their wealth commandeered to oppose him.

    The legitimacy of the United States government rests upon a claim to be providing for the common defense (note I do not accept the U.S. Government as being legitimate). Chavez, for all his bombast is not a threat to U.S. tax-payers, and thus his crimes are not under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.

    Again, I have no objection to people forming mercenary armies to right such wrongs. I think the principle of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade is wonderful (much as I loathe the cause they fought for, as well as the cause they fought against). If you wish, participate in something like that. However, you are in no position to to claim that somehow your outrage entitles you to commandeer your neighbors’ earnings.