Chavez The Totalitarianby Kevin Boyd
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 ChÃ¡vez 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.
ChÃ¡vez 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. ChÃ¡vez 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 ChÃ¡vez, 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 ChÃ¡vez against a band of broadcasters who have consistently criticized him. So ChÃ¡vez 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 ChÃ¡vez 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.