During eight years in office, Chávez has already taken control of Venezuela's courts, congress, television stations and petroleum industry; his congress granted him the right to rule by decree. The constitutional rewrite will allow him to control the central bank and its reserves, override elected local governments with his own appointees, declare an indefinite "state of emergency" in which due process and freedom of information would be suspended, and use the army to maintain domestic political order under the slogan "fatherland, socialism or death!" It will also abolish any limit on presidential terms for a 53-year-old ruler who would otherwise be compelled to step down by 2012.
If you're thinking you haven't heard much about this transformation in a major oil-producing country two hours by air from Miami, you're right. U.S. media and human rights groups have basically ignored Chávez's latest power grab. Human Rights Watch, which has been conducting a campaign about what it says is the "human rights crisis" in neighboring, democratic Colombia in close cooperation with congressional Democrats, has issued no statement on the Venezuelan violence -- including the shooting of the students by government-backed paramilitaries on Nov. 7 -- and objected to only one of the 69 new constitutional articles.
Monday, November 19, 2007
According to Jackson Diehl in today's Washington Post, Human Rights Watch apparently isn't watching the Venezuelan president's attacks on human rights: