Two years ago I asked: "If Bush is Hitler, what is Hugo Chavez?" In that post I ran down the short list of steps Hugo Chavez was taking to squash all internal dissent in Venezuela as he slowly transforms that once prosperous and peaceful nation into another Stalinist playground in South America.
And of course the American left just LOVES Chavez, all the more so for his constant bashing of U.S. "imperialism."
The latest efforts by Chavez to turn Venezuela into a Stalinist police state would trouble most people concerned with human rights and civil liberties. But you won't hear a peep about any of that from the American left.
That sort of tells you something about them now doesn't it?
Chávez decree tightens hold on intelligenceBut Bush is still worse. Right?
By Simon Romero
International Herald Tribune
June 3, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela: President Hugo Chávez has used his decree powers to carry out a major overhaul of this country's intelligence agencies, provoking a fierce backlash here from human rights groups and legal scholars who say the measures will force citizens to inform on one another to avoid prison terms.
Under the new intelligence law, which took effect last week, Venezuela's two main intelligence services, the DISIP secret police and the DIM military intelligence agency, will be replaced with new agencies, the General Intelligence Office and General Counterintelligence Office, under the control of Chávez.
The new law requires people in the country to comply with requests to assist the agencies, secret police or community activist groups loyal to Chávez. Refusal can result in prison terms of two to four years for most people and four to six years for government employees.
"We are before a set of measures that are a threat to all of us," said Blanca Rosa Mármol de León, a justice on Venezuela's top court, in a rare public judicial dissent. "I have an obligation to say this, as a citizen and a judge. This is a step toward the creation of a society of informers."
The sweeping intelligence changes reflect an effort by Chávez to assert greater control over public institutions in the face of political challenges following a stinging defeat in December of a constitutional reform package that would have expanded his powers.
On Sunday, Chávez referred to critics of the intelligence law as de facto supporters of the Bush administration and of the Patriot Act, the American antiterrorism law that enhances the ability of security agencies to monitor personal telephone and e-mail communications.
Chávez's new intelligence law has similar flourishes. For instance, it authorizes his new intelligence agencies to use "any special or technically designed method" to intercept and obtain information.
But the new law may also point to the influence of Cuba, Venezuela's top ally, on intelligence policies. For instance, the use of community-monitoring groups to assist in gathering intelligence resembles Cuba's use of neighborhood Committees for the Defense of the Revolution to report on antigovernment behavior.
One part of the new law, which explicitly requires judges and prosecutors to cooperate with the intelligence services, has generated substantial concern among legal experts and rights groups, which were already alarmed by the deterioration of judicial independence under Chávez.
While the language of this passage of the law, and several others, is vague, legal experts say the idea is clear: justice officials, including judges, are required to actively collaborate with the intelligence services rather than serve as a check on them.
"This is a government that simply doesn't believe in the separation of powers," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights organization. "Here you have the president legislating by decree that the country's judges must serve as spies for the government."
"Even within the Bolivarian movement, this would officialize Soviet- and Cuban-style purges, accusing dissidents of being spies, traitors or agents of the imperialist enemy," El Nacional, a normally staid opposition newspaper, said in an editorial that ended, "This is revolting."