The rest of the world is slowly awakening to the realization that Hugo Chavez is more than just a populist demagogue but a ruthless totalitarian that has his sights set on leading the Venezuela down the path of Cuba.
Case in point is this L.A. Times editorial. A few excerpts:
President Hugo Chavez has apparently taken his landslide victory as a mandate to impose an authoritarian socialism on his nation that looks frighteningly like the model created by his idol, Cuba's Fidel Castro. If his drive to consolidate power over the media, the telecommunications industry and other sectors succeeds, by the time his term expires six years from now it may no longer be possible to hold a free election in Venezuela.
Chavez also seems intent on destroying Venezuela's civil society. He already controls all three branches of government, with all 167 seats of Congress held by lawmakers allied to Chavez and with the Supreme Court stacked with loyalists. After his reelection, he announced plans to merge his coalition of allied parties — effectively creating a one-party state — and to pursue a constitutional amendment ending presidential term limits, meaning he could run indefinitely.
Any criticism of Chavez or his henchmen can now be interpreted as disrupting public order, and Venezuela also has passed harsh libel laws aimed at curbing "disrespect" of government officials. Though RCTV is just one of many opposition media outlets, Chavez has sent a chilling message to the rest that he can shut them down at any time.
Hey L.A. Times, thanks for joining us in the real world. What I don't understand is how these same news organizations can critique Chavez while they have ALWAYS given fidel castro a pass. I remember reading L.A. Times pieces on the wonders of travel to Cuba. These news organizations have bureaus in Cuba that could report the truth if their editors only had the balls to do it even if it meant expulsion from the island. I mean if I were a journalist, one juicy story about the real Cuba that resulted in my expulsion (and the subsequent fallout) would seem to be a better deal than hanging around writing puff pieces that don't offend the castro regime in the hopes of having a front row seat at castro's state funeral.
As for Venezuela, with all due respect to our Venezuelan readers and contributors, this is what you voted for. You had the example of Cuba (which never voted for this form of government, it was foisted upon them) and said "yeah that's what we want." They say there are things that you must experience for yourself to understand the pain, like touching a hot stove. Welcome to communism 101, the first in a long series of painful lessons. I believe Cuba will emerge from its nightmare just as our Venezuelan brothers and sisters are submerged into theirs.