Jan 31, 2007 4:08 pm


The governments of Venezuela and Bolivia continue on their respective courses to outwit democracy.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, already in control of the courts, the legislature and the national oil company, is mounting his assault on the media and opposition, the last two pillars of political opposition in Venezuela. He has chosen not to renew the license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), an opposition-aligned television station, the" country's most popular", according to the Washington Post. Exulting in his capricious exercise of power, Chavez stated,"There will be no new concession for that coup-plotting television channel named Radio Caracas Television" - a reference to the media support for his brief ouster in a 2002 internal coup. RCTV claims that its current license expires only in 2012, while the government claims it expires in May 2007. Who will adjudicate? - presumably the government-controlled judiciary.

Chavez has also announced moves to merge several pro-government parties into one and, yesterday, plans to nationalize Venezuela's electrical and telecommunications companies, pledging to create a socialist state.

Meanwhile, the Bolivian government of Chavez admirer and ally Evo Morales is somewhat behind, having yet to wrest control of the legislature and judiciary, though he can already lay claim to having purged Bolivia's military leadership and broken contracts with energy investors. In trying to rewrite the Constitution, he is presently frustrated by the absence of a necessary two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly. Morales is therefore proposing that a simple majority is sufficient and is seeking to appoint four judges to the country's Supreme Court via recess appointments - a reasonable democratic prcedure in itself, except that, in this case, Morales has not bothered to actually initiate the legal parliamentary nomination process, perhaps knowing that his preferred nominees would not be appointed by the Assembly.

Also, in Nicaragua, already in November, thanks to manipulation of election laws and perhaps also pre-existing Sandanista control of some key institutions, including the election authority, Daniel Ortega returned as president.

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