A few years ago, searches for Venezuela in Google News use to return about 3,000 results. Today, it returns more than 25,000. Alas such explosion of news articles does not mean that objective coverage has increased eight fold. It continues to be lacking. Take for instance news that Hugo Chavez vetoed universities and tax increase laws. Thus far, AP bureau in Caracas sent a wire, from Ian James, that was picked up by the New York Times and Business Week. However, AP’s wire does not mention the fact that Hugo Chavez has no power to veto laws, according to Venezuela’s current constitution (art. 214)*. Neither does it imply that doing so is yet another example of Chavez’s dictatorial behaviour.
In a previous article, I argued that Chavez’s Venezuela was, for all intents and purposes, a dictatorship. This fact, documented as it is, continues to be ignored by foreign correspondents reporting from Venezuela, editors, and news wires. A lot of people have gotten on the let’s-bash-communist-Chavez bandwagon, but the majority do so without a rudimentary grasp of what’s truly going on in our country. The debate is being driven on ideological, and obsolete, left versus right terms. Few analysts would venture to say that Chavez’s policies resemble as much those of Benito Mussolini, or those of Juan Perón, than those of Fidel Castro. Even fewer would highlight the fact that Chavez, so vitriolic in his anti-USA rhetoric, has kept intact Venezuela’s de facto free trade agreement with the USA, whereby the country’s production of its only commodity is sent, almost in its entirety, to the north. Nobody would be caught dead drawing attention to the oil concessions that Chevron has gotten from Hugo Chavez. And what to say about Chavez’s alliance with Iran’s fundamentalists, does that pact reflect an association of leftists?
According to the dictionary, “a person exercising absolute power, esp. a ruler who has absolute, unrestricted control in a government without hereditary succession” is a dictator. Hence, beyond ideological considerations, and postmodern, as a dictatorship without thousands of deaths or political prisoners may be, it is undeniable that Hugo Chavez embodies the definition of dictator. For how can one define a ruler that, unilaterally, without consultation, and in violation to constitutional mandates, grants himself veto powers? A few years ago, our problem was that no one was paying attention to the power grab and criminal intentions of Chavez. Nowadays, the problem is that there’s too much noise and very little objectivity in coverage.
*Article 214: The President of the Republic shall promulgate the law within a ten day period following the date on which the President receives it. During this period the President may, by Cabinet Ministers resolution with statement of grounds, ask the National Assembly to amend any of the provisions of the law or rescind its approval of part or all of it.
The National Assembly shall decide by majority vote of those deputies present on the matters raised by the President of the Republic, and then shall send the law back to him for promulgation.
The President of the Republic must proceed to promulgate the law within five days of receipt, without the possibility of new objections.
When the President of the Republic considers that the law or any of its articles is unconstitutional, he shall be required to request a ruling from the Constitutional Division of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, within the ten day period allowed the President for promulgating the law. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice shall reach a decision within 15 days of receipt of the communication from the President of the Republic. If the Tribunal declines to rule the provisions referred to it unconstitutional or fails to reach a decision within the aforementioned period, the President of the Republic must promulgate the law within five days of the Tribunal’s decision or the expiration of such term.