Lemme just start by saying I respect Cindy Sheehan. I think her activism has given voice to hundreds of grieving military families who are enraged at the Bush Administration. My mom even went to visit Camp Casey over the summer and i printed the photos on the site. So it’s with a heavy heart that I’ve got to ask this question :
What the hell are you thinking?!
Getting cuddly with Hugo Chavez and thanking him for “supporting life and peace”? Do you know anything about Hugo Chavez other than the fact that he hates George Bush? Here’s an eye-opener from Human Rights Watch :
Amendments to Venezuelaâ€™s Criminal Code that entered into force last week may stifle press criticism of government authorities and restrict the publicâ€™s ability to monitor government actions, Human Rights Watch said today.
â€œBy broadening laws that punish disrespect for government authorities, the Venezuelan government has flouted international human rights principles that protect free expression,â€ said JosÃ© Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. â€œWhile countries across Latin America are moving to repeal such laws, Venezuela has enacted further restrictions on the press that will shield officials from public scrutiny.â€
The amendments extend the scope of existing provisions that make it a criminal offense to insult or show disrespect for the president and other government authorities. Venezuelaâ€™s measures run counter to a continent-wide trend to repeal such â€œdisrespectâ€ (or â€œdesacatoâ€) laws. In recent years, Argentina, Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Peru have already repealed such laws, and other countries like Chile and Panama are currently considering legislation that would do so.
. . .
Anyone convicted of offending these authorities could go to prison for up to 20 months. Anyone who gravely offends the president, on the other hand, can incur a penalty of up to 40 months in prison.
In other words, if you went to Caracas and tried to do the exact same thing you did in Crawford, you’d be in jail right now.
And though I wouldn’t use the word “dictator” to describe Chavez, I can see why people would jump to that conclusion after power grabs like this :
The Venezuelan Congress dealt a severe blow to judicial independence by packing the countryâ€™s Supreme Court with 12 new justices, Human Rights Watch said today. A majority of the ruling coalition, dominated by President Hugo ChÃ¡vezâ€™s party, named the justices late yesterday, filling seats created by a law passed in May that expanded the courtâ€™s size by more than half.
. . .
The law passed in May expanded the court from 20 to 32 members. In addition to the justices named to the 12 new seats, five justices were named to fill vacancies that had opened in recent months, and 32 more were named as reserve justices for the court. Members and allies of President ChÃ¡vezâ€™s Fifth Republic Movement (Movimiento V RepÃºblica, or MVR) form a majority in Congress.
. . .
The court-packing law signed in May also gave the governing coalition the power to remove judges from the Court without the two-thirds majority vote required under the constitution. In June, two justices retired after facing possible suspension from the Supreme Court as a result of these new provisions.
The political takeover of the Supreme Court will compound the damage already done to judicial independence by policies pursued by the court itself. The Supreme Court, which has administrative control over the judiciary, has failed to provide security of tenure to 80 percent of the countryâ€™s judges. In March, the court summarily fired three judges after they had decided politically controversial cases.
For those of you who have the knee-jerk reaction of defending anyone described as “leftist”, just because Chavez helps the poor by providing cheap petroleum, sending doctors into the barrios, and setting up a market to provide partially-subsidized food, doesn’t change the fact that he’s acting like a despot. Harassment of political opponents and the slow crawl toward a one-party state are things I hate about George W. Bush and the Republican party, so I don’t see why Chavez should get a free pass.