Excellent op-ed at the WaPo today:
Is Silence Consent?
The Obama administration’s ‘engagement’ policy is convenient for Hugo Chávez’s latest crackdown.
To recap: In February Mr. Chávez eliminated the limit on his tenure as president after a one-sided referendum campaign that included ugly attacks on Venezuela’s Jewish community. Since then he has imprisoned or orchestrated investigations against most of the country’s leading opposition figures, including three of the five opposition governors elected last year. The elected mayor of Maracaibo, who was the leading opposition candidate when Mr. Chávez last ran for president, was granted asylum in Peru last month after authorities sought his arrest on dubious tax charges. The National Assembly, controlled by Mr. Chávez, is considering legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining and replace independent trade unions with “worker’s councils” controlled by the ruling party. Another new law would eliminate foreign financing for independent non-government groups.
This is hardly the first time that a Latin American caudillo has tried to eliminate peaceful opponents: Mr. Chávez is following a path well worn by the likes of Juan Perón and Alberto Fujimori — not to mention his mentor, Fidel Castro. But this may be the first time that the United States has watched the systematic destruction of a Latin American democracy in silence. As Mr. Chávez has implemented the “third phase” of his self-styled revolution, the Obama administration has persisted with the policy of quiet engagement that the president promised before taking office.
“We need to find a space in which we can actually have a conversation, and we need to find ways to enhance our levels of confidence,” Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. said two weeks ago, echoing earlier remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. We have no objection to dialogue with Mr. Chávez. But isn’t it time to start talking about preserving independent television stations, opposition political leaders, trade unions and human rights groups — before it is too late?
Meanwhile, Chavez, who is visiting Ecuador, calls for accelerating the march towards socialism during the current financial crisis.
Sweetness & Light is surprised at the WaPo’s editorial. In all fairness, I must point out that the WaPo has been critical of Chavez at least since 2007, particularly following the closing of RCTV. Following the closing of RCVT Chavez sued Globovision which he is now closing.