November 06, 2006
Whatever the degree of oppression and intimidation, the Chavez government cannot quite succeed in completely intimidating the Venezuelan people.
Hundreds of thousands of people on Saturday marched in Caracas to support opposition presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, whose populist campaign has focused on reducing crime and redistributing oil wealth.
Rosales, governor of the oil-rich Zulia state, trails leftist President Hugo Chavez by around 20 percentage points in most private polls ahead of the December 3 election.
Chavez is a close ally of Cuba and fiercely opposes the Bush administration even though Venezuela provides around 12 percent of U.S. oil imports.
Opposition sympathizers donning Venezuela's signature red, yellow and blue patriotic colors joined the march, which spanned some 12 miles across most of the capital city.
"Rosales is our last hope to prevent this country from becoming another Cuba," said 53-year-old engineer Antonio Romero, who marched with his family carrying Venezuelan flags.
Of course, merely because such intimidation has failed thus far does not mean that the Chavez government won't continue to try to stack the deck in its favor:
A video released this week showed the nation's top energy official saying the government should not employ oil workers opposed to Chavez -- statements Chavez himself later backed despite intense criticism.
Of course he would back them. Having propagated disastrous economic and social policies, having allowed crime to be rampant and having clamped down on freedom of expression, Hugo Chavez is left with little choice but to engage in ruthless and despicable tactics of intimidation and fear-mongering in order to hang on to power. In time, such tactics will turn on him as they do with most tyrants, but in the interim, innocent Venezuelans are made to suffer.
Perhaps something should be done to decrease such suffering. Perhaps the attention of the international community should be focused on the manifold abuses in Venezuela. And perhaps those who style themselves as defenders of freedom should take a look at what is happening in Venezuela and evince some outrage. If they feel it, that is.