May 24, 2009
On Friday government officials from the regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela raided the offices of Globovision, the only remaining television broadcaster in the country that openly criticizes Chavez. The pretext for the raid has something to do with the station's news reporting on an earthquake in Venezuela in early May, which asserted that the government had been slow to report on the incident. According to press reports and comments from worried United Nations officials, Globovision stands to lose its license, which would mean the end of the last media outlet that dares to disagree with Chavez or his increasingly oligarchic powers. Interestingly, Venezuelan government officials characterized the Globovision report as "hate speech" that risked alarming the country and "destabilizing" the populace. Government's facile use of such expressions is reason for alarm.
As The Washington Post notes this morning, Latin American caudillos are no novelty, but the silence of the United States (i.e., the Obama administration) in the face of such repression is a first. Not a first, but similarly worrisome, is the news that Nancy Pelosi, fresh from accusing the C.I.A. of lying to Congress in private briefings, is off to Beijing with nary a word prior to her trip of criticism of China's abusive human rights practices. Time was, U.S. Democrats like former Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.) were among the leaders of efforts to hold the Chinese accountable for their abuses of workers, and other Democrats spoke of Chinese denial of religious freedom and its record of forced abortion and sterilization. Pelosi instead wants to engage the oligarchs in Beijing only on climate change. But it is the climate for political freedom that is turning adverse.