90 Miles From Tyranny : How Venezuela Became A Communist Totalitarian State

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Venezuela Became A Communist Totalitarian State

His reply was identical to the one given by Fidel Castro to Princeton University students during his visit to the United States in 1959: “I am a humanist.”

Years later, on consolidating total power in his own hands, Chávez again emulated Fidel and confessed to being “a convinced follower of Marxist-Leninist ideology.”

During his 14-year rule in Venezuela, Chávez followed a strategy of introducing socialism in stages. The first stage entailed obtaining total control of all institutions of the Venezuelan state. Thus, during the first four years, he concentrated his efforts in changing the Constitution, packing the Supreme Court, installing soviet-style political commissars in army units, and changing the national identity card and the electoral system to ensure his reelection through manipulation of voter-rolls. During this stage, Chávez was not interested in antagonizing the private sector or the business community. He had enough on his plate, and knew he could not tackle all enemies at once.

Just as Hitler’s final destruction of the Jewish middle class during Kristallnacht did not occur until five years after his ascension to power in Germany, in Venezuela, Chávez reassured the business community that he was not really interested in their demise. Throughout this period, “Chavismo” seemed very similar to Argentina’s “Peronismo.”

In September 2001, Chávez began his offensive for the “Second Stage of the Process for the Revolution,” as he called his march towards a totalitarian state. That month, he openly broke with the United States by calling the US bombing of Afghan targets “an act of terrorism equal to 9/11.” He then proceeded to pass 49 laws directed against the private sector. These laws eliminated private participation in the oil business, allowed for confiscation without payment of private lands, suspended constitutional guarantees for business owners, and established “military security zones” in major metropolitan areas — a de facto confiscation of prime real estate in Venezuela’s major cities. At the same time, he launched an all out attack against the country’s independent labor unions, persecuting and even imprisoning several prominent leaders.

These actions galvanized the opposition, as Chávez expected, and resulted in mass protests and two national general strikes. He expected these reactions and was prepared for the challenge.

However, he miscalculated while he panicked during the mass protest and march of April 11, 2002. His order to members of his civilian armed militias to fire on unarmed demonstrators disgusted the officer corps that he had handpicked to run the Army. His own generals deposed him.

These same generals, though, quickly brought him back only three days later when the opposition’s chosen leader bungled in every imaginable way. As a result, the Second Stage of the Process succeeded. By the end of 2004, Chavez had embarked on an unstoppable march to acquire the “commanding heights” of the Venezuelan economy, destroyed the independent labor movement — its leaders were mostly imprisoned or...

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