What Were They Thinking?!

In granting President Hugo Chavez the ability to rule by decree for the next year and a half, Venezuela’s legislators decided to follow a dangerous historical precedent. It appears this group of lawmakers was able to look past several of the most tremendous and staggering blights of the last 100 years. With the power of ruling by decree, Chavez has joined an unfortunate cast of famous and unfortunate national leaders. Consolidating the power of a nation in the hands of a single individual is a mis-take. There is a specific line of reasoning that exists in democratic constitutions that al-lows leaders to rule by decree in times of emergency. Gaining authoritarian rule in these situations is generally accompanied by specific oversight clauses and is only granted to expedite the slower, and more cumbersome legislative process. In this sense, key decisions can be made in seconds instead of hours and, consequently, be carried out much faster. The purpose of such powers is to keep the nation-state safe and stable in the face of crises that would otherwise cripple the country. Venezuela is not in a state of national emergency. It has not been devastated by a natural disaster or had its borders over-run by a foreign power – conditions that could justify a limited implementation of this unilateral decision-making. Instead, Chavez’s goal and motivation for seeking dictatorial rule is to imple-ment his “Bolivarian” revolution and cre-ate a completely socialist state. Attaining what is essentially absolute power in order to further one’s own agenda is not what these emergency measures are for. Under Chavez, Venezuela has become an increasingly polarized society and he has pandered to that society by speaking in absolutes and setting outrageous goals. He has remarked that his country is head-ed toward socialism and that nothing can stop that progress. Beyond the nationalization of key in-dustries Chavez has plans to merge all political parties into a single party, and he has also stated his refusal to renew the li-cense for a popular opposition television channel. This is a dangerous and slippery slope. Chavez is putting the machinery in place, under the auspices of a “social revolution,” to secure his power for years to come – a power that institutionally has known few limits. Squashing opposition, dissent and dem-ocratic freedoms, all while attempting to “reform” the country’s constitution, is something we have seen happen in modern history. The best example of this was the National Socialist movement in Germany, better known as Nazism. Knowing how that horrific period in history unfolded, it would be nice to think that people have learned their lesson in the 70-plus years since. Sadly, it appears they have not.