It’s a crime to criticize El Jefe.
‘It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once,” wrote 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume. “Slavery has so frightful an aspect to men accustomed to freedom that it must steal in upon them by degrees and must disguise itself in a thousand shapes in order to be received.”
So it goes in Venezuela, where Hugo Chávez has slowly but steadily tightened his political grip since coming to power in 1999. Last week he squeezed again.
On Thursday military intelligence briefly detained the president of Globovision, the country’s final remaining independent media voice. According to Attorney General Luisa Ortega, Guillermo Zuloaga is under investigation for criticizing Mr. Chávez at the Inter-American Press Association meeting in Aruba earlier this month for closing down independent media outlets. Mr. Zuloaga said press freedom had been lost.
Ms. Ortega said that Mr. Zuloaga is being investigated for spreading false information and making comments “offensive” to the president. The media owner was released but can’t leave the country until the investigation is completed. He faces from three to five years in prison if convicted of making false statements.
This follows the recent arrest of Oswaldo Alvarez Paz, the former governor of the state of Zulia, on charges of conspiracy and making false statements. Mr. Alvarez Paz had appeared on Globovision supporting the claim by a Spanish judge that the Chávez government is allied with Basque separatists and Colombian rebels. He also said Venezuela is a major thoroughfare for drug trafficking in South America.
Mr. Chávez has already stripped Venezuelans of their property rights and their right to private schools, to hold dollars and to free association. Now, as his popularity slumps, he is closing the window on free speech.
Editorial, Wall Street Journal