January 18, 2007 [LINK / comment]

"Enabling Act" in Venezuela

In 1934 the German Parliament passed the Enabling Act granting Adolph Hitler virtually unlimited power to rule by decree, supposedly for a four-year emergency period. There was a depression at the time, and many people thought it was the best way to take swift, effective action. Those who disagreed were bullied and beaten into submission, or else murdered. The same thing is now happening in Venezuela, where the voices of dissent are being systematically squelched. (See Jan. 9.) Today the National Assembly voted in favor of a measure that would grant Hugo Chavez the power to rule by decree for 18 months. The vote was unanimous, but that doesn't mean much because the opposition boycotted the last legislative elections in 2005. Chavez says the unlimited decree power is necessary for him to carry out his "21st Century socialist revolution." After a second vote is taken next week, the measure will go into effect, and the legislators will have effectively voted themselves out of a job. See the BBC

This happens as Chavez is in Rio de Janeiro for a MERCOSUR summit meeting. Will the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, and other countries in the region express displeasure at what Chavez is doing to his country? It is indeed a moment of truth for democracy in Latin America.