Monday, 8 February 2010

'Shrinking Democratic Space'

This is a hoot.
Peter Kent, a Canadian minister, recently expressed concerns over the supposed “shrinking democratic space” in Venezuela. He was referring to measures against several TV stations. On one of these, Noel Álavarez, president of the bosses’ union FEDECAMARAS, called for another “military solution” to the political situation in Venezuela. How would Kent like it if a Canadian boss suggested Canada’s military intervene to remove his government?

The Venezuelan government recently sanctioned three TV stations including RCTV, the network that played a key role in organizing the coup that briefly overthrew the Venezuelan government in 2002. The three TV stations refused to comply with Venezuela’s broadcasting laws and had their licenses temporarily suspended. The broadcasting laws in Venezuela are similar in scope to CRTC regulations in Canada; they establish standards for child and adult programming, prohibit racist, sexist or inflammatory content and incitement to violence, place limits on commercial advertising, and require stations to broadcast important government announcements. As recently as three weeks ago, RCTV had aired an interview with Noel Álavarez, the president of the bosses’ union FEDECAMARAS where Álvarez had called for another “military solution” to the political situation in Venezuela. Surely, the CRTC would have suspended any TV or radio station that sanctioned a “military solution” to the Stephen Harper government!

While passing through Venezuela Kent said, “Canada is concerned over the Venezuelan government's recent suspension of broadcasting of [three] television stations and the death of two students in protests related to this action. These events are further evidence of a shrinking democratic space in Venezuela.”

Kent’s concerns could be laughable if it were not for the real threat that countries like the US and Canada pose to Venezuela. Many will remember that it was the same Peter Kent that was the most vocal supporter of the military coup d’etat that overthrew democratically-elected Mel Zelaya in Honduras this past June. The dictatorship that was installed in Honduras has killed scores of people. However, the Canadian government did not even cut off military aid to the Honduran dictatorship!

Kent made further accusations, claiming that President Hugo Chávez “has a history of concentrating power in the executive.” Kent’s hypocrisy knows no bounds! At the same time as he made this claim, Kent’s Conservative government has prorogued Parliament for the third time in as many years. Last year, the Conservatives suspended Parliament to prevent a Liberal-NDP coalition from coming to power. This year, the Tory government needed to suspend Parliament to prevent further details from coming out on how the Canadian mission in Afghanistan was responsible in the torture of innocent people there. In the past couple of weeks, tens of thousands of ordinary Canadians have come out to protest the shrinking democratic space in Canada.

Hugo strikes back:
The government of Hugo Chavez has responded to Canadian criticism it is "shrinking democratic space" in Venezuela by saying it will take no lessons from an "ultraright" government that "closed" Parliament to avoid an investigation into the handling of Afghan detainees, statements the Canadian government dismiss as "unacceptable and completely inaccurate."

If we have to listen to Kents, as someone at Facebook said, let it be Arthur.

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