Tag: jackson diehl

Venezuela’s Intensifying Assault on Press Freedom

Jackson Diehl and Mary O’Grady write today in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, respectively, about Guillermo Zuloaga, critic of Hugo Chavez and owner of Globovision TV, the only remaining independent TV station in Venezuela.

Zuloaga has become an international symbol of press freedom as he and his station have come under increasing government harassment, especially in the past year. Last month, a Chavez controlled court issued an arrest warrant for Zuloaga and his son, and they went into hiding. In March, Zuloaga was arrested briefly for having spoken critically of the Venezuelan regime at an international conference. The government accused the Globovision head of criticizing the president and poisoning the minds of Venezuelans. Chavez has promised to shut down Globovision, as he did with Venezuela’s largest station in 2007 (RCTV), and he regularly vilifies the free press. The TV station and its reporters have come under countless physical attacks by government backed thugs. Last July, days after we announced that Zuloaga would speak at a Cato forum here in Washington, a court prevented him from leaving the country. Instead, he taped a video message for Cato and sent his son Carlos, the VP, to speak. (See the forum here. See Guillermo Zulloaga’s message to Cato by clicking on the second video link.)

Zuloaga and his son have now come out of hiding. A few of us met with him at Cato last week. He told us of numerous ways in which Chavez has violated Venezuelan laws and the constitution in his effort to harass Globovision, confirming a recent report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that documented the regime’s systemic violation of basic freedoms and its arbitrary use of criminal and administrative law against opponents.

Globovision is one of the last bastions of freedom in Venezuela. It is where Venezuelans go to hear news that will not be reported on one of the countless state-run TV stations. It is the media outlet to which Venezuelan civil society reports abuses by government when they happen, so as to most effectively defend itself. I can attest to that critical role that Globovision plays in Venezuela. As I reported from Caracas here in May of last year, the national guard tried to shut down a Cato seminar for Venezuelan students, an abuse that we immediately reported to Globovision, which in turn began reporting the harassment and thus pressuring the regime to back off.

As the economic, security and social conditions of Venezuela continue to spiral downward, Chavez will intensify his socialist revolution. If he finally does close Globovision, it should erase any lingering doubt about the authoritarian nature of the Bolivarian regime.

Is Russia’s Gas Behavior Driven by Targets’ Domestic Politics?

Back when Russia was turning off the spigots to pipelines running through Ukraine, Official Washington was in a panic.  Just a few years after the Orange Revolution was supposed to have heralded a new era of freedom and democracy in Ukraine, Russia was using its economic muscle to stifle the growth of that freedom because of the threat it felt a democratic Ukraine posed to the Putin regime’s grip on power.  It was a lot like the “democratic dominoes” argument the neoconservatives deployed in promoting the Iraq war.

As Washington Post editorialist Jackson Diehl stated the case in 2007,

Putin sees the fragile new democracy in Ukraine, and an allied government in the tiny Black Sea nation of Georgia, as dire threats. If Western-style freedom consolidates and spreads in the former Soviet republics of Eastern Europe, his own undemocratic regime will be isolated and undermined. What’s more, Ukraine and its neighbors are likely to integrate with Europe rather than remaining economic and political vassals of Russia.

Secretary of State Rice warned that Russia’s behavior on energy constituted “politically motivated efforts to constrain energy supply to Ukraine” as punishment for the former Soviet republic’s pro-Western orientation. In short, the argument was that Ukrainian democracy threat to the Russian regime  Russian gas cutoffs.

Others argued that Russia’s increasingly nasty behavior was less about the internal political contours of its neighbors and more about power politics and making sure the neighbors would be compliant with Russian interests, much like the United States has sought in the Western Hemisphere since at least the Monroe Doctrine.

Fred Hiatt: Lukashenko’s domestic reforms a threat to Russia

So if fear of democracy and liberalism were driving Russia’s behavior back then, then what is causing the current cutoff dispute with non-democratic and unfriendly-to-Washington Belarus?  It’s radio silence from most of Washington, with a notable exception: the exquisitely Russophobic Washington Post op-ed page.  Fred Hiatt and the Gang are sticking to their story, offering the ridiculous argument earlier this week that in fact Moscow was acting to suppress Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko’s incipient liberalism, which was evinced by Lukashenko’s having “released a few political prisoners” and “refusing to recognize the two puppet states that Moscow is backing in Georgia.”

A less ornate explanation would be that perhaps Russia is more fixated on material factors and less on ideology.