The International Herald Tribune has an article this a.m. detailing the new law that Hugo Chavez has signed to silence his critics.
I think it is pretty clear that Venezuela has actually elected this creep, from the best we can tell. It is also clear that the left, for all its palaver about rights of the little people, is all about protecting the sinecures of power they attain once they are in power.
It is a sad, sad time for Venezuela. The middle class (what there is of it) is fleeing in droves. Small businesses, bankers, attorneys, engineers, shop owners and more are heading for the USA, Costa Rica, Spain, even Ecuador.
It is a story that has been told over and over, in country after country. When government seeks to "help" the poor, they do no such thing, but choke off avenues of escape from poverty and stratify society into 3 classes 1) The desperately poor (who have no way out) 2)the government bureaucrats and 3) the ruling elite (who live in a manner similiar to our decadent Hollywood narcissists).
For an alternative to the wreck going on in Argentina, Brazil, and now in a spectacular flash of socialistic failure in Venezuela, read Hernando de Soto's wonderful bookThe Other Path: The Economic Answer to Terrorism. He is a Peruvian economist who argues that the most compassionate, wise, and healthy path for Latin America is to embrace capitalism. He argues that the peasantry is blocked from entering the legal economy by a myriad of idiotic rules and laws (as an example, he chronicles how he tried to open a tailor shop in Lima. It took him 2 years and 2,000 dollars to obtain the necessary permits). The first step is to acknowledge that the "black market" is the REAL economy and legitimize it by eliminating onerous regulation. The second starting point would be to simply grant land title to the millions of squatters living in the favelas, or slums, surrounding the major cities of Latin America. That source of credit for capital (banks could lend to the destitute, using property as collateral). Combine those with tax encouragement of small businesses vs the present system, which is designed to protect the big boys. It is a formula for economic growth, and more importantly, the lifting of desperately poor into self-sufficient proud citizens.
Change the slums-to-property into the land grants of settlers here claiming land, and you have a abbreviated history of the USA, the richest nation in history. It works wherever it is practiced. Handwringing advocates for the poor are too often involved in creating a monster that institutionalizes poverty. They are offended and indignant when they are confronted with this truth, and when they have power (as Chavez in Venezuela) it is more convenient to simply shut up those who confront.