But not much else; while Venezuelans had rejected efforts by Hugo Chavez to essentially install himself as dictator for life, it now appears that Chavez is back to his old tricks:
Opponents of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela are up in arms over a raft of decree laws they say replicate constitutional reforms rejected by voters last year.
A package of 26 laws, enacted on the last day of an 18-month period during which Mr Chávez was granted special legislative powers, looks designed to centralise economic control and smooth the path to “21st-century socialism”.
“We should not allow ourselves to be mocked by the government,” said Julio Borges, leader of the opposition party Justice First, who accused Mr Chávez of trying to “smuggle” through his rejected changes. Other opposition leaders called for peaceful street protests.
While critics warned that the new laws would further scare off private investment and were typical of Mr Chávez’s authoritarian streak, others argued that they would help to solve problems such as shortages of basic goods and housing.
The laws include punishments – such as prison sentences, fines and closure – for food retailers and distributors caught dodging price controls or hoarding produce, as well as for businesses refusing to produce, import, transport or sell “items of basic necessity”.
The government will also be able to expropriate private property without the need for the national assembly’s approval. Another decree is aimed at implementing a socialist economy at community level through the barter of goods and “social property” businesses.
These efforts to give Chavez new powers are, of course, outrageous. But they are also par for the course. No one should be surprised that Chavez is undeterred from his earlier failure to ensure his lifelong rule over Venezuela–it should have been entirely expected that he would try yet again to make all of Venezuela his personal fiefdom.
The remaining question is whether Venezuelans will sit back and take this latest offense against their country’s dignity. We saw the Venezuelan people rise up against Chavez’s machinations when they rejected his efforts to abrogate presidential term limits and force Venezuelans to regard him as the country’s Indispensable Man. Now, they will have to rise up anew and remind Chavez that when the Venezuelan people said that they didn’t want a permanent dictatorship to be set up in their country, they meant it.
Eternal vigilance, they say, is the price of liberty. If anyone doubted the truth of that saying before, let him or her look to Venezuela to be reminded of the saying’s accuracy.