Commentary: Chavez continues to stifle dissent

After years of bullying Venezuela's news media, President Hugo Chavez seems poised to take the final steps to silence the only remaining broadcast television station in the country that offers an independent voice of news and information.

Mr. Chávez has been running a vendetta against Globovisión since at least 2002, when, he claims, it took sides with forces that tried to overthrow his government. In his usual bombastic style, he has accused Globovisión of conspiring against him, called its news director a "crazy man with a cannon" and referred to its owners as "thieves."

All this has earned Mr. Chávez condemnation from the watchdogs of press freedom. The Inter American Press Association last year denounced "the insults, threats, administrative sanction procedures, restrictions on coverage and court rulings pursued by the head of state against Globovisión."

The president couldn't care less. Earlier this month, he ordered officials to take action against nonstate media or resign. They lost no time in complying with orders from el jefe.

The state tax agency ordered Globovisión to pay back taxes of $2.3 million, and telecommunications chief Diosdado Cabello said he'd asked prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into news outlets, including Globovisión.

All of this has played out against a larger background of sinister events designed to tighten Mr. Chavez's grip on power. As part of this orchestrated campaign, the opposition mayor of Maracaibo, Manuel Rosales, was forced to seek asylum in Peru, Gov. Eduardo Manuitt of the plains state of Guárico is in hiding and several other prominent opposition figures have been accused of corruption.

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