With dictators toppling like dominoes across the Middle East, Venezuela’s president-for-life, Hugo Chávez, is signaling worry about his own despotic rule.
Mr. Chávez’s interior minister, Tareck El Aissami, responded vehemently when the U.S. State Department suggested last week that the Organization of American States be allowed to visit youths on a hunger strike to protest the jailing of opposition politicians.
The minister accused the U.S. government of trying to foment a “virtual Egypt,” which suggests that Venezuela sees parallels with the explosive situation in the Middle East. There’s ample reason for that.
The peaceful protests against Mr. Chávez are not comparable to the scale or nature of the bloody uprisings that began in Tunisia and have swept across the region like a desert wind. But Mr. Chávez knows that his regime shares more than a few ugly similarities with the political systems run by the Middle East’s despotic rulers, including his friend, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, and therein lies the basis of his concern.
As in any hardline regime, the suppression of dissent and the punishment of anyone who dares to oppose the leader is a principal feature of Mr. Chávez’s dictatorial rule.
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