The lights are going out in Venezuela. The Chavez-controlled legislature passed an education bill on Aug. 13 that will extinguish the last glimmers of free thought in the country's classrooms. The law is such a caricature of revolutionary legislation that it almost seems like a joke, like something out of Woody Allen's "Bananas." But it's not funny for Venezuelans. Schools will now be required to teach "Bolivarian doctrine," a vague catchall for Chavez's sloganeering. They will be supervised by "communal councils" (read commissars from the socialist party) and the central government will decide who can and who cannot enter universities and the teaching profession.
The new law stretches government power beyond the schools, permitting the state to suspend media outlets that negatively affect the public's "mental health." This comes just three weeks after the government declined to renew the licenses of 34 radio stations. "We haven't closed any radio stations, we've applied the law," Chavez explained. "We've recovered a bunch of stations that were outside the law, that now belong to the people and not the bourgeoisie." Get it? They've been "liberated."
Chavez is also saving elections from the "bourgeoisie" by gerrymandering districts before he next offers himself to the voters. When his motorcycle-mounted goons attacked the offices of Globovision, the only remaining independent TV station, with tear gas and rocks, Chavez piously condemned the attacks. But Globovision is not long for this world. He is remarkably blunt about his aims. As The Economist magazine reported, the Venezuelan dictator cited the Italian communist theorist Antonio Gramsci on the importance of seizing control of a nation's key institutions in order to control the minds of the citizenry. The most important institutions to conquer, Chavez added, were the media, the churches, and the schools. Last year, some of the same Chavez thugs who tear-gassed Globovision stormed the episcopacy in Caracas after the Catholic Church criticized the president. Chavez condemned that attack as well.
Hugo Chavez has invited Hezbollah into Venezuela, and chased most of the Jewish community out. He has sent advanced weaponry to the FARC communist insurgency that has been terrorizing neighboring Colombia for 40 years, and has spawned a bevy of imitators in Latin America. Next month, he will visit his good friend Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.