Venezuela should embrace free speech

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez traded free speech for controlled speech at America’s expense when he chose not to renew the license of RCTV, one of Venezuela’s oldest and most popular news organizations, for criticizing his rise to power.Since Chavez began ruling by decree Feb. 1, 2007, he has cut off many ties with the U.S. while making deals with oil-rich nations in an effort to weaken America and enforce what he calls “socialism of the 21st century.”

“No media outlet will be tolerated here that is at the service of coup-ism, against the people, against the nation, against national independence, against the dignity of the republic,” Chavez said to the media in a televised speech. “Go and turn off the equipment.”

As the self-proclaimed leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Chavez has vowed to liberate his country from the threats of imperialism. His economic agenda, combined with his anti-American attitude, has given him worldwide attention and support from nations such as Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Russia, China, Iran, Iraq and Sudan.

It’s important to realize Chavez craves this power and will abuse it to get more. “The dignity of the nation” is becoming the dignity of one man, which is completely dependent on the absence of free speech and perhaps the free speech in our own country.

Instead of using free speech in Venezuela to assess approval of his leadership and anti-Americanism, Chavez uses free speech in America as a promotion. For example, he claimed that particular threats made by the Rev. Pat Robertson were a direct military threat from the American government, which he told ABC’s Ted Koppel in 2005.

Now that Chavez controls the media, he is able to blur the line between free speech and government speech in his nation, making it appear blurry in America as well.

This is downright dirty business that brings no advantage. It fuels hatred for America, which is one of the only things Chavez has in common with his allies. Additional similarities include vast amounts of oil, total government control, excessive militarization and social dependency on the head of state.

If Chavez controls the Venezuelan media, he controls the thoughts of everyone watching by only providing bits and pieces of the many things people say in the free world and pretending like their words come directly from President Bush.

When RCTV criticized his rise to power, Chavez responded harshly by taking their right to criticize away and blamed the incident on American influence. He holds Venezuelans’ freedoms hostage and gains a tighter grip on society with American criticisms.

“The left is back and it’s the only path we have to get out of the spot to which the right has sunken us,” Chavez said. “Socialism builds; capitalism destroys.”

If Chavez, along with a handful of individuals around the world, have the power to control the media, they too have the power to control citizens and together as allies, who knows what else?

They can force millions into adopting the goals of the handful and together deceive all their people into fighting against America.

This is too much power and should not be taken lightly. Looking beyond our borders and around the globe, there are different extremes in the way freedom is taken away and the ways in which eyes and ears become shut. We should recognize the threats of socialism taking form around us at every level and protect free speech at all costs.

Ashleigh Whaley is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Austin.