What to do when you’re a public official and get tired of your opposition heckling and deriding you? You pass a law which will censor that speech under the pretext of combatting “hate.”
This is what the government of Venezuela is attempting to do. By way of context, Venezuela is a sad example of a failed socialist state. The current crisis stems from former president Hugo Chavez. In 1999, Chavez – upon taking power – convened a constitutional convention which produced a new constitution for Venezuela, giving him more power and the ability to pursue what he called the “Bolivarian Revolution” as he sought to transform the Venezuelan state along socialist lines. After his death in 2013 he was succeeded by Nicolas Maduro, who is attempting to hold onto power and continue the “Revolution,” despite intense opposition by the people of Venezuela.
Prior to Chavez, Venezuela had a fairly strong economy and high standard of living. However, its over-reliance on oil exports, combined with the disastrous socialist policies of the “Bolivarian Revolution” has led to a collapse of its economic, social, and political systems. The inflation rate is currently over 700%, 80% of the population is below the poverty line, the unemployment rate is 25%, the economy is contracting at a rate of over 10%, and there is extreme crime and violence.
This explains why the people of Venezuela have turned against the “Revolution.” Despite this, Maduro and his chavistas (the term used for supporters of the socialist policies of Chavez) are desperately seeking to remain in power. The legislative National Assembly is held largely by opponents of the chavistas. Therefore, Maduro called his own constitutional convention to form a new constitution for the country; this convention, the constituyente, is filled completely with chavistas.
It is this constituyente which is proposing an “anti-hate” law to prohibit and police speech with which the chavistas disagree, particularly on social media. Indeed, given the way that the chavistas have mis-handled the country, protesters have been very vocal in their opposition, calling for Maduro to resign. The “anti-hate” law is an attempt to suppress these protests and provide legal justification for arresting those who speak out against the government’s policies.
In typical Orwellian fashion, the government of Venezuela is framing the discussion in terms of combatting hate and violence. Delcy Rodriguez, the president of Maduro’s constituyente constitutional convention, said:
It starts by banging pots and pans around chavistas in a restaurant. And it finishes by burning chavistas alive.
She also said:
We’re going to regulate and control because, in recent years, Venezuela has been victim of laboratories of [psychological] war that, through messages and social media, promote a fratricidal war between Venezuelans. We’re not going to allow what happened in Rwanda [to] repeat itself in Venezuela.
Thus, the government’s justification for “regulating and controlling” speech in Venezuela is to remove the opposition to its own failed policies and to ensure that a small, privileged portion of the populace remain in power, namely Maduro and his chavista supporters.
In the United States, Hollywood tends to be very vocal with its political beliefs. But, where is Hollywood’s opposition to this tyranny? Where are the tears of outrage from those who say they believe in free speech? Where are those who once praised Chavez and Maduro?