In marshaling state resources for his cause and curtailing the opposition’s campaigns, Chávez is making sure he has the upper hand going into election day. Vehicles from the state oil company are used in the campaign, and many of the central government’s more than 2 million workers have been pressured to attend pro-Chávez rallies. Electoral officials took so much time to approve opposition advertisements that they never aired; university students were denied permits for protests.
The government has also bristled at any hint of criticism, particularly from abroad. When Lech Walesa, the union leader who helped topple Soviet communism in Poland, was invited to Caracas by a civil society group this week, Chávez quickly raised concerns. “We are obligated to make sure Venezuela’s dignity is respected,” Chávez said Tuesday in comments broadcast on state television. “He can say what he wants outside the country, but not here.”
After journalists reported that Walesa would be barred from entering, officials scrambled to deny it and accused reporters of lying. But Chávez, speaking Wednesday on Telesur, called Walesa “almost irrelevant, this figure.” Walesa then canceled his trip, with the Lech Walesa Institute citing a lack of security for the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Another observer, Luis Herrero, a European Union deputy, was detained by more than a dozen intelligence agents outside his hotel Friday and expelled from the country after he referred to Chávez as a dictator at a news conference. Copei, a leading opposition party, had invited Herrero to Venezuela.
Much more here and here. Hey, it’s no different than what Stephen Harper does, right? Right?
In other news, Robert Mugabe – himself an elected leader, once – is reportedly trying to plot his getaway from Zimbabwe. Just sayin’ is all.