Welcome to the Venezuelan Police State, Mr. Snowden

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryIn an ironic twist, Edward Snowden was granted political asylum by the Venezuelan government to come to Venezuela on “humanitarian grounds.” I find this ironic and a sick joke because of what Venezuela has become. From 1990 to 2000, 91,000 Venezuelans had immigrated to the United States to live. From 2000 to 2010, over 215,000 Venezuelans had moved to the United States—most of them seeking political asylum. Many of these people are journalists, business people, and even former court judges who had run afoul of the socialist political order of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Under Chavez, business people were heavily taxed, harassed, and even jailed and tortured for any political opposition they may have had against Chavez.

Mr. Snowden will find the Venezuelan police state far more intimidating and threatening than the U.S. government ever has been or probably ever will be. In Venezuela, the police can not only stop anyone and demand their I.D. papers, but they can take them to police station and hold them in jail without warrant. The authorities have been known to take recordings of people’s phone conversations and broadcast them on live radio to “shame” these people and intimidate others. The Venezuelan government does more than just spy on people’s phone numbers and conversations. The Venezuelan government also has complete files on any and all individuals and political, religious and personal information.

But it does not stop there. The Venezuelan government puts people into prison for “state secrets” even though those state secrets can be nothing more than knowing how many political prisoners there are, censorship of news stories, and just expressing an opinion in a newspaper. Newspapers face censorship, opposition radio and TV stations are regularly harassed and shut down, and any political rallies (however peaceful they may be) are met with violence from either the police or Venezuelan government supporters. Although Venezuela has not yet become a total one-party state like say China or Cuba, it is well on its way. And this is the country Mr. Snowden wants to seek asylum in? Whether he actually goes to Venezuela or not, you can be sure that Mr. Snowden will find that the so-called “evil empire (i.e. the United States) is not as bad as he may think.

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