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More democracy, Chavez style

Enraged that South Carolina’s Republican governor Mark Sanford opposed his $787 billion stimulus package and now wants to use the money to pay down his state’s debt instead of for its intended purpose, President Obama has ordered US military forces to seize the port of Charleston and the airport in the capital city of Columbia.

The above paragraph is, of course, untrue. But this isn’t: Venezuela’s President Chavez ordered his military to take over ports and airports in Venezuelan states with opposition governors.

The self-styled revolutionary in recent months has removed regional leaders’ control over services such as hospitals and police forces, sparking accusations he is undermining opposition elected officials and concentrating power.

Sunday’s announcement came just days after Congress passed legislation letting the central government take over roads, ports and airports if state leaders fail to adequately maintain them.

“We are going to take over ports and airports throughout the republic, whoever wants can oppose it, but it is the law of the republic,” Chavez said during his weekly Sunday broadcast.

He specifically mentioned the takeover of ports in three states run by opposition leaders including the state of Zulia, whose former governor Manuel Rosales is Chavez’s most high-profile adversary.

Whoever wants can oppose it? That, at least, is something. But at this point I have to wonder how long that freedom is going to last.

With convenient timing, a Venezuelan prosecutor ordered the arrest of Rosales on a charge of corruption.

The president of Venezuela’s Congress, dominated by Chavez supporters, last week said the legislature was considering creating a new post that would be designated by the president to oversee the capital of Caracas — currently run by an opposition mayor.

Would Chavez’s western apologists defend this sort of thing in any “bourgeois” democracy? Of course not. But “revolutionaries” like Chavez get to do whatever they want. They don’t need no stinkin’ “rule of law.”