Enviro-Apocalypse 2

 We’ll get started with this week’s Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment in just a bit but first…We have a follow-up on last week’s “Enviro-Apocalypse”…Mongabay had the headline, “Venezuela’s Environmental Crisis Is Getting Worse”. OEP (Venezuela Observatory for Political Ecology) issued a report detailing the most pressing environmental issues facing Venezuela.

 They include oil spills, illegal mining, deforestation, tourism, poor waste management, water shortages, and more. The list is long and for the last decade has basically gone unchanged while, according to the report, the Venezuela government has done very little to address these problems and has even turned a blind eye to them in order to improve the country’s economy.

 “The dramatic socio-envitonmental situation…being silenced despite how obvious it is…” Here are a few highlights…

 Oil spills are becoming more frequent and the government isn’t doing anything to stop it. (It seems like we have a piece on an oil spill every week or two)

 Mining is destroying Venezuela’s rain forests. (We did an entire chapter on Nicolas Maduro’s incredibly destructive “Mining Arc” in Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole)

 The country is also losing it’s forests to unregulated cattle ranching and farming, as well as timber trafficking. (They didn’t mention the forest lost to illegal air strips for drug trafficking)

 The wealthy elite have helped degrade many of the country’s protected areas. (Remember the big party on top of one of Venezuela’s environmentally fragile tabletop mesas?)   

 The waste management system is collapsing with many communities only collecting trash once a month.

Potable water is becoming increasingly scarce with over 12 million people (1/2 of Venezuela’s population) having restricted access.

 We’ve previously given you a lot of details on each of these examples separately but the article, by putting it all in one place, makes the point that under the Maduro regime the environmental damage is pervasive.

 Now let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 16/ No Soap Box Here…

 No, I’m not referring to a couple of years ago when there was no laundry detergent in Venezuela (yes folks, no detergent unless you had a black market supplier or maybe every month or two you could wait in line for eight hours to buy a couple of kilos). I’m talking about the figurative “getting on your soap box”. In the US it’s called free speech. It applies to individuals, journalists, media…everybody. In Venezuela it’s a thing of the past.

 The repression of free speech is in high gear in Venezuela but it didn’t happen overnight. As always, it began with a simple declaration that was accepted by everybody and didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. In 2000, Hugo Chavez was riding high. People were fawning all over him, both domestically and internationally. He was fond of speaking for hours at a time going off on all kinds of rants and diatribes, sometimes for as much as 6-8 hours. Nobody was more enamored with Chavez’s popularity than Chavez himself, so much so that he issued a declaration requiring that all broadcast TV stations show his speeches live and in their entirety. There was no push-back whatsoever by anyone.

 And so it began. It wasn’t a law enacted or anything like that. He simply told the stations to do it and they did. Then, after a couple of years, came the law, “The Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television”, called “The Resorte Law”. It contained a lot of vaguely worded, restrictive rules on incitement of breaches of public order. The first offense carried a 72-hour suspension and the second offense would cause the broadcaster to lose their license.

 It also contained language regarding material considered to be an affront to the integral education of children and adolescents. Violators would be fined between 1/2% to 1% of their gross revenues. It also required the broadcasting of government educational, informative, and public safety material, to be monitored by the Directorate of Social Responsibility.

 The “Resorte Law” was amended in 2010 banning content “that could incite or promote hatred”…”foment citizen’s anxiety or alter public order”…”disrespect authorities” …”constitute war propaganda”… and so on. Now call me crazy but I don’t think the odds on getting any kind of stay, injunction, or appeal on a decision by bureaucrats overseeing compliance of the law would be very good. That’s the great thing about vague wording. The law means whatever they want it to mean…and don’t forget those TSJ (Venezuela Supreme Court) numbers…rulings favorable to the government – forty-something thousand – rulings contrary – ZERO!

 Before we move on I want to mention that between the enactment of the “Resorte Law” and the amendment of same Chavez, in 2006, had a law passed (he didn’t rule by decree, he simply told the National Assembly what he wanted done and they passed whatever law would accomplish his wishes) barring insult or criticism of high officials.

 In 2013 the oppression of free speech (and oppression in general) snowball continued rolling downhill. Created by official decree (the president began ruling by decree due to the emergency in the country, yes, the same emergency they deny exists…you can’t make this stuff up) CESPA, The Strategic Center for Security and Protection of The Fatherland, would be given broad powers, again vaguely defined, following their recipe for rights abuse. “They law is what we say it is and our powers are what we say they are”.

 More tomorrow….




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