The recent move by the Chávez administration to shut down cable TV channels has called down harsh criticism from basically everyone: Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Organization of American States, hell, even France. What will happen as a result is approximately nothing. The international community (excepting the King of Spain) lacks the cojones to take on Chávez in the kind of international diplomatic games of chicken that he lives for.
Of course, Chávez still has plenty to worry about. Power and water rationing are angering basically everyone, a 50% devaluation of the bolivar is going to cause inflation to fly even higher (it’s already the highest in the region), soaring crime means Venezuela has the second highest murder rate in the world, and the price of oil has been falling all year even as Chávez continues to give the stuff away to buddy countries.
With legislative elections coming up in September, it’s no wonder Chávez is stepping up his efforts to silence the media. Even a perfectly objective reporter would have to write or speak some incredibly negative things about the performance of the Chávez administration. The last 10 years have been quite frankly disastrous, even though some of the country’s extreme poor are supposedly better off thanks to expanded social spending.
But while it’s good to see people getting angry about Chávez’ power grabs and mismanagement, student and popular protests have happened before with no result. Venezuela has seemed to be at the breaking point for years now. The smart money says that these protests will fade as well, and the international community will go back to standing around looking sheepish.