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Chavez touring Russia, Iran and Belarus

Filed under: Venezuela

Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez started a six-day tour of Russia, Belarus and Iran during which he plans to discuss the possibility of buying weapons.

"Russia and Venezuela remain strategic partners in the energy sector, and this visit should serve to strengthen this cooperation," Chavez said at the opening ceremony of the Simon Bolivar Cultural Center in Moscow today. "Lukoil is already in Venezuela, and Mr. Bush doesn't like it," Chavez said.

Venezuela has already purchased some US$ 3 billion worth of arms from Russia, including 53 military helicopters, 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 24 SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and other weapons.

In Belarus, the Venezuelan leader will probably discuss a plan to buy an air defense system equipped with radar and antiaircraft missiles.

Chavez then travels to Tehran for talks aimed at further deepening his ties with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is one of Venezuela's closest allies outside Latin America. Chavez dismissed speculation that he would sign an agreement with Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
"We don't need an atomic bomb, because we already have one: it is called the Venezuelan people,'' he said in a televised speech to thousands of supporters at a political rally in Caracas. "That has the force of 100 atomic bombs." (Reuters, APF )

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RCTV Protests Spread To Atlanta, San Francisco, Mexico City

Filed under: Venezuela

Venezuelan college kids, known as 'chamos', march in Sunday's rally in Caracas, forming the word 'libertad' or in English, 'freedom' with their bodies, as their rallying cry from the dictatorship of Hugo Chavez. It's the beginning of the end for that tyrannical sack of trash.
Source: El Universal

Venezuela's freedom protests are no longer about anything political - they are about freedom. Ignited by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez's shutdown of Venezuela's largest TV station, RCTV, they began with a recognition that if the biggest and most popular TV station, soap operas and all, could be silenced because it refused to stop criticizing a brutal dictatorship as a matter of conscience, then so could they.

Venezuelan freedom babe demands liberty at one of the humoungous student rallies around Caracas this past week
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! News

These protests are about more than beloved RCTV, though. They are about ideals and democratic principles, and full of young people, read: babes, and in that regard, these marches are full of democratic revolutionaries in a true democratic revolution. I've not seen anything with this powerful dynamic since I hung out on the barricades in the streets of south Jakarta in 1998 as a foreign correspondent.

The white hand with a sort of peace sign is a symbol of resistance to tyranny among the Venezuelan college kids, maybe it will be historic
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! News

Venezuela's young revolutionaries are known as 'chamos' and they are amazingly organized. Today tens of thousands of Venezuelans marched in the streets of Caracas, as well as the cities of the Venezuelan hinterlands, places like Puerto Cabello and further afield, and now abroad, in Atlanta and San Francisco and Mexico City, maybe other places, too, all condemning Chavez's flaming hypocrisy.

Venezuelans rally Sunday at the headquarters of CNN in Atlanta. Like RCTV, CNN has been threatened by the dictator. The kids want CNN to stay strong and not cave in. CNN would be wise to heed them
Source: Alexo05, no doubt a chamo, via Megaresistencia
See the whole album, here

The rallying cry is the simple word, 'freedom' in call for a principle applicable to all, not just the old elite or the chavista bolibourgeouisa one that's replaced them - the chamos want freedom for all. They want nothing to do with politics of either side. Politicians who've gotten into the act have been politely asked to leave. The kids have their own Web site here. They're led by student leaders with names like, I kid you not, Stalin Gonzalez, which, if anything, signals a pretty strong independent streak in the kid. His best friend is a guy named Nixon.

Venezuelan chamos protested in San Francisco on Sunday, the most famously progressive city in the U.S., calling for freedom there, too. Where are the hippies who claim to stand for as much?
Source: J. Reed, Reed Research
Click KCBS -for story

Brave Globovision covered the rally, even though Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez crazily accused it of 'media terrorism' and vowed to shut it down. Against these threats, they only got braver. Media and students, together, leading the struggle for liberty in Venezuela, have not been seen since 1958, when this exact same dynamic along with sustained protests managed to topple another dictator. They're going on again. It's going to be a long hard slog and this dictator won't be dislodged easily. But they will keep marching until they get freedom.

Putting tape over their mouths to protest the gagging of the free press, Venezuelans protest at the Venezuelan embassy in Mexico City, a city where many have been drive to exile from Chavez's tyranny and economic ruin.
Source: AP, via Yahoo! News

Long live Venezuela's democratic revolutionaries!

An emerging rallying logo of the student movement in Venezuela
Source: Megaresistencia

...against this
Source: Megaresistencia

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Second Venezuelan TV Station Under Attack

Filed under: Venezuela

Alex Beech, a former Venezuelan TV newscaster, is now a writer in New York. She's knows a lot about the Venezuelan television industry and has watched this assault on RCTV closely. Wiith RCTV off the airwaves, she now sees tiny Globovision also under attack. Her thoughts, reprinted with permission, are well worth reading here:

Dear Friends,

During a nationally televised speech, President Chavez threatened to close down Globovision, the only remaining TV network which openly opposes his government. Chavez said he had the power to "not renew the concessions of some channels early," as the crowd chanted "A Globovision, ahora le toca." ("Now, it's Globovision's turn.")

At midnight on May 27th, the government took RCTV off the air, accusing it of participating in the events which temporarily removed him from power in 2002. RCTV was the only remaining VHF channel with a critical editorial line.

Before being removed from the air, RCTV had a 90% penetration throughout Venezuela, a 33% market share, and was ranked number one in the country for its entertainment and news programs. The government-financed network which replaced it moments after midnight, TVES, has fallen to the last place in the ratings. (In the latest survey, 83% of Venezuelans opposed the closing of RCTV; 70% believed its replacement will only broadcast pro-government content.)

Chavez's remaining target, Globovision is on channel 33, and is mainly viewed on cable. While only 47% of Venezuelans have cable, Globovision's investigative reporting, opinion shows, and editorial line have turned it into a state enemy.

If Globovision disappears, there will be NO dissenting voice on Venezuelan television, VHF or UHF. Please don't mistake "privately owned" with dissenting. While most media in Venezuela is privately owned, the voices of dissension are eroding. TO SURVIVE IN VENEZUELAN MEDIA IS TO BOW TO CHAVEZ. Dissenting voices have already disappeared from the channels with the best frequency, (2-13), and with only one dissenting channel remaining on television, it's only time before they also disappear from UHF, including cable and satellite. Radio and print media is sure to follow.

Freedom of expression is not a luxury, but a universal human right.


Alex Beech

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All Hell Breaks Loose In Caracas

Filed under: Venezuela

College students protest the shutdown of RCTV and demand free speech
Source: Associated Press, via Philly Burbs

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez sent in these riot police to take on 'dangerous' protesting babes in Caracas who seek free speech.
Source: Associated Press, via Philly Burbs

Students went on strike all over Venezuela today, shutting down every major university in the name of free speech. El Universal reports that it's about eight big ones with all the kids marching onto OAS headquarters to urge the hemisphere's democracy-certifier to grow a spine. Miguel has a live report about what he saw in the streets, as well as photos. It sounds like turmoil and now troops have opened fire with rubber bullets and tear gas to break up the protests.

Taking down 'oligarchs' - Hugo Chavez sicced his thugs on college students seeking free speech
Source: Reuters, via Yahoo! News

These began last night - they are well chronicled by Jim at GatewayPundit here - and have extended through to today. Megaresistencia, citing Union Radio, reports that numerous students at Simon Bolivar University were injured in tear gas and rubber bullet attacks by Chavista troops here.


Chavista riot police take aim at dreaded 'capitalists' and 'class enemies'
Source: Reuters, via Yahoo! News

Police chased students with tear gas at Plaza Brion in Chacaito
Source: EFE, via Megaresistencia

It all began because last night, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez shut down RCTV, Venezuela's largest and most popular television network. He did this by decree, for he rules by decree. This time he pulled RCTV's 53-year license. The clever yank-their-license approach gave his move an appearance of legality to outsiders. However, it was motivated by pure political revenge. Were Venezuela a real democracy, no politician would ever do a move so unpopular. Only one unafraid of popular retribution at the ballot box or any other kind of backlash would. Hugo fears nothing now.

RCTV owner Marcel Granier watches as his lifework is seized by Chavista thugs in the name of communist collectivism
Source: Associated Press

That wasn't all he did. Chavez sent in troops to steal -err, temporarily protect - the station's broadcasting assets and presumably hand them over to his chavista television worker collectives, barbaric groups of slum ignoramuses of no professionalism or commitment to news whatsoever. I know. I visited some when I was in Caracas, and I know who they are. Their sole purpose is propaganda and revenge on enemies. They don't actually know anything, they just want to indoctrinate. Lots of them are 'intellectuals' from the '60s who could never make it as real academics.

A college student throws a rock back at the Chavista goon squad
Source: AP, via BBC Mundo

That lack of professionalism is showing already - AP reported that the Chavista station that has replaced RCTV, known as Teves, has already showed its direction by singing Kim Il-Sung-style songs about how wonderful Hugo Chavez really is. The cult of personality has begun. Can you imagine losing your favorite television shows to be replaced by Marxist indoctrination by Marxist ideologues?

The UniMet student's sign says 'No To Oppression.' Hugo says 'Quick, get the tear gas'
Source: Agencia EFE, via Yahoo! Mexico

So not only is free speech dead in Venezuela, so are all other kinds of expression. And it all follows a long slide downhill on free speech rights, as described here, that is now continuing on to the harassment of CNN, Globovision and other Web sites, showing that Chavistas will stop at nothing to silence all free speech. As coda, blogger Tomas Sancio says it will only last as long as Venezuela's economy does.

Students flee from tear gas - notice how much they used on this 'enemy'
Source: AFP, via BBC Mundo

Now troops are firing on 'dangerous' students who don't want their last right to speak out taken away in the emerging Venezuelan dictatorship.

Students march at the University of Central Venezuela in Caracas
Source: Tal Cual, via Megaresistencia

UPDATE: Radio and TV stations in El Salvador and Costa Rica went dark in solidarity with RCTV.

Keep an eye on Miguel's blog, which has updates through the day, and Daniel's blog, too, which will probably have the same shortly.

Feathers has lots of local links of developments and YouTubes, it's worth a click here. And keep an eye out for updates on Venezuela Today, too, which watches everything.

TV Wars - The television entrepreneur and the thug who loves the spotlight alone
Source: AP, via Yahoo! Mexico

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Rallying Big For Free Speech In Venezuela

Filed under: Venezuela

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans demonstrate for free speech in Caracas
Source: AP, via Drudge Report

Imagine a world with no free press. For many Venezuelans, it's dawned for the first time that this is no imaginative fear anymore. It's real. Chavista supporters and poor voters have taken to the streets alongside their middle-class brethren to call for free speech as the biggest television station, RCTV is shut down by Chavista decree.

A Venezuelan babe paints herself in the logos of RCTV
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez put a stop to free speech today by pulling the license of RCTV, the one TV station that has gone out of its way to oppose him, to blast his incompetence, to slam his theft of property, to warn he's running the country into the ground. They made no secret of opposing his power. Today the dictator ever so procedurally refused to renew the 53-year license of Radio Caracas Television, not because there's a public interest in seeing this station disappear, but because his own whim said so. When you are unable to distinguish yourself from the state, it gets easy.

Chavista military goons menaced demonstrating students Friday
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Chavez sent tanks, armored personnel carriers and goons to the scene of the demonstrations, a first, to intimidate
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, however, felt differently. 80% of them opposed the end of their TV station - the soap operas, the political commentaries, the news, the dramas, the reality TV, the dance and song shows, enough to march in the streets. Gone! Yanked!

These Venezuelan babes say it all about the importance of the issue.
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

College kids rallied in great numbers, even with nearby tanks menacing
Source: Getty Images

And what it's to be replaced with is repulsive - government programming that's one part mind-numbing Marxist indoctrination done by the post office and another part bullets, razorblades, cuss words and motorcycle thugs. I kid you not. I was there and I already saw it.

Students went on strike at the Catholic University for free speech
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

A Venezuelan babe holds up a sign showing dead TV sets
Source:Reuters via Yahoo! News

RCTV is the most popular station in Venezuela, loved by both Chavistas in the slums and middle class people in neighborhoods like Altamira. In fact, it's the equivalent of ABC or CBS. It's a huge popular station that's done the moon landing, done the coups, done Nixon's visit where he was mobbed, done the Vargas floods, done plane crashes, oil strikes and beauty pageants. It's the universal community of television. Again, now gone black.

In the mysterious dynamic of a spontaneous demonstration, there's a still a party feel in protest, a defiant 'happy' anger of being unified in a common cause
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

RCTV owner Marcel Granier (the Bolton lookalike), a good and noble man, participates in the rally, too. He must be exhausted.
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

It's not just Venezuelans who are gonna suffer from this. We all are, because we all consume Venezuelan news. Venezuela's press is among the most vigorous and competitive in the world. All foreign correspondents take their cues from the tone set by the local press, and RCTV is the leader. That in fact is why news coverage is so good on Venezuela. The excellence of the local press keeps news organizations like the NYT and WashPost honest because word gets out easily if they get something wrong. And the willingness of the press to keep covering huge demonstrations reminds the world that not all is well under chavismo. That's the people and the media speaking together against tyranny.

Yep, an oligarch all right. The babe's gag says 'Don't close RCTV.'
Source:Reuters via Yahoo! News

You can see it's hot out - and they came anyway
Source:AFP via Yahoo! News

The destruction of the biggest player among the entire media, with a 40% TV market share, is a warning to other press pipsqueaks that no one is immune from the wrath of chavismo, that all are subject to the whim of chavismo, that all must bow down before the chavista moloch or else face annihilation. If RCTV can't defend itself, then neither can they. A dictatorial monolith has risen. The message sent by the destruction of RCTV is lost on no one.

Whistling as loud as she can for the right to not remain silent
Source:Reuters via Yahoo! News

All ages attended the free speech rally to save RCTV in Caracas. Can you imagine such a crowd coming to defend CBS?
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

That's why the destruction of RCTV matters, even to us. If RCTV goes, they all eventually will go, and Chavez's boldness in this move, against almost all public opinion shows that there's no craziness he will stop at. Venezuelans must be asking themselves what the future holds because it's extremely dour now.

The mouth we'd really like to see shut, the sign says
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

It will get uglier. And there will be no media to cover it. The food shortages, the riots, the violence, the rage in the streets, the Chavista corruption - there will be no one to check it. The broad unity of the people and their big television station will be broken, and again, all that will be left is chavismo, the chavista monolith. This is a real beginning of the end for Venezuela.

And we may hear very little about it because the free press is fading fast.

Venezuelan babes wore zippers across their faces to demand free speech
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

On the frontlines, Venezuelan journalists showed up en masse to demand free speech
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Blog Roundup

Daniel at Venezuela News & Views has live, on-the-ground, minute-by-minute reporting of all he's seeing in Caracas around the final protests at the TV station. It's a must-see here. And thisthoughtful four-point analysis, too.

Miguel at Devil's Excrement has up-too-close photos of the Chavista thuggery at Globovision, here, along with observations here, news of official threats here, and an angry local Venezuelan political cartoon here.

Fausta at Fausta's blog has an excellent updated podcast of all the major Venezuelan bloggers who enlighten and inform about the ongoing events here. She also has a really good reporting on events of her own, and lots of links here.

Jim at GatewayPundit has a good summary of events and links galore in this post here. He's got a followup post showing chavista thuggery at the end of the rally today, very disturbing pictures.

Aleks Boyd, returning to blogging after an interval, says the RCTV shutdown is a blow for freedom of the press as well as illegal here.

Francisco at Caracas Chronicles has a good piece on the retreat of the radical left as Chavez goes off the deep end, forcing many to rethink their positions, or else resort to ever more irrational defenses here. He's got a lot of good stuff, click here and just keep scrolling.

For full coverage, click on Venezuela Today which has all the latest and most complete updates, changing by the hour here.

The Sumate signs represent different states, like Sucre and Cojedes
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

The banner reads: Freedom of Expression, SOS!
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Newspaper Editorials Roundups

Editorial leaders are the official consensus positions of a newspaper's editorial leadership. That's why they have no bylines. As a result of the destruction of RCTV and the terrible implications of freedom of the press, nearly all major newspapers have come out against this move, as have all media watchdogs like 'Reporters San Fronteres' and the rest. Nearly all newspapers, from left to right, have blasted Chavez over this, some seeing him clearly for the first time ever. This represents a major strategic shift in world sentiment. Here are some newspaper editorials, and a couple of signed op-eds and columns from some extremely diverse newspapers, all saying the same thing.

Le Monde, as leftwing as a French newspaper can get, the Pepe Le Peu of French newspapers, fiercedly condemned Chavez's assault on freedom of speech in this major shift in sentiment over RCTV.

Investor's Business Daily, the second-biggest U.S. business newspaper and one that's editorially as far to the right as Le Monde is to the left, blasted the Chavez move as totally illegitimate in Venezuela yet dangerous to American interests too.

ABC Madrid, a great big Spanish newspaper, probably leftwing like they all are, condemned this move as contrary to democracy in this translated editorial.

The Wall Street Journal, the biggest U.S. business newspaper, warned that Chavez's shutdown of RCTV is undoubtedly a bid to preempt scrutiny of all the evil things he's planning now, a reasonable inteference, given what we are seeing.

El Nacional, Venezuela's equivalent of The New York Times, a highgrade, slightly left-leaning newspaper, the second biggest in Venezuela, has a huge frontpage editorial against a blackened television set graphic, powerfully sending a message of trouble ahead as this fatal mistake takes effect and worse follows.

The Washington Post, in a fine readable column written by Jackson Diehl, warned that freedom of the press in Venezuela should concern us all. He explains what RCTV is and what it means for Venezuela's history and speaks of all the innovations it's made.

Miami Herald, printing an essay by Rep. Tom Lantos, who was once a Hungarian democratic revolutionary who escaped communism, decried the horror of going after the press, explaining that the press is at the forefront of all modern revolutions.

'No to closure!' the sign reads
Source:Manuel Cifuentes, El Universal

The demonstration was spontaneous
Source:EFE via El Universal


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Fidel's Mini-me Got a New Toy

Filed under: Venezuela


Reuters reports: "Venezuela launched a Zeppelin on Thursday to patrol Caracas, seeking to fight crime in one of Latin America's most dangerous cities but also raising fears that President Hugo Chavez could be turning into Big Brother." Anybody got a slingshot handy?

Meanwhile, Hugo's supporters held a rally, and the President of Chile came to visit. More photos after the jump.

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Venezuela's Two-Edged Sword: Media

Filed under: Venezuela

There's something of a revolutionary ferment in and around Venezuela's media. More so than any other Latin country. Maybe it's because Venezuela's billionaires, like Gustavo Cisneros, are media kings. Maybe it's because of the starry international appeal of the many Miss Venezuelas. For whatever reason, media is pivotal in Venezuela as an essential instrument of dynamism and change. That explains a lot about why RCTV is under such seige from Chavistas, as this excellent account from Daniel's Venezuela News & Views shows here.

It's also a two-edged sword.

On the one hand, the power of media in Venezuela has contributed signficantly to the rise of Hugo Chavez, whose persona and mastery of the colloquial speech, the raging diatribe, the entertaining tale, and even the song have propelled him to the top from obscurity as Venezuela's leader in 1998. It's not very well known here, but Hugo Chavez is a product of the Venezuelan boondocks, not a product of its cities, nor its experienced political establishments. He's a rube outsider from the outback of Barinas state near the Andes. But as a leader, he's managed to use media to propel him to stardom, a short route to power in a state with a calcified political power establishment. From there, he's kept with it, hosting his own reality television show as president.

He's simply a natural. In Chavez, anyone can see his star qualities from his early speeches. I have seen them and was struck by how full of magnetism he is. He seems to be talking right to you through the television set. It's only in later years that some sort of mask has formed over him, a signal of his growing guardedness. He still emits bursts of volcanic bile in his public addresses. But he doesn't have quite the same early charisma. He's also grown fat and sloppy as he becomes comfortable and complacent in his absolute power.

But if Hugo can master media, there are plenty of others who can innovate into it, too.

A very dramatic example of this is Carlos Ortega, the imprisoned former union boss who led the great oil strike of 2002-3. Ortega escaped from a Chavista military prison in August 2006, and has been in hiding for several months, with no one knowing where he is. His story is here. Now, taking a page from another escaped political prisoner, Governor Eduardo Lapi of Yaracuy state, Ortega has started using media to transmit messages to his people. Unlike Lapi, who writes letters, Ortega is using electronic television media. It's a very dangerous and rebellious thing to do in a system that no longer allows dissent.

Ortega might have borrowed this idea for this from, of all people, Osama Bin Laden, who also uses filmed messages to his followers as a way of leading them, too. Just as Bin Laden uses Al-Jazeera to transmit his terror messages to destroy America, so Ortega uses the popular Globovision station to transmit messages designed to rally his followers and fight an odious dictator who's oppressing his people. Media, after all, can transmit any message, good or bad, and this new means is ideal for a leader on the lam.

Ortega is a gutsy brawler of a union boss, whose daring defiance of Hugo Chavez began with the great oil strike of 2002-3 and extended from there. He's never feared Chavez, and he won his own union elections with powerful political support. That's why he scares Chavez - it's because of that proven record of winning elections and his fearlessness. That's why Hugo Chavez not only fired Ortega from his elected union boss job, he also threw him in prison. Ortega didn't let prison walls stop him though. He escaped, with the aid of his military guards, probably. Now Ortega's given Chavez another reason to fear him, he's using media beyond what even Chavez did to to rally Chavez's enemies. That's innovation.

What we may see is a YouTube revolution capable of taking out Hugo Chavez, his own mastery of television media superceded by the determined Carlos Ortega's innovations. Keep an eye on this new evolving development - in a dictatorship where all dissent is forbidden, YouTubes may be the final unbeatable path to democracy.

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Chavez Goes Mullah On Easter Celebrations

Filed under: Americas ~ Venezuela

"It is really ridiculous, like implementing a Muslim regime," said Jorge Dominguez, 36, leaving a liquor store at 4.55 p.m. with two chinking carrier bags full of beer.

"I got nervous. I thought Chavez had prohibited the sale of liquor seeing how he talks about Cuba, socialism and the (Iranian) ayatollahs," said 67-year-old retiree Enrique Salazar after buying three bottles to last him through the holiday.

Hugo's really done it now. He's relegated all of Venezuela to the status of college freshmen. Until the end of Easter, alcohol sales will be limited in public services such as restaurants to between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. while sales altogether are explicitly banned throughout the holy weekend. You heard me right. No spring break for Venezuelans.

The reason for the ban is because alcohol drinking infuriates Chavez. He blames Venezuela's love of whiskey on the great enemy up north, the United States. You see, it's all a plot to degrade the moral fiber of the country, leading to the 100 or so deaths every Easter blamed on drinking. It's no simple criminal act in which people need to be thrown in jail; it's an enemy plot!

What he didn't anticipate was that people would not simply submit to his edict. They're doing what all of us did at some point in college, only worse. Coca-Cola is ordered with a wink, a smile, and some extra tip. Bottles are being bid on as if liquor stores were stock exchanges. Given that everyone found out at the last minute, the mad rush to get the weekend wine has assured not only that everyone will get what they want, but Chavez will look like he's kowtowing to an Islamic regime on a Christian holiday.

Oh yeah, and he'll look like an idiot. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin lost some of his highly acclaimed popularity when, early last year, Russia experience an extreme vodka shortage. Because whiskey is to Venezuelans what vodka is to Russians, there is just no telling how far down Chavez may go!

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