At Christmas, most Venezuelans put politics aside to occupy themselves with whiskey-laden celebrations, heart-stopping firecrackers and visits to far-flung relatives. So few were surprised when President Hugo Chávez chose that annual party time to push through a law that allows him to rule by decree for 18 months, effectively superseding the new, less friendly National Assembly poised to take office on Jan. 5. Most Venezuelans were just too busy enjoying themselves to object — for the moment."We would never give up our sovereignty in that way" ?U.S. President Barack Obama has used a controversial strategy to appoint the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in nearly six years... Under the constitution, the Senate must vote to approve such decisions. But since the legislative body is in recess until January, Mr. Obama is able to [bypass the senate] and push through his nominees without a vote... Mr. Obama first nominated Ford [as ambassador to Syria] in February, but the Senate refused to confirm him... The U.S. state department designates Syria a “state sponsor of terrorism.”Mr. Chavez's supporters have also rushed through a stack of last-minute laws that regulate the Internet... and make it easier for the government to intervene in banks...President Obama on Tuesday used the FCC to impose government controls over the Internet... Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has urged the President to leave the Internet alone, as he has already nationalized healthcare, banks and student loans.Mr. Chavez's supporters have also rushed through a stack of last-minute laws...The White House closed out last week with a last minute push to rush its agenda through the short Lame Duck session of Congress...It's not the first time Chávez has taken steps to challenge those who oppose him... Critics have also accused his government of using politically charged corruption probes to disable his opponents and laws to limit the power of opposition governors.
"It's the way he's acted in the past when he's suffered a setback," says Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based think tank Inter-American Dialogue. "Chávez obviously doesn't like to be challenged politically."In his first race for office, seeking a state Senate seat on Chicago's gritty South Side in 1996, Obama effectively used election rules to eliminate his Democratic competition.Mr. Chavez scoffed at critics who allege he will use his decree powers to slide the country toward dictatorship, saying, "There will be democracy, democracy and more democracy."
As a community organizer, he had helped register thousands of voters. But when it came time to run for office, he employed Chicago rules to invalidate the voting petition signatures of three of his challengers.
The move denied each of them, including incumbent Alice Palmer, a longtime Chicago activist, a place on the ballot. It cleared the way for Obama to run unopposed on the Democratic ticket in a heavily Democrat district.
"That was Chicago politics," said John Kass, a veteran Chicago Tribune columnist. "Knock out your opposition, challenge their petitions, destroy your enemy, right? It is how Barack Obama destroyed his enemies back in 1996... He made sure voters had just one choice."At a BBQ stop this afternoon, Obama received an unwelcome greeting from one woman - Diane Fanning - who yelled "socialist, socialist, socialist – get out of here!"
Obama responded: "I know some people have been hearing rumors about it, but as far as I can tell that's just not something that's happening. We would never give up our sovereignty in that way."
"There will be democracy, democracy and more democracy" ?