Hugo Chávez plans to send tanks into the streets if his candidates don't win in this Sunday's elections.
In recent weeks he has begun threatening to use the military against his own population in states where his municipal and gubernatorial candidates are defeated. On a trip to the state of Carabobo last week, for example, he told voters, "If you let the oligarchy return to government then maybe I'll end up sending the tanks of the armored brigade out to defend the revolutionary government." Just as troubling are the president's declarations that in states where his candidates are not elected, he will withhold federal funding.
Venezuelans saw this coming. From his earliest days as president in 1999, Mr. Chávez began working to destroy any checks on his power. On April 11, 2002, after weeks of street protests against this effort, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marched again in Caracas. Nineteen people were shot dead in the streets by government supporters. When Mr. Chávez asked the military to use force against the crowd, the generals refused and instead told him he had to step aside.
One might think that all Americans would have supported the demand to stop the bloodshed. But Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd threw a fit over Mr. Chávez's removal. The self-styled Latin America expert insisted that since Mr. Chávez had been initially "democratically elected" in a fair vote, he should have been immune from challenges to his power, no matter the abuses. To this day the senator calls the event a U.S.-backed coup, even though a State Department Inspector General's report found that the charge was false. Even the Organization of American States accepted the change in power.