“Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.” In Venezuela these days, that venerable saying could be morphed to, “Give Hugo a company, and he’ll take the industry.” Not content with RCTV, Chavez is gunning for one of the last independent voices in Venezuela.

President Hugo Chávez is trying to whip up public support to close down Globovision, the remaining Venezuelan television channel critical of his administration.

Chávez has called Globovision “an enemy of the Venezuelan people,” and fervent government supporters want the national tax office to investigate the station. Hundreds of them rallied outside of Globovision last month.

The threats against Globovision come less than a year after Chávez knocked RCTV, the country’s most popular television station, off the commercial airwaves. RCTV had broadcast unflattering news coverage of Chávez for years.

Alberto Ravell, a Globovision part owner who runs the 24-hour news channel, has come under personal attack.

“Ravell: Fascist, coup plotter, murderer, liar,” read signs held by Chávez supporters at one of the president’s speeches late last year.

One thought is that Chavez won’t really nail Globovision because, as Ravell notes, he needs the station as a foil; someone to blame and accuse. In fact, just accusing them of being an enemy of the people and reducing their credibility with rhetoric may be all he needs to do to marginalize them and effectively take them out of, or minimize their impact on, the equation.

Another thought is that Chavez is looking for a distraction from the (predictable) shortages that his utopia is failing to curb.

The tension between the news station and Chávez comes as the leftist president appears to have lost some of his popular support.

The pollster Datos, in a quarterly survey of 2,000 Venezuelans last month, found that some 34 percent said they support Chávez’s government, down from a high of 67 percent in early 2005, and the lowest level since 2003, the Associated Press reported.

Another survey, by Venezuelan pollster Alfredo Keller, found that 37 percent of Venezuelans queried identified themselves as Chávez supporters in February, down from 50 percent in mid-2007, AP reported.

I honestly hope that the Venezuelan people are turning against Chavez for something other than just not enough “free” amenities from this socialist experiment. Hopefully, this dose of authoritarianism, along with Chavez’s penchant to blame everything else but his economic policies, will help the people to see what a mistake they made.

But one of the most dangerous things in the world is an authoritarian who feels like he’s losing his authority. I am concerned for them.

Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes.

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