Hugo Chavez has ordered a draconian restructuring of Venezuela’s intelligence agencies, bringing them under his personal control, increasing domestic spying powers, and levying prison sentences on citizens who decline to cooperate, the New York Times reports. One justice on Venezuela’s top court expressed outrage, calling it “a step toward the creation of a society of informers.”
"This is purely Cuban-style policy,” said one legislator. “Our rulers want to impose old models upon us.” Chavez says critics are de facto supporters of President Bush and the Patriot Act. The latter is a particularly ironic boogeyman, since Chavez’s decree includes electronic spying provisions of the sort protected by the Patriot Act. The Times interprets the move as a Chavez effort to increase his control after constitutional changes to expand his powers were defeated in December.