Chomsky to Chavez: Don't spoil Venezuelan democracy

MIT professor, old time friend of Chavez, claims Venezuelan president unnecessarily tightening his grip on Caracas government.

Noam Chomsky (photo credit: Reuters)
Noam Chomsky
(photo credit: Reuters)
American Jewish intellectual Noam Chomsky, author of  last week told the  Guardian that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has too much power and is making an "assault" on the country's democracy.
"Concentration of executive power, unless it's very temporary and for specific circumstances, such as fighting World War II, is an assault on democracy. You can debate whether [Venezuela's] circumstances require it: Internal circumstances and the external threat of attack, that's a legitimate debate. But my own judgment in that debate is that it does not," Chomsky told The Observer, the Guardian's weekend paper.
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Chomsky, who just last month won Australia's Sydney Peace Prize “for inspiring the convictions of millions about a common humanity and for unfailing moral courage,” said that Latin American rulers must always be weary of authoritarianism, and warned that Venezuela may have already gone "too far in that direction."
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] professor accused Venezuelan authorities of "cruelty" over the imprisonment of judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, urging Chavez to free her in "a gesture of clemency" for the sake of human rights.
Alfuni, 47, was jailed after she freed prominent banker Eligio Cedeño in December 2009 despite his facing corruption charges. Chavez, who had "taken a close interest in the case, called Alfuni a criminal and demanded her imprisonment for 30 years.
The judge spent over a year in jail, and was moved to house arrest pending a trial over corruption charges. Chomsky, who lobbied the Venezuelan government for her release, wrote that "[Alfani] has been subject to acts of violence and humiliations to undermine her human dignity. I am convinced that she must be set free."
Meanwhile, in Caracas on Sunday Chavez's supporters rallied and prayed for the speedy recovery of a man whose revelation of cancer treatment has rocked the country he has dominated for more than a decade.
Dozens chanted "We love Chavez!" at a service in the capital's largest slum, Petare. At a downtown square, red-shirted supporters danced, sang, waved flags and held puppets of Chavez aloft in a lively show of support.
JTA and Reuters contributed to this report.