After Chavez was granted sweeping powers to rule by decree, Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, stated in an interview with the Associated Press, "The enabling law isn't anything new in Venezuela. It's something valid under the constitution. As with any tool of democracy, it depends how it is used. At the end of the day, it's not a question for the United States or for other countries, but for Venezuela."

Hugo Chavez is the most dangerous man in the Western Hemisphere. I am astonished and dismayed that the State Department is once again failing to take him seriously.

Since he has been in power, Chavez has moved to put Venezuela on a rapid path toward dictatorship. This law gives Chavez nearly unlimited power - power to rule with an iron fist by nationalizing private industries, snuffing out political dissent and abolishing freedom of the press, as most recently evidenced by the revocation of Radio Caracas Television's operating license.

Hugo Chavez is a clear and present danger to the people of Venezuela and indeed the entire Western Hemisphere. We cannot continue to let his actions go unnoticed.