From Russia With Tough Love
Earlier today, news surfaced of a get-well letter sent by Russian president and ex-KGB superstar Vladimir Putin to ailing autocrat Hugo Chavez of Caracastan.
No need to scratch your head about this. It's just the tip of the iceberg. Forget that stupid show "American Idol." How about a new one: "Latrine American Idol"?
As it turns out, Vlad "the Bare-Chested Impaler" might wipe out the competition. Vlad is quite the star and role model for all actual and aspiring autocrats in Latrine America. And he is not cozying up to tyrants around the globe merely because Russia wants oil, or military bases, or dupes to whom Russians can sell their inferior armaments.
The guy actually belongs to the same club as all of those cretins, or so it seems. And he might be competing with Prince Raul of Castrogonia for the title of "Most repressive tyrant mistaken for a benevolent reformist plutocrat." Thus far, however, Prince Raul is way, way ahead of all competitors in this category -- without the use of performance-enhancing substances. Lance Armstrong, eat your heart out.
Russia's 2012 crackdown worst since Soviet era
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Authoritarianism increased last year in Russia to levels unseen since the Soviet era with a raft of harsh laws curbing political freedoms and harassment of opposition activists and critics, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
The crackdown coincided with the return of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin and the appointment of his predecessor and protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, as prime minister, according to the New York-based group.
"Since Putin's return ... not only has the tentative shift towards liberalization of the Medvedev era been totally reversed, but also authoritarianism in Russia has reached a level unknown in recent history," said Rachel Denber, deputy director of the group's Europe and Central Asia Division.
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow accompanying the publication of its annual report on human rights worldwide, Denber also criticized the government's stance toward the West.
Since Putin started a six-year term in May, he has signed laws restricting protests, demanding foreign-funded non-governmental organizations register as "foreign agents," and setting new rules on treason that critics say could place almost anyone who associates with foreigners at risk of prosecution.
Several opposition leaders and activists face potential prison terms if convicted on charges Putin's critics say are trumped up. The president's spokesman has denied the Kremlin uses courts and police to pressure critics.
"Measures to intimidate critics and restrict Russia's vibrant civil society have reached unprecedented levels," Hugh Williamson, director of HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division, said in a statement.
"Pressure and reprisals against activists and non-governmental organizations need to stop."
"This has been the worst year for human rights in Russia in recent history," he said of 2012. The statement said the Kremlin "unleashed the worst political crackdown" since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
On Thursday evening, Moscow police dispersed protesters and detained about 30 activists who tried to demonstrate for the right to free assembly, which they say is routinely violated by the government.
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