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Caribbean Crackdowns: A Really Bad Week For Democracy, Free Enterprise

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A woman walks by a wall sign in Caracas made from Venezuelan currency that in Spanish says: "The constituent assembly is a fraud."

Fears of a dictatorship forming in Venezuela seemed borne out early Tuesday  when the government hauled opposition leaders to jail. But this is shaping up to be a bad week for democracy and free enterprise across the Caribbean.

Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolás Maduro, had promised to jail many of his opponents once a new constituent assembly was elected on Sunday. That body will now rewrite Venezuela’s constitution to give Maduro sweeping new executive powers that critics call a dictatorship.

True to his word, Maduro had police round up Venezuelan opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma. Both were reportedly sent to prison in Caracas.

It was a chilling reminder of what most of the international community expects to come in Venezuela: a one-party, Cuba-style regime. And as if to remind the world what that means, Cuban leader Raúl Castro weighed in hours later with an authoritarian crackdown in his own country.

Cuba’s communist government announced it’s suspending new licenses for many businesses in the island’s fledgling private sector. Analysts say that’s largely because the regime fears free enterprise has gotten too big and independent in Cuba – and therefore a political threat.

Castro officials had already begun closing down some businesses in recent weeks for supposedly violating government regulations - or, as many Cuba watchers suggested, for being too successful.