The situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, both politically and economically. According to media reports, government inspectors and police raided stores to enforce sweeping price cuts imposed in response to Zimbabwe's soaring inflation, while shoppers fought over rapidly disappearing staples at supermarkets. Gasoline prices were ordered reduced by seventy percent, and, as a result, gas stations quickly ran dry. The government has threatened to close businesses defying its order to halve prices, accusing them of working to topple President Robert Mugabe.
The citizens of Zimbabwe now endure the world's highest inflation. Zimbabwe's official inflation rate is four-thousand-five-hundred percent, but independent financial institutions calculate the real inflation on essential goods as closer to ten-thousand percent. Critics blame Zimbabwe's destructive economic policies that have enriched Mugabe's party cronies while gutting the economy and impoverishing most Zimbabweans.
President Mugabe's government has also cracked down on his political opponents. Since March, hundreds of members of the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change have been arrested, abducted, and tortured.
President George W. Bush has listed Zimbabwe as among "the world's worst dictatorships," along with Belarus, Burma, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan.
While one virtue of democracy is that it reflects local history and traditions, says Mr. Bush, there are fundamental things that all democracies share. These include freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly; rule of law enforced by independent courts; private property rights; and political parties that compete in free and fair elections.
These rights and institutions, says Mr. Bush, "are the foundation of human dignity." The people of Zimbabwe deserve an end to repression and government-induced poverty, and a chance to begin enjoying the benefits of political and economic liberty.