Tim Padgett at Time has a good comparative overview at defamation laws in Latin America. He has two main conclusions: first, although Venezuela's use of them has the highest profile, they are used by all different types of governments; second, they are counterproductive and make martyrs out of the opposition. He concludes with the following:
There are also hypocrisy factors involved. Conservative governments like Honduras' insist they're on a mission to stop the spread of Cuban-style autocracy in their region — and yet they seem oblivious to how Cuba-like their criminal defamation codes make them look. On the left, Chávez and Correa say they're out to curb insults — and yet Chávez rarely gives a speech that doesn't hurl a caustic catalogue of them at enemies at home and abroad, while the Mexico City think tank Ethos counted 171 separate insults in just 48 of Correa's radio and television broadcasts last year. What's more, many of the leftists in Chávez's government were once victims themselves of criminal defamation laws enforced by the corrupt élite he toppled.
Zuloaga was part of that venal establishment. Which is why it's all the more shameful that Chávez now risks making him a sympathetic victim.