Monday, August 16, 2004


Preliminary result—Chavez Survives Recall

The president of the National Election Council has just announced a preliminary count of "No" (Chavez) 58%, "Yes" (anti-Chavez) 42%. Two members of the 5-person council, anti-Chavez supporters, have refused to back the result, saying that certain "procedural checks had not been carried out on the results as required."

After the first extension, the polls had been kept open an additional 4 hours to close at midnight, Caracas time.

La hora de la chucurrucuticas

At 12:45 Francisco Toro, a former freelance journalist and an opposition Ph.D. economics student was writing in his blog "Caracas Chronicles,"

Past midnight, and the mood in the opposition is exhultant. The real question now is how the government will deal with the staggering defeat they're being dealt. Will they grin and bear it, or are there more tricks to come?

UnionRadio reports that President Carter has just left Opposition headquarters at the Tamanaco Hotel headed towards the National Electoral Council. This is crunch time, la hora de la chucurrucuticas. The next few hours are critical.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, when all is said and done, we'll have to choose a major Caracas street to rename Avenida Presidente Carter...

The question is, how is he going to deal with a "staggering defeat"? Toro seems an honest, if disingenuous, sort. In his post on Friday he wrote,

Today, I have serious doubts that the Batequebrao Squad is really up to running the country. But looking at the image's of yesterday's march, I can see that the country has changed, decisively, over the last 6 years. If the "Si" wins and the regime changes, the conductors will not be able to break free of the leaders, because the leaders will be only too aware that it is them (i.e. US!) who put them in power. The era of closed-doors elite decisionmaking is over - the leaders have realized that the conductors work for them, not the other way around. [my emphasis]

Do I have a bridge to sell this guy, or what?

So if you're following this election, as I am, into the wee morning hours and are waiting for the next tidbit of news, you might while away the time by reading James Petras' "Venezuela's Referendum: The Truth About Jimmy Carter".

On the importance of this election:

On August 14, 2004, Venezuelan voters will decide on a referendum, which has the utmost world historic and strategic significance. What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the energy world, the relations between the US and Latin America (particularly Cuba), and the political and socio-economic fate of millions of Venezuela's urban and rural poor.

On the consequences of an opposition takeover:

If Chavez is defeated and if the Right takes power, it will privatize the state petroleum and gas company, selling it to US multinationals, withdraw from OPEC, raise its production and exports to the US, thus lowering Venezuelan revenues by half or more. Internally the popular health programs in the urban "ranchos" will end along with the literary campaign and public housing for the poor. The agrarian reform will be reversed and about 500,000 land reform recipients (100,000 families) will be turned off the land. This will be accomplished through extensive and intensive state bloodletting, jailing and extrajudicial assassination, and intense repression of pro-Chavez neighborhoods, trade unions and social movements. The apparently "democratic" referendum will have profoundly authoritarian, colonial and socially regressive results if the opposition wins.

Some features of this election—getting the poor out to vote; having a meaningful distinction in the choices that the vote represents—make it one of the most dramatic and inspiring elections any of us have seen for a while. Now, why do I keep thinking of Chile? What was it about Chile?

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