Hits A Speed Bump
By Stephen Lendman
04 December, 2007
Chavez addressed upwards of a half million supporters on the final day
of campaigning for constitutional reform on December 1. He was confident
of a victory that seemed assured. The turnout was impressive as a sea
of red filled Caracas' main Avenida Bolivar boulevard and spilled over
into adjourning streets. It dwarfed the November 29 final opposition
rally Rupert Murdock's Times online/UK and Fox News estimated at "more
than 100,000" ahead of saying "polls predicted an agonizingly
close result" that referred only to the corporate-run ones. They
turned out to be right.
A day ahead
of the vote, Chavez addressed the joyous crowd saying a "yes"
vote will "open the path to socialism (and is) a vote for Chavez
and the revolution (while) vot(ing) "no" is a vote for Bush.
We are not simply confronting the pawns of imperialism. Our true enemy
is US imperialism (that) will only recognize the results if they win."
article began on Sunday. It intended to say they didn't, but sadly they
did so the struggle continues. It's too early to know what's next after
this crucial election loss on top of the disturbing information James
Petras and Eva Golinger reported in separate articles on November 28
- that Venezuelan counterintelligence uncovered an internal November
20 CIA memorandum from the US Embassy in Caracas. It revealed a secret
plot called "Operations Pliers" to destabilize the referendum
and as Petras put it: "coordinate the civil military overthrow
of the elected Chavez government. The Embassy-CIA polls concede(d) that
57 per cent of voters approved (of Chavez reforms while) predict(ing)
a 60 per cent abstention." They were wrong.
wrote that a CIA-funded "PSYOPS" propaganda campaign was being
waged with over $8 million in the past month for corporate polling firms
to cook their numbers against Chavez, work with the dominant media to
report it and continue a torrent of anti-Chavez scare talk. Petras covered
the same ground and said "Food producers, wholesale and retail
distributors have created artificial shortages of basic food items"
and tried to "sow chaos" by "provok(ing) large scale
Media Left editor, Gary Ghirardi, explained this further. In an email
to this writer, he said: "food shortages....are the result of (elements
of) the military selling food slated for the poorest Venezuelans (in)
Colombia and....the black market" to enrich "unscrupulous
military managers.....The poor are affected by this corruption (and
that took its toll on Chavez's) support base." It helps explain
"why 3 million of the poor....did not go to vote." In December,
2006, 7.3 million Venezuelans voted for Chavez's reelection. This time,
only 4.4 million supported constitutional reform against 4.5 million
reason (for this result was) the complexity of the reform issues"
that required close reading to understand. Many Chavez supporters likely
didn't do it and were easy to sway by corporate media propaganda opposing
them. Gharardi also believes Chavez overestimated the citizenry's "political
education" and may have tried to advance his socialist agenda too
fast. Had reforms been fewer in number, easier to understand, and directed
toward social programs for the poor and community power, he'd likely
have prevailed. These are lessons to be learned for a future round of
social changes sure to come.
face the same stiff opposition and kinds of threats the CIA memo revealed
to counter an expected Chavez win. Some actions were ongoing for weeks,
others were planned (but not used) for election day, and it now remains
to be seen what's ahead. The memo laid it out:
-- more disruptive
and violent street protests;
a "general uprising" and "climate of ungovernability;"
the National Elections Council (CNE) by accusing it of fraud and manipulation
of results; cross out this one for now;
Chavez to isolate him in the international community; and much more
including encouraging a military rebellion and readying US forces in
neighboring Curacao and Colombia to support it.
words, Venezuelans had "a rendezvous with history" on Sunday
to "provide the legal framework for (further democratizing) the
political system, the socialization of strategic economic sectors, (further)
empower(ing) the poor, and provid(ing) the basis for a self-managed
factory system." Winning impressively and avoiding a likely bloodbath
from "a successful US-backed civil-military uprising" prevents
the reversal of "the most promising living experience of popular
self-rule (anywhere), of advanced social welfare and democratically
based socialism." One electoral defeat is disheartening but changes
nothing. Venezuela's struggle for social democracy continues under a
man who's worked nine years to build it. Don't ever count him out or
his strong popular support.
draft of this article was written Sunday under the incorrect topic heading
- Savoring the Triumph. It began:
victory is sweet and Chavistas savored it all night on Caracas streets.
Manana was back to reality and the knowledge that triumph is never secure
as long as an imperial power threatens it. Nine years of social progress
can be erased with a keyboard click the way coup plotters did it on
April 11, 2002 for two days. After deposing Chavez, they repealed the
Bolivarian Constitution, dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme
Court, and dismissed the attorney general and comptroller. Only mass
people power with military support put Chavez back in office. So far,
he's prevailed impressively in every presidential, parliamentary, municipal
and referendum election since December, 1998....until now. Here's the
elected President in December, 1998 with 56.2% of the vote;
-- a national
referendum held in April, 1999 to convene a Constituent Assembly for
a new Constitution won with 71.8% support;
-- a Constituent
Assembly was elected in July, 1999 to draft a new Constitution; Chavez
supporters won a large majority of seats in it;
-- a national
referendum for a new Constitution was held in December, 1999 that was
adopted with 71.9% support;
-- a new
presidential election was held under the new Constitution in July, 2000
reelecting Chavez with 59.8% of the vote;
-- a new
National Assembly was also elected in July, 2000 in which Chavez supporters
won a large majority of seats;
elections were held in December, 2000 with about two-thirds of voters
supporting pro-Chavez parties;
defeated an opposition-called national recall referendum in August,
2004 with 59.3% of the vote;
-- in local
and regional October, 2005 elections throughout the country, Chavez
supporters won in 80% of local authorities and 20 of 22 provincial governments;
Assembly elections were held in December, 2005 in which Chavez's MVR
won a large majority after opposition candidates boycotted the process
in a desperate act knowing they had no chance to win legitimately;
was relected President in December, 2006 with 62.87% support and the
highest voter turnout in Venezuela's history at almost 75%. His victory
topped all presidential elections in US history since the nation's highest
office became contests after 1820 when James Monroe ran practically
elections were judged scrupulously open, free and fair by international
observers from the region, European Union and US-based Carter Center.
About 100 representatives from 39 countries monitored Sunday's vote
in a democratic process unimaginable in the US and in most other countries.
The method used has voters cast ballots twice. They first register their
vote on an electric machine that produces a paper receipt. It's then
placed in a ballot box so the two records can be matched to avoid any
allegations of fraud.
Article 56 of the Bolivarian Constitution states: "All persons
have the right to be registered free of charge with the Civil Registry
Office after birth, and to obtain public documents constituting evidence
of the biological identity, in accordance with law." To implement
it, Chavez launched Mision Itentidad (Mission Identity) in 2003. It
was a mass citizenship and voter registration drive that gave millions
of ordinary Venezuelans national ID cards and full citizenship rights
for the first time. In 1998 before Chavez was elected, less than half
of eligible Venezuelans were registered to vote. In 2000, the number
was 11 million and by September, 2006 it topped 16 million in a country
of 27 million people, and Chavez urges all eligible citizens to vote.
to the tainted US system in which rolls are purged of the kinds of voters
most likely to oppose leading candidates unsympathetic to their interests.
Electronic voting machine manipulation compounds the problem. They provide
no verifiable paper ballot receipts so recounts are impossible. In addition,
millions of votes cast are uncounted that include "spoiled ballots,"
rejected absentee ones, and others lost, ignored or miscounted in the
tabulations. It's because the electoral process was privatized, and
large electronic voting machine companies got unregulated control over
it with everything to gain if candidates they support win.
happen under Chavez because the system was designed to prevent it. It's
not perfect, but the National Electoral Council (CNE) is an independent
body, separate from the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches
or any private corporate interests. None of its members are appointed
by the President to assure free, fair and open elections in the true
spirit of democracy rarely as evident anywhere.
reform referendum the twelfth election since the first one electing
Chavez President in December, 1998. Until now, he won them all impressively
because he's a rare politician, dedicated to his people and keeps the
promises he makes. One electoral defeat changes nothing. The struggle
for social democracy continues. It's never smooth going.
Long Caracas Night After A Calm Voting Day Despite Fears of Opposition-Staged
smoothly overall on Sunday despite early warnings of planned opposition-led
disruptions. Polls were scheduled to close at 4:00PM but were kept open
as long as people were still queued in lines. Things were tense late
in the day when Reuters reported at 6:34PM that "Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez appear(s) headed for victory on Sunday....citing exit polls.
Three exit polls showed the anti-American leader won by between six
and eight percentage points in a vote where turnout was low. The opposition
was skeptical," and they were right. Reuters, Sky News, Fox News
and China News all reported Chavez appeared to have won.
It was unofficial
because polls were still open, and at 8:00PM no exit poll figures or
government results had been released. Official ones based on about 92%
of votes counted from Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) finally
came on Bloques A and B at 1:15AM. Venezuelapress.com reported them
A: No - 50.70%; Si (Yes) - 49.29%;
B: No - 51.05%; Si (Yes) - 48.94%;
votes cast: 9,002,439 with 118,693 unvalidated. Turnout was about 55%
compared to 75% in last December's presidential election.
is in stark contrast to a widely quoted Consultores independent poll
conducted from November 26 - 30 that showed among likely voters Chavez
would win with 56% against 44% voting "no." The same poll
showed among all respondents Chavez led 55% to 42%. It and others with
similar recent results were wrong as Chavez suffered his first electoral
defeat in nearly nine years in office. It turned out that many of his
supporters were swayed by opposition claims that he'd gone too far and
voted "no." Many others didn't vote, and that was the likely
decisive factor as it appears most were Chavez supporters.
December 3, Reuters corrected its earlier report. From Caracas it said:
"President Hugo Chavez crashed to an unprecendented vote defeat
(announced) on Monday as Venezuelans narrowly rejected his bid to run
for re-election indefinitely and accelerate his socialist revolution
in the OPEC nation....Chavez conceded defeat but said he would "continue
in the battle to build socialism....This is not a defeat. This is a
'for now.' I have listened to the voice of the people and I will always
be listening to it" as he referred to the opposition's "pyrrhic
He was also
gracious in defeat saying: "To those who voted against my proposal,
I thank them and congratulate them." He told his supporters: "Don't
feel sad. For now, we couldn't do it. I will not withdraw even one comma
of this proposal, this proposal is still alive." He also told reporters
"Venezuelan democracy is maturing (and) I understand and accept
that the proposal I made was quite profound and intense."
his opponents were gloating, but one pollster struck a positive note
saying: "This defeat has two sides to it for Chavez. He came out
the loser after a tough plebiscite campaign but he also gets rid of
the accusation that he is a dictator." Chavez earlier said and
repeated he would accept the results of the vote, and he stands by his
word. It proved the process is open, free and fair unlike elections
in many other so-called democracies that aren't. The struggle indeed
continues with powerful popular support backing it.
Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen
to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com
Mondays at noon US Central time.
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