Hugo Chavez is beaten back
on his "president for life" vote, and Venezuela dodges the dictator bullet ... for now. TIME Magazine has an odd headline, containing the seemingly inappropriate word "reforms
that he's trying to form a dictatorship, but unfortunately, his plan to remain president until the year 2050 speaks to a different reality. The result of the vote is good news for the Bushies:
Chavez told reporters at the presidential palace that the outcome of Sunday's balloting had taught him that ''Venezuelan democracy is maturing.'' His respect for the verdict, he asserted, proves he is a true democratic leader.
''From this moment on, let's be calm,'' he said, urging that there be no more street violence like the clashes that marred pre-vote protests. ``There is no dictatorship here.''
Sunday night's result seems to indicate that Chávez overreached in seeking the right to run for reelection indefinitely and buttress his political affinity with Cuba, even as he remained personally popular with voters.
The outcome will undoubtedly be cheered within the Bush administration and in Spain, Colombia and Peru. Chávez has called President Bush the ''devil,'' Colombian President Alvaro Uribe a ''lackey'' of the United States and Peruvian President Alan Garcia a ''thief.'' He demanded in the days before the referendum that Spanish King Juan Carlos apologize for having told him last month to ``shut up.''
Conversely, the political leadership in Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, Chávez's three closest allies in Latin America, will undoubtedly mourn the result.
The outcome weakens Chávez's hand at home and abroad, and marks the emergence of two potentially formidable political foes: university student leaders who galvanized the opposition and retired Gen. Raúl Isaías Baduel, who once was one of Chávez's closest collaborators as defense minister but became a harsh critic of the proposed changes.
And as to why Chavez has been successful up to now ... it's because dictatorial socialism is attractive to a usually unrepresented cohort: the poor. But at the end of the day, the individual will almost always rebels. (Just as the French):
A victory would have given Chávez nearly absolute political power in Venezuela and allowed him to continue nationalizing privately owned companies, giving money to the poor, aiding political allies in Latin America, strengthening his alliance with communist Cuba and sharpening his conflict with Washington -- even though his country is the fourth biggest supplier of oil to the United States.
Chávez and his political allies already control Venezuela's Congress, the Supreme Court, the judicial system and 20 of 22 governorships.
With the defeat, Chávez is still scheduled to remain president until 2013. But Hans Dietrich, a political guru for Chávez based in Mexico, has said that defeat in the referendum might force him to call new elections.
It turned out that many Chávez supporters refused to support him this time.
''I have always voted for Chávez, but he wants a dictatorship like Cuba,'' said Algimiro Polanco, a 56-year-old bus driver, after he voted in the Caricuao neighborhood in Caracas. ``I don't want the government to take my small house. It's mine.''
Don't congratulate Washington just yet, however. The U.S. gets more oil from Venezuela (15%) than we do from Saudi Arabia (about 5%), and Caracas is still leaning toward China and other markets in order to wrestle its resources out of American hands.
Hey, perhaps the press should seek comment from one of VZ's consultants, Mr. Giuliani, whose firm represents state-owned Citgo? Rudy has many of the same dictatorial impulses as Chavez, particularly when it comes to absolute control. Sorry for that nonsequitor. I couldn't resist...
Labels: democracy, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela