A Historical Election in Venezuela:
Chavez Is Facing His Biggest Threat
Photo : http://www.davegranlund.com
Venezuela is the third world’s oil exporter and has been since 1998 governed by the same man, Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. This military that perpetrated a failed coup d’état against a democratic elected government in 1992 finished right where he always aimed for, Miraflores. Since Chavez took office the country has experienced the oil golden years, prices have increased ten times since 1998, but agricultural activities have reduced by six as well as the public sector imports represent 64% of the total market’s offer. Where is all that oil money then?
Some people would say that social projects have been done, while others would argue that it hasn’t been enough with the huge amount of the oil income since 1998. Many admire Chavez, because he stands against imperialism and the United States mainly. Chavez has strongly criticized the American war policies against Iraq and he made it a symbol in his 2006 UN speech. But no one has dared to ask which oil served in the American planes and tanks to commit that war? It was Venezuelan oil. No matter how much Chavez condemns the United States, the money he uses largely to finance his revolution and its image in the whole world comes directly from the gringos’ checkbook.
The problem is that all that income hasn’t been wisely invested; Venezuela has the biggest inflation in Latin America (22,6% for the first semester of 2012) but salaries are not adapted at the same rhythm. Venezuelans are daily trying to survive the uncontrolled urban violence as well as the anarchical state of traffic in big cities. As for the countryside inhabitants are thankful when the water and electricity supplies are regular, even if it is the governmental responsibility, because the companies were nationalized under Chavez.
The 7th October Hugo Chavez will face a candidate that has for the first time, an important support of the electorate, because Henrique Capriles Radonski was elected by primary elections with 1.8 million votes in February 2012. Capriles Radonski does in some way resemble Chavez back in time; he is young, charismatic and has come far against massive limitations. While the Chavez revolution is at a critical point, as old political parties and institutions were at the end of the 20th century, when Chavez took office. President Hugo Chavez hasn’t been able to renew his project nor to keep the promises he once made. He has said himself during his campaign that he hasn’t been good enough as president, he promised to do better if he’s reelected; but 14 years “hadn’t been enough?” Chavez is running for a 4th period, after he changed the constitution, he once proposed himself, which prohibited that alternative. The constitution was modified in 2009 by popular referendum; after he lost the first one in 2007 he proposed a second one in 2009, which he finally won.
For President Hugo Chavez winning elections has been an easy task. Chavez has even been able to give an electoral legitimacy to his revolution and the constant changes he has undertaken since he took office in 1998. Chavez has given opposition and international observers the illusion of the continuity of democratic institutions in the country, through constant electoral events. This situation reflects certain similarities with the Castro regime in Cuba, which Chavez is very close to. That’s why we asked some young Venezuelans a few questions about this last campaign and democracy in Venezuela.
What has been the most surprising element for you in this last presidential campaign?
Daniel Bolivar: “It definitely has been the change of roles in the speeches. The Chavez side started proposing empty projects with little information, trying to turn Capriles as a “bad cop”. Chavez has made many affirmations to discredit Capriles such as “Capriles is going to put an end to social projects or he’s going to stop paying the pensions to old people”. While on the other side the opposition started talking about concrete projects.”
Manuela Moreno: “It has been a (good) surprise that Capriles is more facts than words. He has been an old-fashioned candidate going from town to town, traveling through the country looking for votes, linking with people and he’s really “talking less and acting more.”
Are you going to vote the 7th October?
Mario Paez: “Of course I’m going to vote, I’ve always done it against Chavez and this time is not going to be the exception, Venezuela needs each one of our votes, it really needs to change.”
How are you going to vote? – With friends, family, alone? What are you doing on the 7th October?
Juan Aparicio: “I’m going to vote with my sister and my grandma, in the morning. I’ll come back home, “get recharged” and I’ll go straight to the voting office in the afternoon so I’ll stay to “watch over my vote”
Daniel Bolivar: “Capriles will definitely win, I doubt Chavez will approach the 45%.”
Mario Paez: “I don’t know is hard to say… but we will have to fight for the truth that’s for sure”
We also asked several of them if voting was a reflection of democracy, one of them answered, “I don’t even know what democracy means anymore”.
In Venezuela there is definitely a democracy de facto and it is the result of a constant play between the frontiers of what is legal and illegal. The main problem stands that the Venezuelan institutions are neither independent nor balanced; even judges, the “Electoral Power” or the Army have distorted visions. The direct consequence is that those in charge to protect civil rights, watch over the respect of results and public order, have already made a pledge of allegiance to Chavez power, the question is will this change 7th October 2012?
 Venezuelan Presidential Palace
 In this speech president Chavez made fun of Mr. George W. Bush (US president of the time) saying that he was the devil, for his actions in Iraq and that he could even smell the sulfur. President Bush spoke the day before in the UN General Assembly in New York.
 Simon Bolivar gave a speech the 4th July 1811 in the Congress (one day before the declaration of Independence of Venezuela) and asked to those who were appealing the calm for the independence process if: “300 years of calm hadn’t been enough?”