And democracy wins, by a hair

From Venezuela, apparently just enough voters looked into the abyss and were afraid:

Venezuelans, by the slimmest of margins, rejected a constitutional referendum that would have allowed President Hugo Chavez to seek re-election indefinitely and tightened socialism’s grip on the oil-rich Latin American nation.

By 51 percent to 49 percent, voters shot down a referendum that included 69 proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution, according to Monday reports from the National Electoral Council. In all, 9 million of Venezuela’s 16 million eligible voters went to the polls.

“Don’t feel sad. Don’t feel burdened,” Chavez told supporters after the results were announced.

In Washington, the White House applauded the vote.

“We congratulate the people of Venezuela on their vote and their continued desire to live in freedom and democracy,” said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Thousands of Venezuelans gathered in the streets of Caracas, many of them university students who worked to defeat the measure, and burst into singing their country’s national anthem upon hearing the news.

Chavez, of course, has proven himself crazy like a fox, so one can only wonder what his next step will be.

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Comments

  1. Trimegistus says

    No need to wonder — Chavez has been warming up the “CIA Conspiracy” meme for weeks now. In a few days he’ll announce there was vote fraud and start arresting “CIA Conspirators.”

  2. says

    I just wonder what stopped Chavez from stuffing the ballot boxes and claim victory anyway. Then again, in 1934 at the 18th Party Congress Stalin was not elected the General Secretary. The guy elected was named Sergey Kirov. Kirov was convinced to graciously decline the honor, and Stalin remained the General Secretary. A year later Kirov was mysteriously assassinated by the “enemies of the people”, which precipitated the start of the “big terror” of the late 1930s in the Soviet Union. Very few of the delegates to that Part Congress survived.
    So we might yet see the repeat of that “big terror” in Venezuela.
    Eric.

  3. sherlock says

    I am amazed this has happened. How did a dictator like Chavez allow this? I second the comment I saw elsewhere that speculated that the “reform” proposals must have actually been crushed by a wide margin, if Chavez could not find a way to change the outcome, or did not feel he dared to.

    And where was the friend of dictators everywhere, Jimmy Carter? Was he on call to certify the results, or did he steer clear of this one?

  4. fporretto says

    Don’t assume that the Chavistas didn’t stuff the ballot boxes, Eric. I would bet my savings that they stuffed ‘em like Thanksgiving turkeys, until they could hold no more. But the pre-referendum polls showed 70% of the respondents were against the “reform” propositions. Apparently the boxes just couldn’t hold enough fraudulent votes.

    Watch for a return of these “reform” proposals…and lots bigger ballot boxes.

  5. SGT Dave says

    All,
    Chavez stuffed as many boxes as he could, but there were international observers in several areas and the count room. He’s facing a revolution soon – he’s already drained so much money from their economy and is in the process of wrecking the oil industry. The big picture is much worse than it looks; the infrastructure has not been maintained and their production is falling by over 10% yearly because of that issue (I don’t have the references at hand – from an oil industry paper, open source, regarding Citgo operations and earnings). He’s supporting the FARC, hiring Cuban mercenaries and doctors at top dollar (pumping money into Cuba), and has forced outside investment away from Venezuela. The big beneficiary of this is Brazil; their new oil field will find plenty of US/Euro investors because of the void left by Chavez’ nationalization of private oil industry assets.
    Venezuela can’t just ship their oil anywhere, either. Their tanker fleet and port facilities are not suitable for blue-water operations to Europe or Asia; they are tied to the Americas and more specifically to the refineries on the US gulf coast. This is why he hasn’t stopped selling oil and gasoline to the US; no other market is available.
    Chavez is stealing Venezuela blind; if Brazil opens up their oil field he will lose what little support he has in the region as other nations will move away from him to purchase oil from a more stable source.
    All in all, Chavez is on a short clock. Unemployment is at a near all-time high in Venezuela, professionals – especially doctors and lawyers – are fleeing the country in record numbers, and there is little or no foreign capital rolling in to offset the hard currency he is paying to Cuba to keep his health care and police forces staffed and working.
    I’m going to sit back and enjoy the show; Chavez is going to fall in 2-5 years, maybe less depending on how many elections he tries to rig. If this one had passed, Caracas would have been burning.
    Be patient; this one has been falling apart since 2003. My number in the office pool is Jan 09 – I figure student riots will bring him down after another year of posturing.
    All the best,
    SGT Dave
    “If at first you don’t succeed, try high explosives.”

  6. says

    SGT Dave,
    Excellent analysis. However, the symptoms you are describing were present in Russia/Soviet Union in the 1920s, yet the Communist regime did not collapse. The reason was that it was ruthless enough to kill off all the opposition. For a totalitarian regime there is that “happy point” where they keep people afraid enough and fed enough, so that they don’t revolt. The further they along, the less likely it is that people would try to overthrow the regime. The examples are North Korea and Cuba.
    Let’s see what will happen. I still think that we might see Stalin’s terror repeated in Venezuela.
    Eric.

  7. SGT Dave says

    Eric,
    You are correct about Soviet Russia and the current regimes in Cuba and North Korea. However, the largest difference between these nations and Venezuela has to do with border security and internal security measures. The land borders of Venezuela are largely undefendable and Chavez does not have the money or manpower to close them. Stalin, Castro and Kim Il-Jong had the ability to isolate their people through their geographic regions. If the Kulaks could have moved around easily, they would have fled. As it is, certain resources (doctors, lawyers, and engineers) are fleeing Venezuela in droves. Chavez is unable to stop them and will be unable to stop their families from leaving as well.
    Also note that Chavez is having to use Cubans as his personal security and as the source of military personnel for the government in Caracas. He doesn’t (and can’t) trust his own military – they do not like him and will not bend to the tactics necessary.
    It is still in flux, but the lack of will among native Venezuelan security troops and the resentment of the Cubans should short-circuit Chavez’ plans.
    I want to be somewhere where I can sit with a bottle of Glenfiddich and watch the fireworks. Sigh.

    SGT Dave
    “Wastin’ away again out in Kosovo.”

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