Sunday, October 02, 2005

"An excess of democracy" 

Read any of the right wing press, whether in the U.S. or Venezuela, and you will hear president Chavez referred to as a “despot”, “dictator”, “strongman”, or other similar pejorative terms. But worse than being pejorative, these terms are highly inaccurate. After all they are using these terms on someone who not only heads a completely free country but also a duly elected government . A government, in fact, that has legitimized itself at the polls time and time again.

Categorizing the Venezuelan government in this way is not only aimed at prejudicing world opinion against Chavez but also splitting other nascent popular governments, such as those in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, from a natural ally. Fortunately, this propaganda offensive seems to not be working. Witness the response of the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, when asked about the nature of the Venezuelan government:

“here during my presidential campaign they tried to demonize Chavez. Those who opposed me said that people shouldn’t vote for Lula because he is going to do the same as Chavez in Venezuela... I don’t know if South America has ever had an democratic experience like Venezuela’s: a president that wins elections, has a new constitution drafted and holds a referendum on it. Holds that referendum and wins another round of elections. No one can accuse Venezuela have not having democracy. In fact you could even say that Venezuela has had an excess of democracy”

To see what Lulu is referring to lets look at the elections behind Chavez’s mandate:

In the 1998 Presidential Elections Chavez won with 56% of the vote:

Chavez 3,673,685 votes

Salas Romer 2,613,161 votes

Immediately upon taking office Chavez proposed creating a Constituent Assembly to re-make Venezuela’s system of government and constitution. In the referendum on this issue the votes were:

In favor of creating a Constituent Assembly 3,500,746 votes (92.35%)

Opposed to creating a Constituent Assembly 289,781 votes (7.64%)

After it was drafted a referendum was held to approve the new constitution. The results were:

In favor of adopting the new constitution 2,982,395 votes (71.37%)

Opposed to adopting the new constitution 1,196,146 votes (28.63%)

Given that the system of government had been re-made new elections were held in 2000 for President and for the new National Assembly. The vote in the new Presidential election was:

Hugo Chavez 3,757,773 votes (60.3%)

Arias Cardenas 2,359,459 votes (37.5%)

Lastly, a presidential recall referendum was held after the opposition gathered enough signatures to invoke one [the Venezuelan constitution provides for Presidents and some other office holders to have their mandates revoked half way through their terms through special referendums]. The voting in the Recall Referendum was:

Not wanting Chavez’s mandate revoked: 5,800,629 (59.25%)

Wanting Chavez’s mandate revoked: 3,989,008 (40.75%)

As can be seen Chavez has been tested time and time again at the polls. With less than 7 years in office Chavez himself has been voted on 3 times – or a little less than once every two years. Would anyone argue that someone should have to stand for election more frequently than that? I think not. And next year Chavez will stand for election yet again.

This “excess of democracy” and the facts behind should be kept in mind the next time your local right wing shill starts making statements about Chavez being a dictator.


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