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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


The Washington Post on Venezuela

I generally limit myself to commenting on news, not opinions, but I can't resist offering some thoughts on today's editorial in the Washington Post. The Post starts with a claim that was, as most readers know, a widespread one in the corporate media:
Mr. Chavez had proposed to make himself a de facto president for life.
So, evidently, according to the Post, George Washington was a de facto president for life, permitted, as he was, unlimited terms in office. As was John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and on and on, certainly including Franklin D. Roosevelt (who actually was president for life in that he kept being elected until he died in office).

Then the Post adds this:

Remarkably, this revolution was rejected by millions of Mr. Chavez's former supporters, who abstained from voting or switched to the side of Venezuela's long-beleaguered opposition. Just over 4 million supported the constitutional reform, compared with 7 million who voted for Mr. Chavez a year ago.
The bit about "switched to the side of the opposition" is disingenuous. I'm sure there were some individuals who did so, of course, but the actual vote against Chavez in last year's Presidential elections was 4.4 million, and the "no" vote in the referendum got 4.5 million votes, so there was virtually no change on that end. On the other side, the Post is correct; the vote for Chavez himself was 7.1 million, vs. 4.4 million in the referendum. But this does not show that "the revolution was rejected." What it shows is that the referendum was rejected.

The fact is that these were two very different votes. These were two very different votes - one a Presidential election, the other a vote on a very complex series of constitutional changes. It is perfectly possible for a Venezuelan to very much support the direction that Venezuela is heading and to support Chavez as the leader of that process (and indeed, a recent survey shows that quite clearly) , without agreeing with (or even understanding) the complex set of changes that were proposed. And it is quite understandable that such a person, while not willing to vote "no" (knowing that that would be seen as a vote against Chavez and a boost to the opposition), still wouldn't be willing to vote "yes."

Now notice this back-handed compliment and simultaneous slur:

Mr. Chavez deserves credit for accepting his loss. Revealingly, he said he did not want the "pyrrhic victory" of pushing through his constitution against the wishes of the majority. Polls before the vote showed that only about a third of Venezuelans favored the amendments; among those who voted, the reported outcome was 51 percent to 49 percent against.
Why mention the polls? The clear implication is that something was fishy, because polls (allegedly) showed only a third of Venezuelans in support, but the vote showed 49 percent "yes." But that's nonsense on its face. If you were rigging the elections, and boosting your vote by 16 percentage points, surely you could boost it by 17.5 percentage points and claim victory.

Then we have this interesting sentence:

Urban slum dwellers who have supported Mr. Chavez in the past had good reason for second thoughts: Thanks to his crackpot economic policies, milk, eggs, chicken and other staples have been disappearing from stores, and prices are soaring.
Anyone following Venezuela knows that there are at least charges, if not proven facts, that the shortages of items were a provocation from the capitalist class (urged on, without any question, by the United States) to create dissatisfaction, a classic strategy. To claim without proof that these are the result of Chavez' "crackpot economic policies" is just slander, and nonsense as well. What "crackpot policies" is the Post referring to - funneling oil revenues into the social needs of the people of the country?

Finally, "democracy":

Sadly, the outcome will not restore full democracy to Venezuela: Mr. Chavez still controls the legislature, courts, national television and the state oil company, and he retains the authority to rule by decree.
If Hugo Chavez "controlled" all those things and could "rule by decree," why did he bother with a referendum at all? Note, by the way, that the Post omits "media" from its list of things under Chavez' control, knowing it would undermine its argument. The truth, of course, is the exact opposite of what the Post claims. The outcome, and the vote itself, is a demonstration of "full democracy" in Venezuela, something the Post, a leading newspaper in a country where the President can launch wars without even the agreement of Congress, much less the people, wouldn't know anything about.

To end in the Christmas spirit: Bah, humbug!

Update: Statement from the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the United States of America. I'll just quote one sentence, their response to things such as the Post editorial above, as well as statements of the U.S. government:

Venezuela’s electoral system is judged not on how effectively it serves voters, but rather on whether the final results it emits agree with U.S. policy.

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