Okay, something funny happened on the way to the polls in Venezuela yesterday. Not funny ha-ha; funny peculiar. The crapaganda whores seem to have been right in their loopy predictions for a change–it WAS “too close to call” (which it wasn’t the last two times Chavecito or something he’d legislated was put to a popular vote, though the media kept insisting it would be, and that he would lose, when he won by a landslide.) And when the dust settled, the anti-Chavez side apparently had won. Which they haven’t done since 1998.
But in spite of their loud obnoxious celebrations, this is a pyrrhic victory for them. And on a number of points, which I’ll address one by one here.
Firstly: The NO faction didn’t win by much, and according to Tariq Ali, they were better served by confusion and abstention on the part of Chavistas than by any merits of their own:
Hugo Chavez’ narrow defeat in the referendum was the result of large-scale abstentions by his supporters. 44 percent of the electorate stayed at home. Why? First, because they did not either understand or accept that this was a necessary referendum. The measures related to the working week and some other proposed social reforms could be easily legislated by the existing parliament. The key issues were the removal of restrictions on the election of the head of government (as is the case in most of Europe) and moves towards ‘a socialist state.’ On the latter there was simply not enough debate and discussion on a grassroots level.
Another error was the insistence on voting for all the proposals en bloc on a take it or leave it basis. It’s perfectly possibly that a number of the proposals might have got through if a vote on each had been allowed. This would have compelled the Bolivarians to campaign more effectively at grassroots level through organised discussions and debates (as the French Left did to win the argument and defeat the EU Constitution ). It is always a mistake to underestimate the electorate and Chavez knows this better than most.
44 percent is not a small sector of the electorate. It is larger than the actual opposition to Chavez. In his last election (almost one year ago today!), he won by 63% of the vote to Manuel Rosales’s mere 36%. So for that many voters to have abstained, either out of confusion or complacency, is proof that he could have won under different circumstances.
And talk about “different circumstances”: you can’t hurry anything, least of all a profound democratic reform on a whopping 69 constitutional articles. There’s no doubt in my mind that they needed more time to debate what was up for a vote, gain clarification from Chavez and the National Assembly on any points where they were confused, and to be better informed, so that they could make the most of their participatory democracy. (Hey, maybe that NYT toe-sucker Simon Romero was right, after all–albeit not in the way he thought he was.)
And the narrow margin of victory–barely more than a single percentage point–will teach Bolivarian voters to be on their toes in future, and turn out, even if they think victory is assured, next time. If a mere 2% more of the electorate had turned out, this reform would have passed. So just imagine what a full turnout could have done!
Secondly: The very fact that Chavecito has been anything but a sore loser (see for yourself, here) ought to punch a big, fat hole in the “incipient dictator” spin. The fact that all is calm today, there are no riot police out on the street with tear gas and water cannons, no arrests of leading opposition figures, no repressive measures whatsoever, should be proof enough for anyone who fears a “dictator in the making” that they have gotten this guy all wrong and should be feeling pretty damned foolish by now. Real dictators don’t take defeat gracefully, and neither do they recognize the defeat of their proposals as a victory for democracy–both of which Chavecito has done.
Thirdly: There is a big, black cloud over this referendum, and its name is Operation Pliers. We already know that the US State Department has a vested interest in ousting Chavez, and that it has spent millions of US taxpayer dollars (more than $8 million during the past month alone!) through various “pro-democracy” front groups to do just that. We also know that it backed the profoundly antidemocratic coup against him in 2002. And we know that they are definitely sore losers, and they don’t give up easily. We also know that the CIA is in on this. Take a look at the list of tactics Eva Golinger and James Petras have gleaned from a CIA memo intercepted by Venezuelan counterintelligence officials, and tell me if they don’t look awfully familiar based on things that have actually happened during the run-up to this vote:
*Generate a climate of ungovernability
*Engage in a “plan to implode” the voting centers on election day by encouraging opposition voters to “VOTE and REMAIN” in their centers to agitate others
*Start to release data during the early hours of the afternoon on Sunday that favor the NO vote (in clear violation of election regulations)
*Coordinate with ex-military officers and coupsters Pena Esclusa and Guyon Cellis – this will be done by the Military Attache for Defense and Army at the US Embassy in Caracas, Office of Defense, Attack and Operations (DAO)
*Creating an acceptance in the public opinion that the NO vote will win for sure
*Using polling companies contracted by the CIA
*Criticize and discredit the National Elections Council
*Generate a sensation of fraud
*Use a team of experts from the universities that will talk about how the data from the Electoral Registry has been manipulated and will build distrust in the voting system
*Isolating Chavez in the international community
*Seek an alliance between the abstentionists and those who will vote “NO”
*Sustain firmly the propaganda against Chavez
*Execute military actions to support the opposition mobilizations and propagandistic occupations
*Finalize the operative preparations on the US military bases in Curacao and Colombia to provide support to actions in Venezuela
*Control a part of the country during the next 72-120 hours
*Encourage a military rebellion inside the National Guard forces and other components
Okay, some of those haven’t happened (or reports that they have, haven’t surfaced yet), but be on the lookout anyway, and don’t say I didn’t tell you so. I think enough of these things have happened (and hey looky, I made you some linkies in case you need proof!) So the whole list deserves to be taken seriously.
It also bears a remarkable resemblance to the things that happened in ’02, does it not? And we all know how that ended.
Finally: For those who have not yet seen Gillo Pontecorvo’s excellent 1966 movie, The Battle of Algiers–DO. Get the
DVD and watch it to death. Invite all your friends–serve good wine and cheese, discuss, and make a party of it! It is the last word on pyrrhic victories. There is so much in it that one can relate to every imperialist war the US is fighting right now, including the dirty, covert war on Venezuela. The Algerian freedom fighters of half a century ago may have lost the Battle of Algiers, but they ultimately won the fight for Algeria; one might even say they won it before the battle lines were drawn. The same defeat that befell the French imperialists then are in store for their US counterparts now. And whether they try violence and repression, or just a massive “democratic” crapaganda initiative, as the French did by turns in Algeria, it will all go down in failure. Bolivarian Venezuela will win.
Yesterday’s narrow defeat at the polls is just another “por ahora” moment for Chavecito, as he himself said when conceding the result. He’s had worse. He will survive. And even with this undesirable result, he is still out on top. No wonder he was able to accept this setback in good grace.