Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chavez leads Venezuela vote, opposition makes gains

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's left-wing party won most state races in elections on Sunday, shoring up his dominance in much of the OPEC nation, but the opposition scored victories in important power centers.

Chavez's Socialist Party won in 17 of 20 states with another two races too close to call, the national electoral authority said early on Monday.

The multi-party opposition held onto the two states it won at the last regional elections four years ago and wrested from the government control of the state metropolitan area around Caracas as well as the mayoralty of the capital.

The results in tight races in Venezuela's remaining two states were due to be announced later on Monday.

Sunday's results could make more challenging Chavez's goal of pushing through legal reforms that would allow him to run for reelection, especially after Venezuelans narrowly rejected the move last year in a referendum.

The anti-U.S. leader's party immediately declared victory, although there was not the usual explosion of celebrations around Caracas that have followed other election wins.

The opposition can point to its gains too, and will seek to use its momentum in the capital to stifle the president's ambitions to run for reelection in 2012.

The opposition fended off an aggressive Chavez campaign and retained control of the oil-producing state of Zulia, the country's most populous.

Combined with victories in the capital against veteran Chavez aides, the opposition now holds sway over major urban areas that will be pivotal in future elections. It also held on to the Caribbean tourist island state of Nueva Esparta.

Chavez, who calls former Cuban President Fidel Castro his mentor, cast Sunday's vote as crucial to his political future.

Popular for spending oil wealth on the majority poor, Chavez frenetically campaigned at rallies of redshirted supporters across a nation that he has allied with Iran and Russia despite being a top oil supplier to the United States.

Chavez also faces tough economic times ahead.

Venezuela's government relies on oil for more than 50 percent of its income and the value of crude has plummeted about $100 per barrel since July. (Editing by Kieran Murray)

The other stories I noticed said, in effect, "The opposition devastated Chavez by winning five regions. Chavez only won 17, and they just had peasants in them."
Hi Karl,

I purposely waited until I saw PBS's Frontline about Hugo Chavez last night to respond to your comment.

As it turns out I'm even more perplexed now. Though not really in the sense that government and media wise, I know that unless I experience it directly, it's propaganda.

All Good Things,
After reading that piece, you would think the opposition won overwhelmingly. They got crushed. Think if the results had been reversed. Keep in mind that Chavez lost the previous referendum because of voter apathy, not because the opposition is appealling.
Hi Anonymous -

I don't have a lot of time anymore to focus on S.A. That Frontline was not complimentary of Hugo....

I have no idea what goes on down there but for what I direct experience.

Who knows? Not me.

All Good Things,

Foreign Intervention Won The Venezuelan Elections
December 3rd 2008, by Eva Golinger

Years of work penetrating communities and financing "democracy" programs and projects with an anti-socialist vision in the communities of Petare, Sucre Municipality of Miranda State, and Catia, Libertador Municipality in Caracas, and in other zones where the vast majority of the population of Caracas and Miranda is located, allowed the opposition to retake control of these areas. The strategic political consultation, with its separatist vision and in favor of the infiltration of paramilitaries in Zulia and Tachira, allowed these areas that are of such importance to the security of the Venezuelan state to be controlled by an opposition that is subordinate to the agenda of Washington and the objectives of Plan Colombia that plague the region.

It's not just the 4.7 million dollars invested in the opposition's campaign for the regional elections in 2008 by the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and their affiliated agencies, but also the 50 million dollars, along with expert political consultation, donated by the US and used since 2000 to construct a solid base of the Venezuelan opposition, who, beginning in 2004, began to set their sights on infiltrating communities supportive of Chavez as well as students.

Still, we can't rule out or ignore the responsibility of certain politicians who used the revolution and the good faith of President Chavez to come to power and then abused it with their corrupt practices that hurt the people they represented. But the media campaign that blames the Pro-Chavez movement for crime and corruption in the in the country – mainly in the large capital city of Caracas – had a major impact, and the local and national government didn't respond effectively. The short memory of those Venezuelans who forgot how the mayor-elect, Antonio Ledezma, governed as mayor of the Federal District in 1993 when he prohibited any protest or rally in the city. Or how Ledezma was one of those responsible for the deterioration of public services in the city, along with its infrastructure. As a result, the Chavista elected officials of 2000 and 2004 inherited a capital city in total ruin – the historic center almost destroyed, streets full of potholes and buildings stained after being forgotten and abandoned for years. Could the same mayor who destroyed the city 15 years ago be the one to save it now? Only time will tell, but the odds are slim and the unfortunate short-term memory of some Caraqueños will make them to pay for their impulsive decision.

The most strategic and populated states of the country, Carabobo, Miranda, Tachira, Zulia, and the metropolitan mayor of Caracas, have been handed like a prize to the same political players who, in the last seven years, have carried out attacks against Venezuelan democracy, including a coup d'état (all of these new elected officials were top leaders in the coup d'état of April 2002), the economic sabotage that almost destroyed the country and its petroleum industry in 2002-2003, and the numerous protests and attempts to destabilize since then that have tested the patience of Venezuelan society. Why then did these important regions fall back in the hands of coup-plotters?

The answer is simple and complex at the same time. There is a lack of understanding within the revolution about the importance and about the impact of subversion and the interference of foreign agencies in the country. We aren't just talking about the financing of opposition political parties – something that should be strictly prohibited by law – but a complex web of different actors, entities, front groups, and agencies that have managed to infiltrate the ranks of the pro-Chavez movement, and have been able to snag and remove political parties like PPT (Homeland for All) and Podemos (We can), which previously sided fully with the revolution. This web – which I call the Empire's Spider Web – also penetrates communities and barrios and promotes alternative projects and programs to those proposed by President Chavez that may be more attractive in the short term, providing instant satisfaction to these needy sectors.

These foreign agencies, like the aforementioned USAID and the NED, and others such as Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany), FAES (Spain), FOCAL (Canada), Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Germany), among others, have been working in Venezuela for years, advising and financing parties such as Primero Justicia (Justice First), Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Era), and Podemos to help them create political platforms and strategies that reflect the needs and wants of the Venezuelan people, but maintain a hidden agenda that promotes a neo-liberal, anti-socialist vision. Remember that we are in a battle of ideas and in this war without a battlefield all weapons within reach are employed to neutralize the enemy.

The work of these agencies has also been extremely effective with the NGOs and within right-wing student groups, such as Súmate, Cedice, Hagamos Democracia, Sinergia, "White Hands" student movement, and others. With this help, these groups have taken over sectors of society that have been neglected by the revolution, if not forgotten entirely.

The ability and effectiveness of foreign interference, like an imperial fist, cannot be underestimated. The strategy of "promoting democracy" in countries like Venezuela is more dangerous than a military invasion. Why? Its detection is difficult and the cover-up is almost perfect – it is hidden behind NGOs and programs with noble-sounding names and missions that claim to help communities and improve the country, but in reality they aim to destabilize and implement an agenda against the sovereign interests of the nation. Its web is immense and it is seen in Venezuelan society through the mainstream media, the touching speeches of spokesmen such as Yon Goicoechea, who try to trick Venezuelans with poetic and comforting phrases, and the complaints of human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, Inter American Press Society, and the Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States (OAS).

This is the most dangerous foreign interference that the Bolivarian Revolution faces. Its deadly web extends across the country after the results of November 23. The people and national government need to act now to neutralize this growing threat to their future. The fact that the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV, Spanish acronym) won 17 governors races with nearly six million votes is an important step for the strengthening of the revolution. It also shows the revolutionary commitment of the majority of Venezuelans. Despite this, the strategic victory of the opposition forces can't be denied or discounted, and its recovery of these regional governments should be a wake up call for the revolutionary citizens and the Venezuelan government. They will use these spaces to introduce and promote their individualist, anti-socialist vision, shrouded in the message of "democracy and liberty." And they will open up their regions even more to the imperial web. The border area is in serious risk. The Venezuelan "half moon" could further strengthen with Zulia and Tachira in the hands of the most reactionary right-wing political players in the country.

Its time for strong actions to combat the interference of foreign agencies in the country. If they aren't neutralized now, they will embed their followers so deeply in the country that they will be here for good.

Eva Golinger is a lawyer, researcher and writer, and author of The Chavez Code, Bush vs. Chavez: Washington's War against Venezuela, and The Empire's Web: Encyclopedia of Interventionism and Subversion (in Spanish), which was published in Venezuela in November 2008. Contact her at

Translated by Erik Sperling
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