People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 41

October 14, 2012




Overcoming odds, Chavez Wins


R Arun Kumar


VENEZUELA will never return to neo-liberalism and will continue in the transition to socialism of the 21st century,” Chavez declared to supporters from the 'people’s balcony' of the presidential palace, after his victory was confirmed. The re-election of Hugo Chavez as the president of Venezuela is a victory for all the people fighting imperialism. As Bolivian President Evo Morales said, “the re-election of Hugo Chavez, shows that the transformation process in Latin America is unstoppable. The victory of President Chavez demonstrates that in the ongoing debate between capitalism and socialism, those who say that socialism will come to an end in the 21st century are wrong”.


Chavez was re-elected as president for the coming six years, defeating his conservative rival, a candidate of the united opposition, Henrique Capriles Radonski representing the Roundtable of Democratic Unity coalition (MUD). Chavez won with 8,044,106 votes, or 55.11 per cent to Capriles’ 6,461,612 (44.27 per cent) with a difference of 1,582,494 votes, or almost 11 per cent. He won a majority in 22 of Venezuela’s 24 regional states, including the capital district and by 0.5 per cent, in Miranda, where Capriles is governor. Chavez won in Zulia and Carabobo, two provinces where there are currently opposition governors.


This should not however mean that the opposition was 'swept away' in these elections. Although 11 per cent is a huge lead by global standards, compared to the 2006 presidential elections, it is 'narrow'. In that election, Chavez won with 62.9 per cent of the vote (7,309,080) while the then opposition candidate Manuel Rosales secured 36.9 per cent (4,292,466) votes. The victory margin for Chavez was thus 26 per cent (75 per cent turned out to vote in 2006). In the current elections, due to the high voter turnout (almost 81 per cent, reported as the highest rate of participation in Venezuelan electoral history), both sides received a record number of votes, but the opposition’s 6.5 million was more than what has been its standard 4 to 5 million over the last 13 years. The Chavista vote of 8 million was also significantly higher than its standard 6 million, though the increase is less in proportionate terms. In spite of all these statistics, the importance of the victory should not be lost on us. The victory is all the more sweeter because of the background in which it was secured.




All over the world, reeling under the affect of global economic crisis, many of the countries that had gone for elections had witnessed the incumbents losing power. In many countries, the right-wing had gained. This did not happen in Venezuela. Moreover, in Venezuela, there was a concerted effort by the US to ensure the defeat of Chavez. This had become one of the campaign points in the foreign policy discussions during the presidential campaign in the US. The Republican presidential candidate in the US elections, Mitt Romney attacked Venezuela during the campaign as a 'threat to national security' and accused Venezuela of “spreading dictatorships and tyranny throughout Latin America”. The USAID pumped in millions of dollars to further its agenda of 'regime change'. The opposition candidate was openly patronised by many of the foreign multinationals and financial corporates. They too contributed with their financial might by pumping millions of dollars.


Apart from all this, an intense ideological attack was launched. Media was used to spread canards, right from the status of Chavez's health, to the health of the Venezuelan economy and the course of the Bolivarian revolution. Chavez was projected as an 'inefficient', 'sick', 'about-to-die dictator'. He was contrasted with the 'young, 'dynamic', 'democratic', 'centre-left' opposition candidate, Capriles. Capriles was projected as a social-democrat in Lula's image, who would continue with all the social welfare schemes of Chavez, but with more efficiency. All these lies were repeated, true to the Gobellisian maxim: 'a lie repeated many times will be believed to be true'. They had even fudged many opinion polls to show that the election would be very close and even a 'technical draw'. This tactic was used to influence the undecided voters and swing them in favour of the opposition candidate. That they succeeded to an extent in their efforts is evident from the fact that the opposition was able to substantially increase its vote share.


Capriles, who was projected as 'centre-left', was in fact a participant in the April 2002 coup against Chavez. His inclination towards the social welfare measures can be understood from the way he conducted as a governor of Miranda. As a governor, he did his most to weaken the reach of the 'missions', as they are called in Venezuela. He is so deceptive, that while vouching for the 'welfare policies' during the election campaign, he was writing in international magazines and newspapers about his 'vision' for Venezuela. In a signed article in El Pais, a Spanish magazine, he wrote: “No more expropriations, no more confiscations” and promised to “guarantee an environment of confidence for national and international investors”. Further, if he won the election, he promised to “deepen economic relations with the EU” and “guarantee the safety of investors”. No wonder, the Financial Times, described Capriles as a “business friendly law graduate”.


It is because of this nature that all the imperialist powers wanted Capriles to win. Even if he didn't, they hoped that violence would erupt after the elections, giving them an excuse for intervening in the country. Former US Ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, an influential US foreign policy think-tank, outlined a range of military, financial and diplomatic measures that the US should be prepared to take against the Chavez government after the elections. He writes: “In recent years, Chavez has become increasingly authoritarian, undermining important political institutions, giving more powers to the presidency, and weakening both civil society and the independent media”. Further, “...most plausible scenarios for instability and conflict in Venezuela derive from the premise that the Chavistas will not willingly surrender power and would be willing to provoke violence, orchestrate civil unrest, or engage in various forms of armed resistance to avoid doing so. This is the real danger surrounding the current campaign and it extends beyond the election itself because of the questions concerning Chavez's health”.


Duddy recommends: “In the event of violence or an interruption of democracy, the United States could freeze individual bank accounts of key figures involved or responsible and seize assets in the United States. It could also arrange for the proceeds of Venezuelan government-owned corporate entities like CITGO to be held in escrow accounts until democracy is restored and encourage other important trading partners (i.e., Canada, Spain, France, Brazil) to do the same...and consider prohibiting PDVSA oil sales to the United States while the government's status is uncertain. The United States could encourage other Latin American militaries, as well perhaps as the Spanish, to communicate to the Venezuelan military the importance of complying with constitutional mandates, respecting human rights, and preserving democracy”. And Duddy is the very same ambassador who was expelled from Venezuela in 2008 for his involvement in an American-supported plot to topple the Chavez government.


So confident they were about the defeat of Chavez that a Twitter feed suggesting that Capriles had won went viral before Venezuela's independent National Electoral Council (CNE) confirmed Chavez's victory. After the results were announced, Capriles accepting defeat accused Chavez of using unfair means to achieve victory. They were unable to point any fingers at the election process because, CNE is so widely trusted that even the MUD coalition commissioned it to run the selection process that nominated Capriles as opposition candidate. The Carter Centre, headed by former US President Jimmy Carter, stated that fraud is “impossible under Venezuela's electoral system”. The people of Venezuela by voting Chavez once again to the office, have not only disappointed the corporate media, but more importantly defeated the imperialist machinations on the continent.




These elections offer some important lessons to the PSUV and Chavez. They once again point to the necessity of having a robust organisational machinery to challenge imperialism and take forward the process of building an alternative. Above it, these results also point out to the need for uniting such an organisation with an ideology that forms the basis for the entire cadre to act. These results also point to the need for overhauling the State bureaucratic apparatus to ensure that the benefits of the welfare schemes are accrued to the people.


As many election results in Venezuela had shown, though people are happy with Chavez and his sincerity and commitment, there is a discontent among them against the PSUV. They are unhappy with the bureaucracy and corruption within the ranks of the PSUV and government institutions. They are concerned with the crime rates in the country and the slowness the 'malfunctioning' judiciary. People are directly affected by the low consciousness levels of the lower rung PSUV cadre and their commitment to the Bolivarian process. It is with these sections that the people are in daily touch and their actions/inactions affect their daily lives. All these issues have to be immediately addressed to sustain and take forward the revolutionary process.


Majority of the people had voted for Chavez with a clear understanding that a victory for the opposition would mean the destruction of all the gains of the Bolivarian revolution. In spite of all limitations discussed above, we should not undermine the achievements of the Venezuelan government.  People, particularly the poor, voted because unemployment has halved, GDP per capita doubled, infant mortality halved, poverty decreased by two-thirds, illiteracy eradicated and hundreds of thousands gained access to the education system where you can go to school for free from first grade to university. And all the children have food to eat; they are given breakfast, lunch and a snack amongst other things. Widespread nationalisation of natural resources and key industries was on, putting them at the service of people. Workers are slowly involved in the management of factories, though there is a demand for hastening this process. For the first time in their lives they were provided access to direct participation in politics and they now feel that 'the future is in their own hands'.


We should never forget that all these were achieved in the background of the repeated attempts of sabotage by imperialism and its cohorts. The country had witnessed attempted coups, lock-out of the PDVSA by the engineers, sabotage of the economy, hoarding of basic products, rioting in the streets, infiltration of Colombian paramilitaries and political assassinations, etc.


What we are witnessing in Venezuela today is – an intense class struggle. On one side are the rich and powerful – the oligarchy, landlords, owners of the means of production, banks and the mass media. On the other are the working class, peasants and the urban poor. The outcome of this struggle depends on how Chavez remoulds his administration and party.


Chavez promised that he would be a “better president” and a “better companion” to the people during his next term. He said that the next six years should take Venezuela into socialism 'beyond the point of no return'. “Within the next six years we should be in first place in the world for education, health, housing, nutrition and employment... In our hands the life of our homeland will not be lost, of that I am sure,” he declared. Extending our solidarity, let us wish him all success.