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Opinion and Analysis: Bolivarian Project | Opposition | Politics

Chavez in 2012

After 12 years in office, Chavez remains overwhelmingly favored for reelection in October. Given the alternative, most Venezuelans have a clear choice.

Poll numbers predict a sweep. IVAD has United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) Chavez leading the opposition umbrella group Democratic Unity Table’s (MUD) Henrique Capriles Radonski by a 57.6% to 26.6% margin. Venezuela’s 21st Century Group of Social Investigation, a progressive think tank, predicts a similar result.

MUD officials supported the aborted 2002 two-day coup. Closely linked to Washington, democracy is abhorred. It won’t be tolerated under a regime they control. Nor will Bolivarian populism. The Washington Post called Capriles “a charismatic campaigner with a loyal following”. It said he promises to “rebuild democratic institutions”. Maybe April 2002 is his template.

The New York Times said he’s “the fresh-faced governor of Miranda, one of the country’s most populous states, which includes” much of Caracas. Ignoring his fascist agenda, The Times also claimed he’s “a political moderate”. It suggested a “bruising and tight election campaign”. It quoted him saying Chavez “believes he is God. He thinks he can’t lose, and that’s very good for us”.

Primary results showed he won handily by 33 percentage points over Zulia state governor Pablo Perez in the opposition race. Calling himself a social democrat, the Economist said he takes “a gradualist approach to restoring confiscated property, undoing currency controls and abolishing unconstitutional laws”.

In 2002, he was Baruta’s mayor, a wealthy municipality within the Caracas metropolitan area. He defended the coup. He joined fascist gangs attacking the Cuban embassy. It was located in his former district. He violated international and Venezuelan law helping seize power. He never faced charges. Now he wants to be president. Imagine law, order, and justice if he’s elected.

He and other MUD officials represent wealth and power. Venezuelans want true democracy. Under Chavez, they’ve gotten it since 1999. They’re not likely to give it back.

On March 30, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) made it official. It set October 7 for the presidential election. On December 16, regional elections for state governors will follow. Since registrations opened last year, 1,123,945 new voters joined the roles. As of last October, nearly 18.2 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote. Chavez is running for the third time. He committed to recognize the results as announced. Capriles stopped short of pledging to accept the results, saying only that “everything I’ve achieved in politics, I’ve achieved through the vote”. Not quite. He participated actively in the 2002 coup. Elections weren’t in sight or planned. The will of the people thwarted by power grab politics. Expect little change of heart this year.

April marked the 10th anniversary of Washington’s coup attempt. Demonstrations, debates, exhibits, and workshops commemorated it. Plotters aimed to destroy Bolivarianism. Venezuelans had other ideas. Two days of mass protests reversed it. April 13th’s “Day of National Dignity” and others following commemorated it. Thousands turned out supportively. Chavez addressed them from the presidential palace (Miraflores) “people’s balcony”.

He said “we demonstrated that a united people will never be defeated. Due to that, I beg you not only to maintain unity but to strengthen it, with our debates and criticisms, but unity and above all, more unity”.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro recalled Capriles’ coup plot complicity. He said what happened marked the day that “fascism and the Venezuelan right showed its true face”.

Commemorations ran through April 19. They included a Revolutionary Youth Day and Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) national conference. Chavez announced creation of an “Anti- Coup Command”. He was warned of a possible conspiracy against his government. Washington never stopped plotting to remove him. As long as he’s President, he’s vulnerable.

His health also remains an issue. He had three cancer operations and multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Back in Cuba for more, he called home to dispel rumors of his demise. Days of silence had people wondering. On state television, he said “I think we will have to become accustomed to live with these rumors...because they are part of the laboratories of psychological war, of dirty war”.

Following the reoccurrence of cancer in February, Chavez had radiation treatment. Since mid-April, he’s received the treatment in Cuba. Chavez said he’s doing well, still “recovering”. His “health exams have come out well”. Though radiation therapy isn’t easy, he’s able to “carry out (his) tasks as President”. Recovering from cancer isn’t easy. Reoccurrence can follow remission. Chemotherapy and radiation have short and longer-term side effects. How severe depends on the type of cancer and how it’s treated.

Mark Twain once called reports of his death greatly exaggerated. The same holds for Chavez. He’s alive, recovering, and expected to win a third term in October. The stakes are high – Bolivarianism or fascism. For most Venezuelans, it’s an easy choice. As long as Chavez stays active in politics, they’ll vote to keep him there. Choosing a new PSUV leader can come later.