And a curious dictator he is, to be sure. One that accepts a stunning electoral defeat with the words, “Our victory is peace, our victory is sovereignty […] today, democracy and the constitution have triumphed.”
In the past few weeks, opposition supporters threatened to take to the streets as international media poised itself to cry foul in the instance of a government win.
On the ground in Venezuela the 2014 violent guarimba protests, during which 43 people were killed and barricades guarded by armed protestors brought entire cities to a standstill, were at the front of people’s minds.
But as dawn broke on December 7th, all talk of fraud was forgotten. Once the desired results were announced, the media dropped the charges against Venezuelan democracy in unison.
And the miracles didn’t stop there. Venezuelan bonds rallied sharply this morning on the stock market, with yields for those due next year dropping from 46 per cent to 35.72. Residents of central areas of Caracas reported an influx of food on the shelves, and to top it all, the exchange rate for the dollar as calculated by the tracking website DolarToday dropped from 920 to 906.
Now with a confirmed 99 seats in the 167 person National Assembly, the opposition holds a simple majority while the ruling party PSUV won 46 seats. In the next few hours, as the 22 remaining seats are determined, the opposition will likely see itself with a three fifths majority and the powers to expel ministers and the vice-president.
In his acceptance speech last night, president Maduro said that rather than an opposition win, yesterday’s results marked “the victory of the counter revolution…the state of need created by the politics of savage capitalism”
With more sincerity than ever before he acknowledged that times are incredibly hard for working class Venezuelans, whose salaries are often devalued by the end of the month by inflation, and allowed that a 42 per cent Chavista vote was still a lot considering the circumstances.
Venezuela’s foreign income has been halved by the oil glut, while a combination of unstable economic policies and sabotage from the private sector has debilitated the national currency and caused the scarcity of many basic consumer products.
Still, while badmouthing the government has become something of a national hobby, virtually no one has anything good to say about the current array of opposition leaders.
Indeed, a July poll by the private pollster Hinterlaces found that 52 per cent of Venezuelans believe the opposition has “no plan for the nation,” while 67 percent agreed they “the opposition has votes because of the discontent in the country but does not have popular backing.”
Yesterday’s ballots show just how strong the discontent had become.
Of the 99+ opposition deputies who will join the National Assembly on January 5th, not one signed the statutory agreement drawn up in October by the country’s electoral authority CNE saying they would respect they election results.
In April 2013, they refused to accept Maduro’s victory over presidential candidate Henrique Capriles despite the fact that 17 audits had been conducted by the CNE and upheld by international observers and organizations such as UNASUR (Union of South American Nations).
At the time, Capriles urged his supporters to take to the streets and insist their votes be counted, leading to riots that left nine dead, most of whom were Chavistas celebrating their victory.
Yesterday evening a mob of protestors cornered a CNE official outside the electoral headquarters in Caracas, chanting “The vote is ours!” before turning on Chavista passerby.
Venezuela’s largest business conglomerate Fedecamaras, who admitted to playing a role in the 2002 coup d’etat against Hugo Chavez, already revealed that they would petition the new National Assembly to eliminate price regulations and conduct a revision of the Workers’ Law developed under Chavez.
But as the results were released and tension melted into either heartache or euphoria, all talk of electoral fraud was pointedly discarded.
Meanwhile, in a nondescript living room somewhere in the United States, Hillary Clinton raised a glass to the “oppressed” people of Venezuela, who last night “began the process of taking back democracy.”
She neglected to say for who.