On Sunday 2 December 16 million Venezuelans vote in a referendum:
all the signs are that they will approve constitutional reforms
proposed by President Hugo Chávez.
Popular as ever for having put a big dent in the shocking gap
between rich and poor in an oil-rich country, he wants a chance to bury
19th century Leninist shibboleths, strengthen already rumbustious local
democracy and stand for election again.
It is very likely that the electors will give Chávez what he wants:
it is certain that spinners in Washington, London and elsewhere will do
their best to pull the process to pieces.
The spinners blench at the idea that US nationalism could be
challenged by nationalism of some South American. Nor can they abide
the feeling that Chávez’s star is waxing, despite his injudicious
At the same time the feeling that the US star is waning – consequent
on a floundering Wall Street and a foundering dollar, George Bush’s
military defeats in the Third World, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and a
global kidnapping scheme – cannot be contemplated.
Now those who have fawned on Saudi Arabian kings, indulged the
Israelis’ atom bomb and their criminal mistreatment of Palestinians,
and quietly backed every Latin American dictator from Somoza and
Pinochet to the Argentine and Brazilian generals will attempt to
portray the Venezuelan leader as anti-democratic.
They will also try to bury the European Commission’s high praise for
last year’s presidential elections in Venezuela – "the high turnout,
and peaceful atmosphere in which they were held, together with the
acceptance of results by all those involved".
Chávez won that poll having in 2002 had to fight his way out of a brief coup by a dim but authoritarian businessman.
The stage is set for the undermining of Chávez. On 19 November
BBC2’s This World screened 'The Trillion Dollar Revolutionary',
programme which would never have been permitted about, say, Begin or
Its combination of culpable ignorance and sneering superciliousness produced what must be the worst “documentary” of the decade.
With slightly more sophistication, Chatham House four days earlier
had staged a conference on fighting social inequality in Latin America
aided by the Foreign Office and DIFID and funded by the
Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank.
Toe-curlingly, it was inaugurated by Shaheed Malik, a junior
minister at DIFID, who contented himself with sad little jokes about
Lancashire and Yorkshire but, to the relief of all, soon rushed off.
Despite the fact that Chávez has distinguished himself in the fight
for a fairer society the day included no speakers from Venezuela and
attempted to avoid any reference to that country. It refused to accept
the words last month of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America
which commented: "Thanks to rapid GDP growth and the ongoing
implementation of broad social programmes, in 2006 alone the poverty
rate was lowered from 37.1% to 30.2% and the indigence [extreme
poverty] rate from 15.9% to 9.9%." Venezuela was, the UN said, well on
the way to reaching its first Millennium Development Goal.
Meanwhile at the top end The Economist, which has for long made
money out of laughing at poor people, forms a plangent Greek chorus who
forlornly hope that wicked Venezuela’s oil, the country’s prop, will
run out or the price collapse. But with Venezuela’s growing reserves
the magazine’s writers might as well dream Osama bin Laden will become
the next editor of Vogue.
With Chávez gaining strength, a spinner’s life in Britain is not a happy one.