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Opinion and Analysis: Politics

Concession Speech of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela

President Chavez's historic concession speech, in which he had to concede, for the first time in nine years and after 12 nation-wide votes, that his side lost. The constitutional reform referendum, which Chavez described as the most important vote of his presidency, was to help bring about "21st century socialism in Venezuela.

Presidential Address
Ayacucho Hall, Miraflores Palace
Monday, December 3, 2007

(Applause)

Thank you very much! Good Day. We are on the national radio and television network and it is 01:25 am this Monday, which began very early, December 3, 2007.

International press and all the guests in the hall excuse us for the time you had to wait here but the process took a long time and we had to wait, as it should be, for this bulletin from the president of the national electoral council.

Photo-finish!

- How does that advertisement go?

- "A photo finish and the jockey with great joy!

Yolanda Pulecio, Astrid [Betancourt], welcome. Thank you! Pardon me for not being able to attend to you today or yesterday; Senator Piedad Córdoba thank you very much for being here.

OK, you've already heard the statements of the National Electoral Council President Dr. Tibisay Lucena regarding the bulletin that we were all anxiously awaiting, creating tension in the country. But, well, we've always had nerves of steel to confront any circumstance.

She read it and I'm going to repeat it, I was taking notes during her speech, an abstention-she said- of 44%, a little bit more, with 88%, nearly 90%, of the votes counted.

NO: 50.70% and YES: 49.29%. A photographic finish!

And she assured that this trend is a reversible.

I speak to you all from my heart

Ok! I'm going to speak primarily to the Venezuelans who are waiting in their homes, in the street, in front of the palace and around the world, via the media, as I always do: from my heart. I tell you what my heart says to me, especially in moments like these.

First of all I want to thank all those who have participated in this referendum over the past months and especially today, and all of you journalists from around the world, and Venezuelan journalists who've done a good job without a doubt. Also the thousands of Venezuelans who were working for up to 24 hours at the polls, the national electoral council- I want to congratulate Dr. Tibisay Lucena- have once again demonstrated the achievements and the ability of the Venezuelan State and Venezuelan democracy to carry out any election no matter how difficult. In this case it was one of great importance, of high political caliber, and above all very ethical, we can not conceive of politics unaccompanied by ethics. That is part of new politics of Venezuela. Here we all know countless stories, about countless tricks, countless frauds, and countless hidden manipulations of electoral processes during the fourth Republic.

Not anymore, now Venezuelans have confidence, a growing confidence in our institutions. Some still attack them without any proof at all and defame them for merely political and often unethical reasons.

But this is another demonstration of the faith that Venezuelans should have in their institutions, in our Constitution and the institutions that it created within our political system, in our Bolivarian democracy.

Well, I thank everyone:

  • All of those who voted for my proposals: more than 4 million compatriots
  • And likewise, I thank all those who voted against my proposals. I congratulate you.

Because you have demonstrated and proven, if there were any doubts, that this is the path and hopefully you will forever leave behind the leaps in the dark, the violent paths of destabilization and of disregarding our institutions.

I believe the Venezuelan democracy -I said this when I went to vote this morning -is maturing, and each process that we experience, every election, every political event allows our democracy and our country to continue developing this new historical project that began in 1999.

Look, from my heart I tell you, and believe me I spent many hours debating this dilemma with myself, at the very depths of my soul, but I've already emerged from the dilemma and I am content-as I hope that Venezuelans from this moment on are also- and proud of what each of us has done, each with their own position, respecting one another.

But certainly here in my heart, here in my Venezuelan soul I spent four and a half hours with a great dilemma, from 9:00 at night until 1:00, well 1:30 now. I confess to you all, especially those who followed and continue to follow me, those millions of Venezuelans that have always supported me, who have supported me since 1998, 99, in all of these electoral and non electoral processes, in the coup d'état, those who are here, and those there at home, my heart goes out to you, my special thanks to you all.

Now, I ask you to open your heart and understand mine. Don't feel sad, no. Don't feel sad or sorrowful, no! I say to you that in a situation such as that which we've endured since 6pm, faced with a situation that became complicated for various reasons. Minimal differences vacillating between NO and YES. Could YES rise one percentage point? But finally the information arrived to our headquarters Comando Zamora.

Finally, microscopic differences left NO in the lead and, well, with nearly 90% of the ballots counted, the margin stabilized at 1.4% and the trend was irreversible. What I mean is that the ballots remaining were manual ballots- they tell me that nearly 10% of the ballots were done manually due to voting machine errors and system errors, mostly from remote areas of the country- and ballots coming from outside the country.

So then, the dilemma I struggled with was this: if the trend did not reach an irreversible point, should I subject our country to a drawn out ordeal lasting not only through the morning but through the day tomorrow? Because the manual ballots will arrive tomorrow afternoon, they would have to be counted tomorrow afternoon and those from outside the country, day after tomorrow. So I thought to myself:

  • No! Venezuela does not deserve that kind of stress.

I'm not going to fall into that, I told myself there in solitude. Then, I had a good work and discussion session with the ministers. I phoned a few good friends and my daughters and my grown son- the grandchildren already sleeping- but I was extremely worried that the figures would not reach the point of irreversibility and I would be caught in a role like some other presidents have.

I remember an election in the United States were they had to wait for ballots to arrive by airplane from a military base in Japan and this of course caused doubt, especially when talking about manual ballots [...] Imagine if this waiting had gone on all Sunday and all day Monday and all day Tuesday. No, no, no!

Therefore before the entire country, before the world, I say that I prefer it this way. I prefer it this way; this is my preference.

Audience [applause].

Thank you, comrades! I want to congratulate the military, the General in Chief, the garrison commanders, the military high command, and the Chief of the Strategic Operations Command who was very active and convincing, General Jesús González González, and all you comrades in arms, thank you very much.

We're proud of this political event. General González, we will never again see in Venezuela what we've seen in the past. I've told the story because I saw it, I saw it many times. But I remember very well what I saw on the outskirts of San Carlos in an election won by Luis Herrera Campins, may he rest in peace. I was a lieutenant in the armored battalion of Apure, [...] and it was really raining that Sunday in December 1978- my daughter Rosa was not yet crawling, she was about three months old.

So it was raining hard and I asked the person running the polling center:

- Hey, let me go inside the little school there it's raining hard and my soldiers are getting wet

And he let us enter. We were there in a corner so that the soldiers didn't interfere with the count or anything. We were only there for security. Back then everything was manual and the boxes had to be taken quickly to the regional tallying center. Back then people voted for a ticket. The red rooster has always been the symbol of the communist party here. And their battle cry is "quiquiriquí, quiquiriquí." At this polling station there were no witnesses for the communist party or for the left. It was AD and Copei who shared power here at their whim.

In this little town outside of San Carlos de Cojedes, I remember that some there were some communist votes, very few, 8, 10 comrades, maybe there was a cell there. Then I began to hear, what at first was funny but later, but later I became angry and I complained. When it was over they said:

- You shouldn't get involved in that

And that's how I won a reprimand and was nearly arrested for getting involved in something that was none of my business, but I couldn't stand listing to one of those men:

- Quiquiriquí this one for you.

And they would mark the votes for themselves on the blackboard, and then the ballots became worthless paper, the [communist] vote were lost.

A little later, out came another red rooster ticket:

- Quiquiriquí, this one for mi.

And so the communist party didn't get any votes. How could they when they had no witnesses at the polls? And they did the same to other leftist parties, to José Vicente Rangel who was a candidate several times. How many votes did they steal from my friend and comrade José Vicente? The End!

Back to my point. I say this, and I say it with a content conscience, I say it with infinite tranquility and a very clear conscience, that I prefer it this way. I couldn't have, my principles, my principles mean more than anything, I wouldn't have been able to bare the doubt, the great doubt that would've remained if Chávez had one the YES vote by 0.4% after three days and with the balance coming from outside the country or manual ballots coming from Sabaneta or Elorza, or Alto Apure. No! I couldn't have tolerated it. But now I'm going to go sleep peacefully a few hours this morning, and I ask that all of you go to your homes and those want to celebrate, celebrate!

A recommendation: Handle your victory well. Handle it well. Don't go wild now, look at the victory mathematically, ok? I wouldn't have wanted it. I mean, It's not that I gave it to you, no! You won it on your own accord, but this very slight victory, I wouldn't have wanted it, even less under these conditions.

Audience [applause].

Look, if for example the CNE had announced at 8:00 pm, a logical hour, logical for an automated system- last year despite a much lower abstention, the results were released at 9:00 pm, right? Therefore we figured that at 9:00 pm the National Electoral Council would announce a bulletin with an irreversible trend and that YES would have won by a percentage point. By one point, or one vote. Fine. With out any kind of doubt.

But given that this became complicated and drawn out, with these considerations, I repeat, I'm glad that the figure's have reached a statistically irreversible trend so that I can set here and in front of you all and congratulate my adversaries for this victory. We are in for a long battle, for a long battle, no?

!!!!!!!!FOR NOW!!!!!!!!!

I could say here today a phrase that emerged from my soul 15 years and 10 months, minus one day ago. It was noon February 4, 1992:

§ "For now, we couldn't do it. For now we couldn't do it."

Audience [applause].

Thus before you all I fulfill my commitment, our commitment to respect our institutions. The proper authority has spoken, the arbitrator has spoken.

I could just plant myself here, manipulating mathematics and say:

§ "No, we will not accept defeat until the last manual ballot arrives, or the last ballot arrives from Tucusiapón."

But I repeat, faced with the revelation of the bulletin and the trend, the declaration and the reading of the bulletin, at 1:40 am:

§ We abide by this Constitution, fulfill our commitment and follow our conscience and we acknowledge the decision of the people.

Now, we all must recognize that is a very slight outcome. I say this to remind those who voted for YES, but especially the leaders of the opposition, with a very sincere recommendation, as I already said- handle your victory well, with a little compromise we respect the rules of the game. But this is not the first time; remember the recall referendum and the collection of signatures. Although there were some doubts, like the "sheet signatures" -I believe the vice president was the [CNE] rector at that time, right? He wasn't vice president yet, no, Dr. Carrasquero was CNE president then- those so-called sheet signatures were, upon examination, obviously [sheets] filled in by the same person; and nevertheless, the CNE said:

- "The signatures are collected."

I don't know if there were 2 million and something signatures, what is certain is that immediately people began to call me:

- "Look, President we cannot accept this, because there are doubts about the signatures."

- "Look, President let's go to the Supreme Court and introduce a petition to annul, I don't know how many, hundreds of thousands of signatures."

I said:

  • No, it's up to the arbitrator, the arbitrator has spoken, I will stick to our commitment to respect the arbitrator, respect the process, and we followed through and held the referendum, and in the end, well, we won on August 15, 2004.

Ok, I've already explained the count, the analysis, the micro margin and the development of the trend. You all know that I like math. It is one of my passions. So we were asking: many ballots have not been counted? Approximately how many more ballots are there? But in the end it is impossible to overcome this difference of 1.4 points with the uncounted ballots. Therefore it's better to recognize this immediately, congratulate everyone, and no doubt whatsoever should remain about this. I hope that no one will come out saying:

- No! We got 20 points and the NO vote got 80.

No! We are transparent and recognize the effort that everyone has made, our side and the opposition.

I think this should be a lesson to us all.

The principal lesson that I think the opposition should take from this is that which I already mentioned. Have they realized that it is possible?

It is possible and this is the path. So forget those plans of "Operación Tenaza", the disruption plans of the so called "civil resistance Comandos," the plans of civil war basically.

No! This is not what we need.

We must mature politically, confront the processes to come with a democratic conviction. We are in a democracy.

There is no dictatorship here, the international reporters and observers who have come here- I want to thank them also- all the international observers who have come here from more than 50 countries from Europe, the United States, Asia and Africa, I appreciate your presence here. Those of you have never been to Venezuela, you have now seen that there is full freedom of expression here. Of course, in the last couple days and today, there were special regulations specific to election days, as is common throughout the world.

And from the moment this national transmission concludes, you will see freedom of expression, freedom to criticize, freedom to participate, freedom to demonstrate, freedom. Here the Venezuelan people enjoy full freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, by our principles and politics.

For Now we couldn't do it!

I understand and accept that the Constitutional reform I proposed, the little red book, is a profound proposal. It is very far reaching, as I have been explaining, an powerful equation, an intense proposal.

Bolívar said when he presented the proposal for the Constitution of Bolivia:

§ "I present this Code to my fellow citizens, if the majority does not accept it, I will bequeath it to posterity..."

Today I repeat the words of Bolívar, but when say posterity; I'm not talking about a 100 years, no, no!

Leaving us without reform in the political, ethical, social, and economic framework allowed for by this Constitution, our Constitution, our cherished Constitution, our much fought for Constitution, are well achieved Constitution. And I will definitely say that one of the greatest achievements of this process is that the opposition has recognized this Constitution after eight years. Now they're recognizing it and coming out to defend it! How wonderful!

Audience [applause].

They came out to defend it. I hope that it wasn't just a momentary resource and an electoral manipulation, no, I wish to believe in good faith.

OK! Let's go, let's build the Venezuela that is established here (in the existing Constitution).

The proposal- I assume the responsibility, you all know that it was my initiative: the initiative that did not receive 50% plus 1. But it almost did. It almost made it. And we have to accept that we began with a situation in which Venezuela had no political direction.

Now, despite the media bombardment, despite all the tricks and all the lies that circulated, like Fidel Castro wrote a few days ago.

¿Qué tal Fidel? How are you? I am very well ¡Ok!

Fidel said:

- "A people under fire."

That is to say, our people were subjected to an intense artillery fire of lies, of fears, but nevertheless we received 49%, let's round it off, for the socialist project, right? Despite everything, I think this is a great political step forward, a huge political leap forward.

Audience [applause].

We will continue the battle of building socialism, within the framework of this Constitution, because I am going to repeat, the proposal, which we could talk about for a century, you know? Because it contains very bold ideas, some with out precedent, some economic, geopolitical, and social ideas without precedent:

a. The 6 hour work day, for example, this has no precedent in the world.

b. New geopolitical power.

c. New economic vision.

d. Social ownership.

e. Communal ownership.

f. Citizen ownership.

I want you to know that I do not retract even one comma of this proposal, I will continue to bring the proposal to the Venezuelan people, this proposal is still alive; it is not dead.

Audience [applause].

Take note of the reflection we must do.

One year ago 7.3 million compatriots voted for me.

The opposition got 4.3, 4.1 million, something like that.

The opposition, [represented by] the NO vote increased by 400,000 votes in real terms.

We are missing 3 million votes. We dropped from 7.3 million to 4.3 million, due to abstention.

Why? This needs to be examined, no?

Now, I am completely sure that the vast majority of those 3 million are still with us. They did not vote for NO either. They abstained.

Doubts? Fears? Too busy? I can't explain it!

But in the end there are many political, mathematical and statistical elements that we have to take into account in order to continue this battle.

 

This proposal- about which there is much to say said about and continue saying, and we will continue saying-has the strategic political intention of broadening the framework of progress within this project; widening the path.

It also has, I did not say had, has, the strategic intension of broadening the perspective, the horizon; of looking at the process of building a socialist Venezuela, the Bolivarian Republic, with more perspective.

In addition to all that:

[It intends] to deepen its content beyond the three dimensions: width, length, depth, and as I say frequently, to speed up the changes.

This [outcome] does not mean that the road is closed. Not at all.

 

We have been on this path for 8 years, and I invite everyone, including the opposition, which has now recognized this Constitution and came out to defend it. That's Great! I invite you --within the structure of this Constitution, with our institutions as the foundation, at the velocity the Constitution permits, at the depth that we can continue reaching, with a view to the horizon- to continue building a Venezuela that over recent years has become stronger politically, economically, socially, territorially and even morally, although some continue to deny it.

[Venezuela] is getting stronger from within and strengthening her position on this continent, in Latin America, on the American continent and the world. To me this is in no way a defeat, to me it is just another "For Now."

And I prefer it this way, it's better this way.

Audience [applause].

I hope that those leaders or sectors of the opposition who were nervous thinking that I wasn't going to recognize this result or I would agonizingly draw it out, I hope that they are relieved and feel relaxed and content, very content. Go home and celebrate in a healthy way, respecting the Bolivarian masses, respecting the institutions, respecting the rights of everyone, of our people, of the Bolivarian people, and of those who did not vote.

Someone might say that the abstention favored us and that we encouraged abstention. But exactly the opposite is true: The abstention defeated us.

A good number of the millions of Venezuelans who voted last year did not come out to vote. This is a lesson for us.

Here I always carry the people who believe in me, who believe in our Revolutionary proposal, the Bolivarians. Courage! Courage!

This Bolivarian Republic will continue to grow stronger, Let us remember the Liberator, I brought him up to my friends, the ministers and the vice president, an hour or hour and a half ago, we chatted a while.

Bolívar wrote in Cartagena to our brothers and sisters of Colombia, regarding the causes of the fall of the first republic. In this case, this republic is not going to fall. We will continue to strengthen it. Here is the Constitution, Here are the people. Here is the Revolutionary government. But Bolívar said:

§ "Rookie soldiers believe that the cause is lost when the first shots are fired and the first difficulties arise."

Father Liberator, we are no longer rookie soldiers. We have decades, years, all our lives in this battle and we know how to accept difficult moments, tough moments. Moreover on other occasions, we have known how to convert apparent defeat into moral victories, which later became political victories.

Audience [applause].

 

Bolívar in 1826... to you all, to the Venezuelan people, to those 4.38 million who voted YES and to those 4.5 million who voted NO; to those nearly 7 million who did not vote, to the all the people, because we are all Venezuelans- of different tendencies, manifestations- and hopefully everyone understands this and we can learn to respect our differences and go forward together debating and distancing ourselves from violence, distancing ourselves from conspiracies, distancing ourselves from plans subordinate to the North American empire and understanding that we have our campaign headquarters right here and not in a foreign land. Here in the streets, in the barrios, is the great debate for the future of Venezuela.

We already know what the future holds. It's here. I proposed to add this component, it couldn't be done For Now, but I will continue with it, and I say to the Venezuelan workers, to the Venezuelan men and women, even to those who didn't vote for the reform, that this social proposal is the most advanced in the world and we will continue working, making the greatest effort to continue debating the issues in working groups in order to achieve maximum social inclusion.

Bolívar said it and I said it today: social equality must be the fundamental principal of our system. To the self employed, we will seek a way to include you, of course it will be more slowly and with more difficulty, but we will seek a way to create a social security system for you, which was one of the extraordinary proposals of the Constitutional reform.

Audience [applause].

Look, all Venezuelans, those for YES and those for NO and those for neither, all of you, I hope that I, coming from my heart, am reaching all your hearts.

 

In 1826, from the Magdalena in Peru, Bolívar wrote this in a resolution to the Governing Council. You have heard me read it before, but it seems appropriate for this early morning of December 13:

§ "Nothing is more in keeping with popular doctrine as consulting the nation en masse about major points on which states, fundamental laws and the Supreme Magistrate are founded; all individuals are subject to error or to seduction, but it is not so with the people, who possess an important sense of their wellbeing and measure of their independence. Therefore their judgment is pure, their will strong, and consequently no one can corrupt them, or even less, intimidate them. I have irrefutable proof of the people's good sense in major resolutions, and that is why I have always preferred their opinion to those of the learned, it is the people who have spoken."

"The voice of the nation" - said Jean Jacques Rousseau -

I the leader, I the president of the nation, of the republic have heard the voice of the people and I will always hear it. I carry it in my heart for my analysis, our analysis, and so that we can continue building the great Venezuela of our children, the Bolivarian Venezuela, with this, our Constitution.

Good day and thank you very much! Congratulations to all. Go relax with family. I send you all my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Thank you very much!

Translated by Dawn Gable