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.
Address Ayacucho Hall, Miraflores Palace Monday,
December 3, 2007
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.
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.
How does that advertisement go?
"A photo finish and the jockey with great joy!
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
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
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
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 ofnew 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
- All of those who voted for my proposals: more than 4
- 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.
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.
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!
the entire country, before the world, I say that I prefer it this way. I prefer
it this way; this is my preference.
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!
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.
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?
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."
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
- 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
I think this
should be a lesson to us all.
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
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
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!
"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.
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
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.
Take note of the
reflection we must do.
One year ago 7.3
million compatriots voted for me.
got 4.3, 4.1 million, something like that.
[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.
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.
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.
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!
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."
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
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
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.
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.
In1826, 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
Translated by Dawn Gable