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The World in Reverse in Venezuela

Bucking the trend of anti-corporate globalization protests around the world, in Venezuela it is the upper classes that demonstrate against the lower classes and Washington that helps fund NGOs.

It is difficult to explain. I think it has to do something with Eduardo Galeano’s world with its legs in the air.[1] When the leaders of the group of seven—the richest countries of the world—or the bodies that they direct (such as the World Trade Organization) meet, the poor go onto the streets to protest. Huge demonstrations of the social movements, of anti-globalization groups, shook the past few years, from Genoa to Seattle and, closer to home, the Mexican cities of Cancún and Puebla.

This seems like the world in reverse: when the developing countries, the group of fifteen (G-15) met in Caracas to look for answers, it is the rich, those who want to see the world through eyes that are not their own, who go onto the street to demonstrate, to destroy, to resist the changes that can benefit the big majority of our countries.

The conservatives, the reactionaries, are the ones who stubbornly continue to hang on to a past and to deny the present and, above all, a future that burdens them. They are the ones who cannot stand that a Lula would have success with his plan “Zero Hunger” to reduce social exclusion and poverty, or that a Kirchner says that he will not pay lending banks Argentina’s foreign debt at the expense of the hunger of his people. Everything that smells of sovereign decisions or in the benefit of the majority sounds like castro-communism to them, which is to say it is of the devil for them, of course.

They are the same ones who put together 27 million signatures, but who until now have not amassed the 2.4 million in order to convoke a presidential recall referendum. So, as a result, they are trying to smear the arbiter with racism (“that guajiro”[2] in reference to electoral council president Francisco Carrasquero) and disqualification. Over 140,000 signatures of minors, foreigners, deceased, and those with irregularities in the electoral register were added up: this is fraud. And over 876,000 were sent for “repair”, which means that their validity is in doubt.

They believe that with unprofessional attitudes, such as that of the head of the OAS mission Fernando Jaramillo, who spoke of excessive technicalities, they can distort the process. If there are sufficient signatures, there will be a referendum because this is what the constitution says, not because that is what the U.S. State Department or someone from some hemispheric institution wants.

International analysts bemoan that Venezuela’s opposition is left without air or exit (in addition to lacking a common platform or even a single candidate). Analysts are convinced that the opposition does not want a referendum because all of the opinion surveys say that they would be defeated. This is the danger because the only option that remains for them is violence and, at the extreme end, presidential assassination. This is the topic that was discussed in a recent meeting in the Hotel CCCT, as an assistant of one of the participants informed us, who was very concerned about this possibility. It was planned “operatively” by former officers of the investigative police (DISIP), who affirmed that they have the technical capability, expertise in Central America, arms, and sufficient financing.

I do not want to commit the sin of being alarmist, but in Venezuela there is a need to prevent the intervention of the OAS and the United States. That’s all, that tragic, that simple. We see in Haiti a mirror, a field test. And the enclosure that is being attempted to construct around President Chavez appears to be in the process of being perfected. While the leaders of the G-15, Nestor Kirchner, Alvaro Uribe (has he too become castro-communist?), and Lula da Silva met in the Caracas Hilton in order to re-launch South-South cooperation, an Electoral Council (CNE) decision—that put in doubt the legitimacy of “merely” one million signatures—put (once again) in doubt the country’s governability. It is “this detail” that they failed to clarify to the OAS and the Carter Center: there is no doubt that we are witnessing a great fraud, where more than one million signatures are not valid.

And, once again, the leaders of the opposition talk of civil disobedience, disrespect of the CNE, launch people against the presidential palace… and perhaps continue to dream of the parading of marines in the streets of La Guaira.[3]

The decision that the CNE took proposes that citizens go to 2,700 “repair” centers that are distributed on a regional, municipal, and district level, to state whether they signed the petition. The decision is to submit to a scrupulous verification hundreds of thousands of signatures that – by oh what a coincidence! – display the same handwriting.

Signatures that are duplicated and even quadruplicated, of minors, of with ID numbers of deceased persons, and forged fingerprints. The solution was proposed by the CNE and this opens to the public the verification of signatures to a process that is surely inconvenient because it is the first time it is carried out. Definitely, our institutions are weak, and to reconstruct them is perhaps the requisite for peace in the future, just and equilibrated, overcoming the diatribes of the present.

Before the end of the month we will have the verdict. What remains quite clear—even though some want to hide it behind euphemisms—is that there was fraud and there will be recall referenda: perhaps of the president, surely of several national assembly deputies, both from the opposition and pro-government.

In the course of several years of conspiring, the archipelago of the opposition has not been able to find an agreement about a common platform and much less about a candidate. The question remains: …and after Chavez comes what? Following the failure of the coup attempt and the oil industry sabotage the opposition knows that it does not have sufficient internal force to defeat Chavez and this is why it appears to have activated a hidden agenda of destabilization and foreign intervention.

The OAS and the Carter Center observers of the recall process consider the Electoral Council’s doubts “reasonable and legitimate, which had objected to over one million signatures with similar handwriting, commonly known as “flat” petition forms. “There is a concern about the validity of the signatures in the so-called ‘flat’ petition forms, where the handwriting of the basic data of the people is similar,” said Jaramillo, the Colombian head of the OAS observer mission.

Even though the OAS was not in agreement with how the CNE proceeded, the OAS said that “it is precisely to determine if one person signed for others,” violating the norms that state that the act of signing for a recall referendum is “very personal.” There were people who wanted to interpret this in a different way.

It is no surprise that both the U.S. State Department as well as the Venezuelan opposition forces and their allies among the European right have launched a series of attacks that try to defame the CNE and threaten that if the decision does not favor them, then there will be violence. They argue that independently of the number of valid signatures, the only way to guarantee peace is to provide them with the opportunity of a referendum.

The history of U.S. interference in the different governments of Latin America has been long. But in the past five years there has been a chain of interminable policies of interference and various aggressions that have characterized the last two administrations, but above all that of George Bush. There are evident “state interests” with the aim of forming public opinion that would delegitmize a democratically constituted government and put pressure on the CNE so that it would issue a decision that favors the opposition, thereby endorsing the fraud.

The discovery of the financing of groups, parties, and sectors of the extreme fascist right-wing—that were accepted without scruples by the U.S. State Department—was the drop that caused the glass to overflow. This is because the policy is combined with a strategy to topple the government via a coup or signature fraud for a recall referendum.

One must remember that the United States never condemned the coup organizers and accepts in its territory individuals who are implicated in terrorism in Venezuela, thus explicitly contravening article 18 of the so often cited Democratic Charter of the OAS.

There is proof of financing from Washington—divulged by people in the US itself—for the principal organizations of the opposition, with subsidies in the millions of dollars for the recall referendum campaign against president Chavez, via the association Sumate and other supposed NGOs. This is: the world in reverse.

Aram Aharonian is the editor of the monthly Caracas-based magazine Question.

[1] Eduardo Galeano (1998) Patas arriba: La escuela del mundo al revés, Siglo Veintiuno Editores, México.

[2] “Guajiro” is the name for indigenous Venezuelans who live in Zulia state, where Carrasquero is from. It sometimes has negative connotations, implying that the person is dishonest.

[3] La Guaira is the seaport outside of Caracas.