Venezuela's Chavez Triumphant: History Making Democracy in Latin America

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, first elected in 1998 made democratic history today in a triumphant defeat of the recall referendum on his Presidency, winning with a solid 58% of the vote.

By Sharmini Peries
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President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, first elected in 1998 made democratic history today in a triumphant defeat of the recall referendum on his Presidency.

The very Constitution that he championed in 1999, that re-elected him in 2000, allows for a mid-term recall referendum for the President’s term in office. After six years in office, in this recall referendum held on Sunday, August 15th, Chavez lead with a 58% majority. Voters clearly exercised their constitutional right to confirm the President in a historic referenda process, never practiced in the history of this hemisphere.

Under the watchful eyes of over six hundred international observers and media scattered throughout the country, a majority of Venezuelan’s prevented their president from being ousted by a coalition opposition led by Accion Democratica (AD) and the Christian Democrats (COPEI), both parties representing the moderate and ultra right. Renowned international election observer delegations from the Carter Center, Organization of American States (OAS), and European Parliamentarians hailed the referendum process as free and fair.

With this referendum President Chavez’s government has been reaffirmed in a total of eight elections, referendums and plebiscites in six years. Apart from the democratic processes at work, Chavez and his government have withstood the coup d’etat of April 2002, a general lockout orchestrated by the oil-igarchy management and union leadership (CTV) that stalled the country’s oil economy. They have resisted the aggressive private media (press and television alike) that has been carrying out a flagrantly racist character assassination of the Mestizo (Indigenous, Black and White) politically left President.

Chavez escaped an opposition hired Colombian paramilitary’s attempt to assassinate him in May 2004. He has remained popular while a segment of the Catholic church leadership who enjoyed the benefits of aligning themselves with the wealthy tried to diminish his commitment to the Church and the poor. He has jarred the political opposition that is backed by the private media and corporations, not to mention the international private media that continues to frame Chavez as a militant red beret military commander and Chief, in spite of his repeated landslide democratic electoral victories. It has kept the tide out from the oil guzzling empire just north of Caribbean sea, who earned tax free investment and free market opportunities here for 80 years and backed the failed coup d’etat against Chavez in April 2002.

Regardless of this pressure, Chavez remains the only elected leader of a nation that has relentless guts to give continuing volume to his peoples opposition to U.S-led neo-liberalism in the region and economic, political and military aggression the world over. If the social movements who captured the world’s imagination with the slogan "another world is possible" could choose a political leader it should be President Hugo Chavez. Such resistance runs in the veins of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution provoking left and middle ground political leaders.

In Latin America Chavez received the un-stinted support of progressive political parties such as Lula’s Workers Party (PT) in Brazil that sent a delegation of support this week. The Argentinean government sent two former Presidents: Eduardo Duhalde and Fernando de La Rua of the Peronist party. He receives standing ovations from Latin American Indigenous Rights Movements, Landless Movement of Peasant (MST), and Via Campesinas (Peasants Movement-- 60 million strong world wide).

Chavez enjoys credibility among leftist academics, writers, and artists, who signed a manifesto of support. It included such leading thinkers as Eduardo Galeano (Uruguay), Ahíjaz Ahmad (India), Tariq Ali (Pakistan-England), Manu Chao (Spain-France), Eric Hobsbawm (England), Naomi Klein (Canada), and Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London (England). The letter stated: " we wish to denounce the disinformation campaign that is being orchestrated by the major media and that attempts to characterize Chavez as a tyrant, a President who has consistently respected the rule of law and the country’s Constitution".

Endorsement of the President is now trickling in from the United States. Jesse Jackson dissenting from his own Democratic Party position articulated by the US presidential candidate John Kerry has signed a Chavez campaign letter. A few dozen US citizens including US congressman and Hollywood star Danny Glover are here in Caracas adding their voice to the never ending chants of "Uh ah Chavez no se va" (Uh ah Chavez will not go) that is echoing in the streets.

With yet another massive win under his belt, the real question is will the United States stay out of the internal politics of this country and let President Chavez carry out the democratic mandate of his people, or will they be continuing their overt and covert operations in Venezuela, as they did thirty years ago in Allende’s Chile?