Mérida, October 4th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Sunday, President Hugo Chavez called on his supporters to deepen Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” over the next two years by rectifying past errors and implementing socialist programs more effectively.
In his weekly Sunday opinion column, Chavez called for a new round of “revision, rectification, and re-advance,” also known as the “three Rs,” within his government and among the seven million members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). He referred to the latest effort as “the three Rs squared.”
“The most vigorous re-launching of the three Rs is necessary, but this time, squared,” Chavez wrote. “Their thorough implementation is decisive in order to generate the conditions that permit us to obtain an overwhelming victory in the 2012 presidential elections.”
The first effort toward the three Rs began after a slate of constitutional reforms was defeated at the polls in December 2007. It was the Chavez administration’s first ever loss at the ballot box, following a dozen electoral victories that began with Chavez’s election to the presidency in 1998.
The president called for a second round of the three Rs in February 2009 in response to signs that the opposition was gaining ground. The PSUV won 77% the country’s governorships and 80% of mayoralties in 2008, but suffered unexpected losses in highly populated urban areas. Likewise, a constitutional amendment to abolish term limits and thus allow Chavez to run for a third presidential term in 2012 was approved by 54.85% of voters in a referendum in 2009 – a marked decline in voter support since Chavez’s re-election to the presidency in 2006 with 62.84%.
Last Sunday, the PSUV won 58% of the National Assembly seats in nation-wide elections, but fell short of its goal of a two-thirds majority. The margin of victory in overall votes was smaller than ever; 5.4 million votes went to the PSUV, while the main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), received 5.3 million votes.
Reflecting on the electoral results, Chavez wrote in his column, “Neither the best nor the worst of scenarios became a reality. The [Bolivarian] Revolution placed the bar very high, but it could not obtain two-thirds. We will have to evaluate this with a profound sense of self-criticism.”
“The fact that 66.45% of registered voters expressed their opinion in parliamentary elections – something unprecedented in our history, I should emphasize – is more than decisive proof of the solidity of our democratic model,” Chavez wrote.
“With everything we have to revise, rectify, and re-start (the three Rs but this time squared), the Socialist Revolution continues on course. We have obtained a new victory,” he wrote. “There will be neither a pact with the bourgeoisie nor revolutionary dissipation. We will continue advancing and constructing socialism, at the rhythm and velocity that circumstances impose upon us.”
Over the past ten years, the Chavez government has significantly decreased poverty, increased access to public health care and education, and created new avenues of mass political participation. However, a rising national homicide rate, a corruption scandal in the state-run food company PDVAL, and a six-quarter economic recession have caused discontent in the population and were the centerpieces of the opposition’s electoral campaign last month.
Chavez’s pledge to clean out his party and invigorate his socialist policies clashes with the opposition’s claim that Venezuelans now oppose “21st Century Socialism,” as Chavistas refer to their national project. Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, the general secretary of the MUD, said last Sunday’s elections showed that the country is asking for more attention to be paid to “the fight against insecurity, the high cost of living, and the defense of private property.”
José Albornoz, the general secretary of the Fatherland for All (PPT) party, which supported Chavez in the past but ran its own candidates separate from the PSUV in 2008 and last Sunday, said his party will play the role of mediator between the PSUV and the MUD, and be “a centrist force that presents itself as a real alternative.” The PPT won only two legislative seats, compared to 97 for the PSUV and 63 for the MUD.
The president’s pledge appears to resonate with the radical wing of the PSUV, which has repeatedly denounced bureaucratic stalling of government programs, criticized high-level PSUV officials, and called on Chavez to cleanse his government of its corrupt “fifth column,” referring to right-wing and corrupt officials within the administration.
Stalin Perez, the leader of the Marea Socialista (“Red Tide”) tendency within the PSUV, published a statement last week on the pro-revolution website Aporrea.org, in which he stated: “The deputies of the right wing are not the ones who can put at risk the continuity of the revolutionary process. The election showed that they are our own leaders who did not know how to energize and mobilize the revolutionary people.”
“They repeated the old clientelist system, without giving incentive to debate and discussion, issuing party lines decided between four walls, disorganizing and combating the most critical and creative militants... they maintained the old practices of the 4th Republic [the period before Chavez came to power], treating the people as though they were simply merchandise that can be bought with a favor or perk in the week before or the day of the elections,” Perez continued.
“It is time to go into deep debate among the workers and the revolutionary people. We still have time, but tomorrow could be too late,” the Marea Socialista leader wrote.