[Marxism] SLIMY HERALD: Chávez power grab setting precedents

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 16 06:53:35 MST 2007

Chavez might end up with the same re-election prospects as FDR had before
Congressional Republicans took it away in 1945. (The preceding is what 
I put on the MIAMI HERALD's discussion board in relation to this.)

”From 11.9 million voters in 2003, the rolls swelled to nearly 16 million 
in 2006. That is largely because of a registration drive, aided by Cuban
advisors, that the government says extended voting rights to formerly
excluded sectors, such as Venezuelans too poor to obtain national IDs 
and foreigners living illegally in Venezuela for years."

COMMENTS: Capitalism and democracy are increasingly incompatible as this
commentary, presented in the form of a news report, clearly demonstrates.
They really only support "democracy" if it's a way to guarantee keeping
capitalist rule in place, or restoring it where it had been abolished.
But if democracy threatens capitalist interests, as it obviously does
in Venezuela today, and elsewhere, to hell with democracy, which is why
they tried the coup, then the boss's strike, and then the referendum in
their failed attempts to prevent consolidation of the Bolivarian project.

The opposition could easily defeat Chavez and the constitutional reform
program, if it had enough support in the population to do that, but by
now they seem to know that they don't have the support of the poor and
previously-excluded sectors of the population, who see their interests
linked to those of the Bolivarian project. Consider as well all of the
advantages which the opposition has, above all control of the majority,
indeed, almost every bit of the privately-controlled media in Venezuela.
They also have the support of the United States government, and of the
CIA, which can be presumed to be quarterbacking and funding them also.

Exactly contrary to what this article claims, Chavez and the Venezuelan
leadership have followed the formalities quite closely, and have taken
each step along the way in line with these formalities, from both the
constitution to the recall referendum and so on and so forth. Consider
as well here the difference between the Chavista approach to migration
by poor working people from Colombia and elsewhere, versus that of the
great bulk of Democratic and Republican politicians in the U.S. of A.

They want to keep undocumented immigrants poor and desperate rather
then giving them a reason to want to remain and participate fully in
the society, with all the benefits such participation would entail as
legal residents and perhaps in time as citizens. Naturally, if they 
had real rights as citizens or legal residents, they'd be wanting to
have more social benefits and programs, not less, and therefore would
constitute a block of support for any number of progressive policies,
from expanded health-care and education, and so on.

It's interesting that, so far, the opposition has not called for an
abstention in the upcoming referendum. Perhaps they are divided and
don't know what course to follow? Baduel has opposed any abstention
in this round, so it should be interesting to see how it all plays
out in the next couple of weeks. So it ain't over till it's over.

Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba

Chávez power grab setting precedents
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is likely headed to a referendum
victory -- and what may be unprecedented power.
Posted on Fri, Nov. 16, 2007


Special to The Miami Herald

No president in the history of Venezuela has accumulated as much
power as Hugo Chávez. And if his plan to revise the constitution is
approved in a Dec. 2 referendum, his control will be almost absolute.

''This much power? I don't believe anyone has ever wielded it,'' said
historian and former Foreign Minister Simón Alberto Consalvi.

''Even [Juan Vicente] Gómez, the great Venezuelan dictator of the
20th century, who governed for 27 years, maintained the
formalities,'' Consalvi told The Miami Herald. ``But Chávez has no
respect at all for formalities.''

After taking office in 1999, the former army lieutenant colonel moved
immediately to change the constitution. Through an elected assembly
dominated by his supporters, he scrapped the upper chamber of the
legislature, introduced immediate presidential reelection and
reshaped all branches of government.

If he wins the coming referendum -- as seems likely -- he will enjoy
the prospects of indefinite reelection and a raft of strong new
powers, including total control of the central bank.

The 1999 constitution contains many progressive features, among them
recall referendums for all elected offices, including the presidency.
It also features five autonomous branches of government, adding an
electoral branch and a ''moral'' branch -- consisting of an
ombudsman, public prosecutor and state auditor.


But these additional checks and balances mostly failed to work in
practice, analysts say, because the government took advantage of the
transition from old to new constitutions to appoint loyalists to all
key positions.

Later, when the electoral authority or the Supreme Court showed signs
of independence, the government ignored inconvenient decisions, fired
disobedient officials and replaced them with unconditional

When the electoral authority, known as the CNE, scheduled a
referendum in 2003 on whether Chávez should stay in power, the
Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional and the CNE members were

After the electoral branch of the Supreme Court later ordered the new
CNE to schedule a recall referendum, its ruling was ignored and then
overturned by the court's constitutional branch. Some of the
independent-minded justices were later sacked.

Although the recall referendum was eventually held in 2004, polling
data suggest that the delay helped ensure that Chávez won it.

The law governing the Supreme Court was also rewritten by the
pro-Chávez majority in the legislature in 2004, adding 12 new
justices -- all Chávez loyalists -- and making it easier to fire
members of the court.

But it hasn't been just Chávez grabbing power. The opposition has
often contributed to the consolidation of presidential power.

An opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections last year
gave Chávez control of every seat in the legislature. A military coup
in 2002, which briefly ousted Chávez, allowed him to purge the armed
forces of suspect officers.

A shutdown of the vital oil industry later that same year, designed
to force Chávez out of power, gave him the excuse to fire 18,000
employees of the state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela
S.A., and assume total control of the country's oil income.

''What was the result of the coup-plotting tactics of 2002?'' Teodoro
Petkoff, editor of the anti-Chávez daily Tal Cual, asked in an
editorial this week. ``To reinforce Chávez and hand him the armed
forces and Petróleos de Venezuela on a silver platter. The guns and
the money.''

But even when the opposition abides strictly by the constitutional
rules, it still often ends up playing into the president's hands.

The names of the more than three million people who signed the
petitions for the 2004 recall referendum were used by the government
as the basis for what is now known as the ''Maisanta list'' -- used
to deny public jobs, services, loans and contracts to opposition

The Maisanta list, along with the fingerprint machines used for voter
identification at the polls, have convinced many Venezuelans, both
pro- and anti-Chávez, that the vote is not secret, even though
foreign and local election observers have concluded that it is.


Nonetheless, lack of confidence in the CNE means part of the
opposition will not turn out to vote on Dec. 2, handing another
likely win to Chávez.

Despite the CNE's insistence that its electronic voting system is
''foolproof'' and that the results are as reliable as anywhere in the
world, skeptics point to the stunning growth in voter rolls since
Chávez came to power.

>From 11.9 million voters in 2003, the rolls swelled to nearly 16
million in 2006.

That is largely because of a registration drive, aided by Cuban
advisors, that the government says extended voting rights to formerly
excluded sectors, such as Venezuelans too poor to obtain national IDs
and foreigners living illegally in Venezuela for years.

The opposition complains that a large percentage of registered voters
cannot be traced for lack of addresses, and that the rolls contain an
inordinate number of voters who are more than 100 years old --
presumed to have died and never been removed from the rolls.

''This system is the most audited in the world,'' responded CNE
director Sandra Oblitas. ``All the studies have concluded that the
electoral register is fit for holding the referendum.''

Barring unforeseen circumstances, and whatever the complaints, it
seems South America's most powerful politician is about to become
more powerful still.

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