[Marxism] MH/Oppenheimer: Vote may turn Venezuela into `elected dictatorship'

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 29 06:31:47 MST 2007

If anything, this article by the MIAMI HERALD's Cuba-basher-in-chief is
further proof that capitalism and democracy are nowadays more and more
incompatible. They favor "democracy" only insofar as they can use it to
maintain or bring about capitalism. If they can't win through a voting
process, however, they have other options which they will attempt to use
to get their way. All of history has shown this so far, but today it is
more and more clear, not just to people on the left, but more generally.

David Walters asked, what if the reform referendum fails? Well, there is 
little or no basis for this kind of abstract, speculative inquiry as all
the facts so far, including the broad reforms already undertaken in that
country, and the track record of the Bolivarian forces for the past EIGHT
years clearly indicates there is every reason to assume - not to take for
granted, but to ASSUME - a victory for the reform forces. 

That being said, we can use the Internet here as a vehicle for thinking
out loud a bit on this question. Why not? That's what the Internet really
IS good for. It certainly would seem to me that, based on all of the news
and information so far, particularly the hysterical media campaigns both
in print and electronic form, the shrill and wild campaign by the Roman
Catholic Church hierarchy - which all but says parents will lose custody
of their children, etc., a victory by the Bolivarian forces can reasonably
be projected, but probably by a notably smaller margin than in previous
cases. I would see that as the optimum result. This isn't something like
the 1990 Nicaraguan election where a civil war was going on and they felt
the only way to end the war was to vote the FSLN out. But the church and
the media are appealing to the deepest fears which less-educated people,
and some who ought to know better, have been programmed to think for their
entire lives. 

There's a big item on the Church in today's MIAMI HERALD and you can get
a glimpse of their fear-generating efforts by reading the report:

Since there is, so far, no strong call for abstention being voiced in the
Bolivarian republic, and the pro-reform forces have no reason to feel any
sense of over-confidence, they'll probably engage in a vigorous campaign
to get out the vote. If that happens, there are good reasons to look to
Sunday's vote with cautious optimism, at least those of us who are today
looking at the process from outside and far away.

If voter turnout IS large, the results would then be harder to assail as
unauthentic or illegitimate. But if reform wins by a narrower margin, it
will be necessary to make various tactical adjustments to take the vote
into account, and to win over as many of the uncertain elements as can
be won over and brought along.

But it ain't over till it's over.

Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba
Oppenheimer hates democracy. How else can you explain such a column as this?
So far, Chavez and his allies have lost one military coup attempt, which
THEY made, and won every election which they contested after that. It seems
obvious from this record that Oppenheimer hates democracy.

Of course, should the referendum be defeated, Oppenheimer will then claim
democracy triumphed.

Cuba had no parliamentary democracy, which is why Fidel Castro and his
friends turned to the only vehicle available to them at that time: armed
struggle. Venezuela remains a parliamentary democracy, and, up until now,
Chavez and his allies have won at each stage of the process.

Oppenheimer has complained at each step of the way in Venezuela. Why is
Oppenheimer so hostile to democracy?

Oppenheimer gives hypocrisy a bad name.
NOTE: I posted the above to the MH discussion board where this article by
Whoppenheimer is posted. Others should add their opinions as well.)

Vote may turn Venezuela into `elected dictatorship'
Posted on Thu, Nov. 29, 2007


aoppenheimer at MiamiHerald.com

Will Venezuela still be considered a democracy if it approves a referendum
Sunday that would give President Hugo Chávez near unlimited powers? Will
Chávez still qualify as an ''elected'' leader?

I asked these questions earlier this week to Tom Shannon, the State
Department's top official in charge of Latin American affairs. I was curious
about his response, because when I asked him a few weeks ago whether
Venezuela can still be considered a democracy, he answered ``Yes.''

According to Venezuelan opposition leaders and pro-democracy activists,
Venezuela would become a Cuban-styled communist dictatorship, with only
cosmetic democratic institutions, if a Chávez-proposed constitutional reform
is approved in Sunday's referendum. If the 69 constitutional amendments are
passed, Venezuela will have voted itself out of a democracy, they say.

''The proposed constitution redefines the country as a socialist state,''
said Ana Julia Jatar, a fellow at Harvard University's Carr Center for Human
Rights Policy. ``That, by itself, means that there is no space for other

Among other proposed changes:

• The reform would abolish the Central Bank's independence, in effect
leaving Chávez with control of the legislative and judicial powers, the
Central Bank, the military, the electoral tribunal and much of the media.

• Chávez would be allowed to create ''Strategic Defense Regions,'' or new
provinces, through which he could bypass elected opposition governors.

• It would allow Chávez to decree states of emergency in which he would be
able to suspend freedoms of expression and arrest people without charges.

• It would extend presidential terms to seven years, and would eliminate
constitutional provisions that prohibited Chávez from being reelected

• It would define elections as aimed at ``the construction of socialism.''

Former Defense Minister Raúl Isaías Baduel, until four months ago Chávez's
most trusted general, has called the proposed changes ''a coup d'etat'' to
give Chávez unlimited powers.

And pollsters, who in the past accurately predicted Chávez's wins, say that
many pro-Chávez Venezuelans are likely to vote against the constitutional
reforms, triggering speculation that Chávez will postpone the vote or step
up intimidation of voters.

In response to my question on whether he will still consider Venezuela to be
a democracy if the constitutional changes are passed, Shannon -- the
ultimate diplomat -- said he does not like to answer hypothetical questions.
When told that there is nothing hypothetical about proposed constitutional
reforms that have been published by the Venezuelan government, he said: 
``We have our own opinions and concerns about these proposed constitutional
reforms, and they are not unique: They are shared by many other democrats in
the region who have expressed worries about the centralization of powers.''

Shannon added, ``But at the same time, it's wrong to anticipate Sunday's
vote. This is a decision that has to be made by the people of Venezuela
based on their criteria and interests.''

My opinion: If you believe that democracy means just holding elections,
Venezuela will still be a democracy if the proposed constitutional changes
are adopted, even if Chávez ''wins'' through massive use of government
resources, voter intimidation, a government-controlled election tribunal and
official hurdles that effectively forced Organization of American States and
European Union observers to decline monitoring Sunday's vote.

By that token, Fidel Castro's Cuba holds elections as well and calls itself
a democratic country, as did Benito Mussolini's Italy and so many other

But if you believe, as I do, that a democracy entails a separation of
powers, and tolerance for peaceful opposition parties, the proposed
constitution's very definition of Venezuela as a ''socialist'' country will
preclude the Venezuelan people from deciding their political fate in future

For the record, I don't have anything against the word ''socialism'': Spain,
Chile and several other countries have socialist governments that are often
excellent, but their constitutions allow their citizens to decide the
political color of their leaders in free elections.

And while other countries, such as India, retain references to socialism in
their constitutions, their leaders -- unlike Chávez -- don't hold Cuba's
dictatorship as their model society.

If the proposed constitutional reforms are adopted, Venezuela should be
called a ''cosmetic democracy'' or 'elected dictatorship' -- but not a

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