[Marxism] US view of recall result

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at rogers.com
Wed Aug 18 10:13:49 MDT 2004

Today’s Financial Times contains a commentary on the Venezuelan referendum
result by an analyst for the International Institute for Strategic
Studies -- a good barometer of the thinking of the Bush administration and
the rest of official Washington. The main points of the article:

1. The Bush administration didn’t really expect the “inadequate opposition”
to win the referendum.

2. Though disappointed, it is nonetheless relieved by the decisive character
of the Chavez victory because it ensures domestic stablility in Venezuela
for the next two years while the US is a) “preoccupied with engagements
elsewhere” and b) “needs steady oil supplies to guarantee stability in
international markets, help its economy and prevent further increases in oil
prices, which are bound to influence voters in an election year.”

3. The opposition needs to accept its defeat and revamp itself to make
itself more acceptable to the population, which sees it as too closely tied
to the oligarchy and old dictatorships. This means developing a more
“credible” leadership and programme which “appeal to the traditionally
neglected majority of Venezuela's poor”. (This will be a neat trick to pull
off, since the Chavez government is already addressing the needs of the poor
while the opposition is the instrument of the country’s middle class and the

4. The Chavez victory “will accelerate the radicalisation and implementation
of his revolutionary agenda”, which will involve an “inevitable crack down
on the opposition” and “a climate of fear based on intimidation”. But the
writer doesn’t provide any specifics to back the allegation, beyond
suggesting the (not unreasonable) possibility of a purge of public sector
opponents and restrictions on the oligarchy’s control and inflammatory use
of the media.

5. To protect the opposition, the OAS should be enlisted to threaten
Venezuela with expulsion if it violates the civil liberties guarantees in
the new Democratic Charter of the Americas. (ie. The US will the pressure
the OAS to pressure the Lula and Kirchner governments to pressure the
Venezuelans). NGO’s (eg. Amnesty International) should also be encouraged to
monitor Venezuela and report on any human rights abuses.

The need to protect civil rights in Venezuela
By Marco Vicenzino
Financial Times
August 18, 2004

Following Hugo Chávez's victory in the Venezuelan referendum there will no
doubt be a flurry of rhetoric about national reconciliation. However,
reality will soon set in. Mr Chávez's victory will accelerate the
radicalisation and implementation of his revolutionary agenda. It will
inevitably include a crackdown on the opposition, particularly government
employees and others dependent on the public sector, and greater limitations
on press freedom, particularly for private television stations. Mr Chávez
will use the remaining two years of his presidency to neutralise remnants of
the opposition and guarantee an easy re-election in 2006. That election will
probably take place in a climate of fear marked by intimidation to
discourage voter participation and prevent the opposition from organising

Until now, the coalition of opposition parties has been united againstMr
Chávez but divided over nearly everything else, thus allowing itself to be
regularly undermined by the government. Barring the emergence of irrefutable
evidence of fraud and manipulation in the weekend referendum, the
opposition's only option is to focus on the 2006 presidential election. With
two years to come up with a credible leadership and convincing political
programme, it must appeal to a cross-section of Venezuelan society and
promote a leader and message with which ordinary Venezuelans can identify.
But credible opposition leadership should have very limited ties to
pre-Chávez governments. The message must be devoid of militant rhetoric and
divisive oratory. Most importantly, it must appeal to the traditionally
neglected majority of Venezuela's poor, whom Mr Chávez has so effectively
dominated by addressing their needs and concerns. When Mr Chávez's approval
ratings sank to around 30 per cent a year ago, he launched his “social
missions” initiative with more than $1.7bn of state oil money allocated to
health, education and free food programmes for the poor. Although fiscally
irresponsible in the long term, the initiative yielded the necessary votes
to guarantee victory in the referendum.

In the absence of proof of wrongdoing, however, the Organization of American
States and the Carter Center, led by Jimmy Carter, endorsed the referendum's
results. Both entities were instrumental in the mediation between Mr Chávez
and the opposition that led to the referendum. In particular, the patient
and skilful diplomacy of Cesar Gaviria, the outgoing OAS secretary-general,
was critical in preventing bloodshed. Both the OAS and Mr Carter must now
bring the process to closure. However, the work of the OAS in Venezuela is
not over. In September, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the former Costa Rican
president, will be inaugurated as the new secretary-general of the OAS.
Venezuela must remain high on his list of priorities, particularly in the
climate of increasing political radicalisation. He must actively try to
ensure that Mr Chávez upholds Venezuela's obligations under the Democratic
Charter of the Americas, signed on September 11 2001, which protects the
civil liberties of all citizens of the Americas. Failure to comply with
obligations can result in expulsion from the OAS. The OAS member states must
support the secretary-general in his efforts. His success will be partly
determined by his ability to persuade, but his leadership will only be as
effective as the OAS member states permit. In addition, influential
non-governmental organisations must remain fully engaged in Venezuela to
report abuses publicly.

The US was resigned to a Chávez victory before the referendum. Because of
its preoccupation with engagements elsewhere and the inadequacy of the
Venezuelan opposition, it has taken an ad hoc approach to Venezuela of
plodding from crisis to crisis. Although clearly dissatisfied with the
referendum's result, Washington must be relieved at the prospect of the
restoration of domestic stability in Venezuela, at least until the country's
2006 presidential election.

The US needs steady oil supplies to guarantee stability in international
markets, help its economy and prevent further increases in oil prices, which
are bound to influence voters in an election year. Mr Chávez, meanwhile,
needs steady revenues to subsidise his “Bolivarian Revolution”, the success
of which ultimately depends on the oil price. Although the secure flow of
oil remains a mutual priority and concern for the US and Venezuela, the US
must emphasise the need to protect the rights of all citizens of the
Americas by co-operating and co-ordinating with the OAS and other member

The writer works for the International Institute for Strategic Studies-US,
in Washington

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