It’s very rarely that such fundamental issues as the entire direction of the economy and democracy are tested at the ballot box but this is what happened in Venezuela on Sunday.
As opinion polls indicated Chavez has had a clear advantage leading his chief rival Rosales by anything from 20 to 35 points. This was achieved despite the private and corporate media still controlling 85% of the airwaves and most of the daily newspapers in Venezuela, where they have launched a sustained campaign to boost Rosales chances of cutting the gap.
A report published by Journalists for the Truth indicates that the Rosales campaign has received 73% of coverage in all media, which contradicts the principles of fair and balanced reporting requested by the National Electoral Council.
Under Chavez, the economy is booming with GDP growth expected to be around 9% for 2006 – that’s despite previous attempts to bankrupt the country by many businesses in 2003.
The Chavez government has continued investing in wide ranging social programs from health and education to Mercal.
Mercal is a government chain of shops and supermarkets where basic foodstuffs can be purchased at non-speculative prices and which benefits over half of Venezuela’s 27 million population, particularly the poorest where the bulk of Chavez’s electoral support lies.
Official figures from the UN corroborate the fact that poverty overall has fallen to 33.6% from 50% when Chavez came to power in 1999, and critical poverty has dropped to 10.6% from just over 20%.
Some of the mistakes Rosales made during his campaign had to be seen to be believed. In a telephone interview on an opposition Miami TV channel, Rosales classified the Venezuelans who benefit from the subsidized social programs "parasites". This tape turned up in Venezuela and has been used mercilessly against Rosales himself, highlighting his discrimination and socially racist attitudes.
The other gaffe he committed was during a speech on live TV to his supporters when he said, "I am convinced that after our defe…. victory on December 3rd". The "parasite" remark probably doomed his campaign. How can you offer the debit card "Mi Negra" (a debit card to be given to millions of Venezuelan families to buy services – the market gone mad) and then call the recipients parasites?
In the final days of the election concern was growing that there was a destabilization campaign afoot in the country. Roads being blocked, electricity cuts, no money in ATM machines at the weekend, all designed to make people’s lives difficult so that they blame Chavez and the government. People not aware of Venezuela’s recent history may find talk of destabilisation campaigns fanciful. It is not possible in this article to list the numerous previous illegal attempts to overthrow the democratically elected and popular President, but all readers should watch the DVD The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. This shows a coup by smart suited business men and dog-collared priests. The look on their faces when they were defeated was priceless. If anybody doubts the fascist tendencies of the opposition, this will dispel it. Pity about the 100 people whos murders they organised in order to carry out a coup supported alone in the world by the USA (withdrawn in embarrassment 48 hours later).
Now Chavez has won we should all watch out to ensure that any destabilisation tactics used, whether openly supported by the USA or not, are seen for what they are and defeated. Join the campaign - see http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org.uk)
Venezuela Solidarity Campaign