Monday, December 04, 2006

Chavez Rides Red Volkswagen to Victory

Hugo Chavez, in a closely observed election, won 61.35% of the vote to secure his presidential bid on December 3rd, 2006. His closest rival, economic and political conservative Manuel Rosales came in with 33.38% of the vote.

Venezuela implemented what many observers regard as the most exhaustive set of electoral safeguards ever seen in Latin America. The new Venezuelan voting system includes fingerprint voter registration, electronic balloting with a paper receipt and on-line transmission of the votes to the National Electoral Council.

Hugo drove to the polls in his red Volkswagen bug dressed in his signature red shirt, black pants and white sneakers. "He dresses like he is one of us," said one of his supporters, reflecting the mood of the majority of the people in this increasingly red nation.

Chavez's social programs and structural changes in this historically divided nation have led to massive economic gains. Land redistribution, urban renewal and infrastructure projects in slum areas have all helped. Thousands of doctors from Cuba and the establishment of clinics and access to clean water and other utilitizes have been a bonanza in a country where, only ten years ago soldiers were ordered to fire on and murder protestors demonstrating for food.

The Economist magazine reports Venezuela's economy growing at an annualized rate of 10.2% in Q3 with a positive trade balance nearing $40 billion (thanks largely to oil exports). This follows consistent double-digit growth since the disasterous 2002 coup attempt and bosses strike/lock-out. The historically feudal-like economic relations in Venezuela are finally coming to an end.

In Venezuela the media is all still controlled by capitalist interests opposed to Chavez and socialism in general. All of the major newspapers and television stations were strongly anti-Chavez and pro-Morales. The same pattern was seen in Mexico, in which case the victory for the right was secured.

Chavez correctly stated in a post election speach delivered to several hundred thousand supporters that "[...] we are facing the very devil," Mr. Chavez said in one of his final speeches before campaigning officially ended. "On Dec. 3, we face at the ballot box the imperialist government of the United States of America. That is our real adversary."

Nevertheless, the liberal capitalist elite in the US is gaining ground quickly as evidenced by the toppling of Donald Rumsfeld and now John Bolton, and the increasing isolation of President George Bush. Tellingly, the US reaction to the Venezuelan elections has been positive and non-confrontational.

In a run-up to the election the right was able to mobilize hundreds of thousands of "middle class" Venezuelans for an anti-Chavez rally - the largest ever. However, this was followed the next day by a pro-Chavez rally involving over 2.5 million people!

See also Lenin's post on the Chavez victory. Long live socialism!

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