03 December 2007

The answer is no

Yesterday, a slight majority of Venezuelans said "no" to a proposal to reform their national constitution. Among many changes intended to further the "Bolivarian Revolution", the proposed reform introduced the possibility of indefinite presidential reelection. Faced with defeat, president Hugo Chávez seemed resigned. He said, obliquely, that he preferred to lose in this manner than winning by a small margin and knowing it after a protracted vote count.

The results were 50.7% for NO and 49.3% for YES, which is indeed a very small difference, but the count was completed very quickly considering more than 9 million people went to the polls. The whole day was surprisingly uneventful. Chávez seems to be one of those guys you either love or hate, and since the reform was plainly intended to turn him into a dictator for life, it must be a demonstration of Venezuelans' maturity that no incidents were reported between pro-Chávez and anti-Chávez people, and that Chávez himself, being a textbook example of magic realism, reacted with such calm.

This result means that Chávez will not be reelected, and though his policies may remain popular with half of the country, the one who takes his place won't be exactly like him and will have to resist the urge to cling to power.

One has to consider how this will impact the whole hemisphere. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the Americas, and Chávez has been using oil money to favour some countries, such as Argentina and Cuba. Having a lot of money derived from one of the most precious non-renewable resources on Earth, coupled with a lot of political power, means Chávez felt like he could say and do anything, from calling George W. Bush the Devil (or more charmingly "Mr. Danger") to graciously provide megatons of fuel oil at discount price to Argentina, from insulting a former president of Spain to parading around with Iran's Holocaust-denying current president.

Chávez has just received the first "no" in his whole political life. And that's a good thing. We don't need a dictatorship, benevolent or not, democratically elected or forcefully imposed, either to the left or to the right, in Latin America. I try to think we've all grown past that. I hope Hugo Chávez will be as smart as he seems to be, and recognize that his time is over for a while.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you Pablo, I think there were some good clauses in that bill, but then they had to go and throw some crazy stuff in it also. Sure working 6 hours would be nice for those on salary, but what about those who get paid by the hour? 6 hours a day would severly reduce their paycheck. Or would that not effect them.. I don't know either way, I was extremely suprised that when he lost he didn't rip off his face and start breathing hell fire on everyone like some mythical dragon. He just kinda didn't do anything, which I thought was...I don't know...nice, and like you said the people did a good job of not going crazy on each other.


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