Monday, December 03, 2007

Venezuela: The people have spoken...

...and they used their brains for a change. People are stupid, but not that stupid. This should be the lesson Hugo "Por qué no te callas" Chávez should learn from the results of the referendum. It is to Chavez's credit, at least for the time being, that the vote happened without fraud and that he respected the results. And that it was a vote in the first place. People have accused him of winning fraudulently, and that has not been the case. He has won fair and square in the past and he lost fair and square this time around.
There was far less turnout than expected. All the people who were against the measures showed up, yet many of his loyal supporters could not bring themselves to vote against him but were not going to give him unlimited power. Good for them.
The referendum was poorly thought out. It was abusive. Instead of having people vote on one or two items, such as abolishing term limits and imposing a state of emergency; for instance, many very disturbing terms were bundled in one vote. So maybe you agree to abolish the autonomy of the Central Bank but you don't agree on abolishing term limits or on working only six hours a day (I am still flummoxed by that one). It left the voters no choice.
People were very concerned mostly about two things: abolishing the term limits, which meant he could be president for life, and his license to declare a state of emergency when he deemed it necessary, both frighteningly undemocratic measures. I'd be concerned about the Central Bank issue as well, which takes away its independence in order to have Chávez manage it all as well. Scary.
But I guess that it is also a matter of relevance. It seems to me Chávez is working on a rehashed "socialist" model that is completely outdated and thoroughly unattractive to anybody but the most recalcitrant Marxist (or those hippies who sell handmade earrings across Latin America). Nobody wants to be like Cuba, much less North Korea. China maybe, and China, well, they have updated themselves so thoroughly that their only communist trait seems to be their lack of democracy. As for the rest, they seem to have embraced entrepeneurship with a vengeance. Chávez would do better to present a more updated socialized model that didn't scare the middle class to death, and that would take into account the realities of a globalized world economy. Instead, it is tired sloganeering, embarrassing international provocations, alliances with unsavory regimes and unrestrained demagoguery. In fact, he has done much to win the loyalty of the poor and he should continue to do so, but not at the expense of other equally worthy citizens of his country. Venezuela is not a banana republic, like Cuba is and used to be. I don't see that it is going to be that easy to transition it on this day and age to a tropical mini-gulag. Venezuela is a rich country, rich with oil, fertile soil and natural resources. It could be a model social democracy, like Argentina and Chile, which are quietly going on with their left-leaning lives successfully without the tiresome Commie banter.

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