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Victory for Chávez in term limits referendum
This is no different from the practice here in the UK, where Margaret Thatcher won four elections for the Conservatives (although we did not have the privilege of voting for her personally as Prime Minister), and Tony Blair won three times for Labour.
Hostile media campaign
Once again the international media have made a great song and dance about "dictatorship" and about Chávez being president for life, ignoring the fact that he will only be president if the popular vote favours him in elections which have been certified time and again as scrupulously free and honest – and that the constitutional possibility of mid-term recall will also remain.
On February 15th the amendment passed by a comfortable margin: nearly 55% to 45%, over 6,300,000 against 5,200,000 with a turnout of over 70%. This in the fifteenth national vote since Chávez' first election, which must surely be a record in terms of democratic participation.
This success was also remarkable in the face of another vicious campaign by the opposition, which once again resorted to dirty tricks such as a staged attack on a synagogue (falsely attributed to chavistas in an attempt to discredit the government) and infiltration of Colombian paramilitaries (fortunately detected by the security services).
Victory crucial for popular forces in Latin America
Victory in this campaign was crucial not only for Chávez or for Venezuela, but for the Left and the popular forces throughout the region. Defeat would have thrown Venezuela into crisis and would have called into question the entire regional project of integration based on social justice, equitable exchange and sustainable development (ALBA, UNASUR, Petrosur, Petrocaribe and the Bank of the South).
A reverse in Venezuela would have been a devastating blow to the popular transformational projects in Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, and to the steady recovery of Cuba. It is no accident that a few weeks before the vote, leading figures from the Venezuelan opposition met with US officials in Puerto Rico, conspiring once again to destabilise the government in Caracas.
Such conspiracies will no doubt continue, especially now that the opposition know they have no legitimate means of undermining the government for another three years. They will as always be able to count on assistance from Washington and from Bogotá – unless Obama recognises the need to negotiate with Caracas and Uribe realises that he has too much on his hands in Colombia to meddle in his neighbour's affairs.
Confirmation of socialist goal
In Venezuela, meanwhile, Chávez has a renewed mandate to push forward with the Bolivarian Revolution, with the consolidation of popular power, the community councils and the goal of 21st Century Socialism, a concept which is in urgent need of clarification and implementation as the world economic crisis intensifies.
In the President's words, "truth has triumphed over falsehood and the dignity of the nation over those who renege from the nation". Declaring that his future would now be dedicated entirely to the service of the Venezuelan people, he insisted: "Now, what is the road ahead? You know very well. The road is that of the dignity of men, of women and of the Venezuelan people. That road has only one name: it is called Socialism".
This article will be appearing in Frontline Latin America, the journal of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign.