President Hugo ChÃ¡vez of Venezuela, first elected in 1998 made democratichistory last Sunday in a triumphant defeat of the recall referendum on his presidency.The very Constitution that he championed in 1999 and that re-elected him in 2000,allows for a mid-term recall referendum for the president’s term in office. After six years in office, in this recall referendum held on August 15, ChÃ¡vez led with a 58 per cent majority. Voters clearly exercised their constitutional right to confirm the president in a historic referendum process, never practiced in the history of this hemisphere.
Under the watchful eyes of over 600 international observers and media scattered throughout the country, a majority of Venezuelans prevented their president from being ousted by a coalition opposition led by Accion Democratica (AD) and the Christian Democrats (COPEI), both parties representing the moderate and ultra right. Renowned international election-observer delegations from The Carter Center, Organization of American States (OAS) and European parliamentarians hailed the referendum process as free and fair.
With this referendum President ChÃ¡vez’s government has been reaffirmed in a total of eight elections, referendums and plebiscites in six years. Apart from the democratic processes at work, ChÃ¡vez and his government have withstood the coup d’Ã©tat of April 2002, a general lockout orchestrated by the oligarchy management and union leadership (CTV) that stalled the country’s oil economy. They have resisted the aggressive private media (press and television alike) that have been carrying out a flagrantly racist character assassination of the Mestizo (Indigenous, Black and White) politically-left president.
ChÃ¡vez escaped an opposition-hired Colombian paramilitary’s attempt to assassinate him in May 2004. He has remained popular while a segment of the Catholic Church leadership — who enjoyed the benefits of aligning themselves with the wealthy — tried to diminish his commitment to the Church and the poor. He has jarred the political opposition that is backed by the private media and corporations, not to mention the international private media that continue to frame ChÃ¡vez as a militant red beret military commander-in-chief, in spite of his repeated landslide democratic electoral victories. It has kept the tide out from the oil guzzling empire just north of the Caribbean Sea, which earned tax free investment and free market opportunities here for 80 years and backed the failed coup d’Ã©tat against ChÃ¡vez in April 2002.
Regardless of this pressure, ChÃ¡vez remains the only elected leader of a nation who has the relentless guts to give continuing volume to his peoples’ opposition to U.S-led neo-liberalism in the region and economic, political and military aggression the world over. If the social movements which captured the world’s imagination with the slogan “another world is possible” could choose a political leader, it should be President Hugo ChÃ¡vez. Such resistance runs in the veins of Hugo ChÃ¡vez’s Bolivarian Revolution provoking left and middle ground political leaders.
In Latin America, ChÃ¡vez received the unstinting support of progressive political parties such as Lula’s Workers Party (PT) in Brazil that sent a delegation of support. The Argentinean government sent two former presidents: Eduardo Duhalde and Fernando de La Rua of the Peronist party. ChÃ¡vez receives standing ovations from Latin American Indigenous Rights Movements, Landless Movement of Peasants (MST), and Via Campesinas (Peasants’ Movement — 60 million strong world wide).
ChÃ¡vez also enjoys credibility among leftist academics, writers and artists, who signed a manifesto of support. It included such leading thinkers as Eduardo Galeano (Uruguay), AhÃjaz Ahmad (India), Tariq Ali (Pakistan-England), Manu Chao (Spain-France), Eric Hobsbawm (England), Naomi Klein (Canada) and Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London (England). The letter stated: “we wish to denounce the disinformation campaign that is being orchestrated by the major media and that attempts to characterize ChÃ¡vez as a tyrant — a President who has consistently respected the rule of law and the country’s Constitution.”
Endorsement of the president is now trickling in from the United States. Jesse Jackson, dissenting from his own Democratic Party position articulated by the U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry, has signed a ChÃ¡vez campaign letter. A few dozen U.S. citizens including U.S. congressmen and Hollywood star Danny Glover are here in Caracas adding their voice to the never ending chant of “Uh ah ChÃ¡vez no se va” (Uh ah ChÃ¡vez will not go) that is echoing in the streets.
With yet another massive win under his belt, the real question is will the United States stay out of the internal politics of this country and let President ChÃ¡vez carry out the democratic mandate of his people, or will they be continuing their overt and covert operations in Venezuela, as they did 30 years ago in Salvador Allende’s Chile?