From the December 2005 Idaho Observer:

Venezuela: Chavez wins, Bush loses

Every meddlesome, obstructionist tactic from the Bush White House has backfired:Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Bush’s nemesis, is growing in popularity—at home and abroad.

by James Petras

The Venezuelan congressional elections of December 4, 2005 mark a turning point in domestic politics and US-Venezuelan relations. President Chavez’s party, the Movement of the Fifth Republic, won approximately 68 per cent of the congressional seats and with other pro-government parties, elected all the representatives.

One of the most striking aspects of the election was the highly polarized voter participation: In the elite and upper middle class neighborhoods voter turnout was below 10 per cent, while in the numerous popular neighborhoods the BBC reported lines waiting to cast their ballots.

With close to a majority of the poor voting and over 90 per cent voting for Chavez’ party, and electing an all Chavez legislature, the way is open for new, more progressive legislation, without the obstructionist tactics of a virulent opposition. This should lead to measures accelerating the expropriation of latifundios (large estates) and of bankrupt and closed factories as well as new large-scale social and infrastructure investments. It is also possible a new constitutional amendment will allow for a third term for President Chavez.

The Bush Administration (with Democratic Congressional backing) has engaged in desperado ‘casino’ politics, namely an ‘all or nothing’ approach, instead of a gradualist incremental opposition. Washington pushed its client trade union confederation (CTV) ,with financial support and "advice" from the AFL-CIO, into a general strike in 2001. This failed and eventually led to the formation of a new confederation reducing the CTV to an impotent association.

In April 2002 the US backed a military coup, which was defeated in 47 hours by a mass popular uprising backed by constitutionalist military officers, resulting in the dismissal of hundreds of pro-US military officials. From December 2002 to February 2003, US-backed officials and their entourage in the state petroleum company, PDVS, organized a lockout, temporarily paralyzing the economy.

Loyalist workers and engineers backed by the government broke the lockout and all the senior officials and employees engaged in the lockout were fired, setting in motion a major shift in petroleum revenue allocation from the upper class to the poor. Likewise the US poured millions via the NED into a non-governmental organization, SUMATE, to fund a referendum to recall Chavez in 2004. The referendum was defeated by a 16-point margin (58 per cent to 42 per cent) leading to demoralization, apathy and depoliticizing of the voter constituency of the right.

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