Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Aftermath in Venezuela

Of course, everyone is scrambling to make sense of the “post NO” era in Venezuelan politics. What’s absolutely fascinating—and what makes predictions so difficult—is that conventional wisdom was turned on its head. Low turnout was supposed to hurt the opposition, not the government. Polls were supposed to be wrong because they were politically motivated.

Chávez still has the enabling laws, and is committed to his vision of 21st Century Socialism regardless of the vote, which may lead to renewed conflict before long, but I am mostly inclined to put a positive spin on the results.

--Democracy worked. Chávez lost and accepted it. It’s obvious, but bears repeating. There have been countless facile comparisons to Fidel Castro, but Fidel has never participated in anything but fully cooked elections, and there is no way Fidel would ever accept electoral defeat.

--As a result, the opposition likely won’t keep up the abstention strategy for elections. Democracy is strengthened when everyone participates and accepts losing as a normal event.

--Chávez was defiant but relatively subdued, and neither side hurled outlandish insults at each other. It’s hard to imagine that state of affairs lasting very long, but at least for now…

--Aside from a very small amount of crowing, the U.S. government kept its collective mouth shut, which is good for everyone.

--Perhaps this is wishful thinking because the political contexts are different, but there is potentially a positive demonstration effect for Bolivia and Ecuador.


Tambopaxi 4:03 PM  

Greg, Quite agree with your last para. I'm not thrilled with first actions of Ecuador's Constituent Assembly, but the more I see Correa in action, the more I think this guy is not cut from the same cloth as Chavez; see my recent posts on these subjects for my (humble, non-academic) take on things. regards, Tambopaxi

Greg Weeks 4:12 PM  

You have an interesting take, and certainly insights can just as easily come from non-academics.

However, when you say Correa is not cut from the same cloth as Chavez, I am not clear whether you mean that is positive or negative. Chavez's CA didn't take authority away from any other institution, so I assumed you meant Correa was worse.

Anonymous,  7:36 AM  

Well, Chavez just made public his intention of continuing with the reform. Since he is not allowed by to propose a referendum again, then "someone else will propose it". Not only that, Congress voted yesterday to support Chavez's intention to re-launch the project. He also said that Venezuelans weren't mature enough to understand his proposal and lectured the opposition on how to learn from the victory. This is just starting Greg.

Greg Weeks 8:13 AM  

What's your point? We would not reasonably expect that any president would suddenly jettison something after a single vote. You would normally expect it to be modified, honed, etc. then debated again. So we'll see what happens.

Your comment also reflects the fact that mant of the constitutional reforms should be legislation rather than part of a constitution.

Anonymous,  9:44 AM  

Well actually, you re right. I am just frustrated at Chavez's arrogancy but you are right.

Anonymous,  11:14 AM  

I don't see much of an issue with modifying the proposals and having someone else resubmit them for a referendum.

This is what happens in our Congress all the time, something doesnt pass they modify it (or pile the pork on top of it, or bury it in an omnibus bill) and put it back out there. They dont just give up and chuck the idea entirely.

And with the Vens NA being controlled by Chavistas, is it not more "democratic" to push these things through a referendum?

I think the opposition has to be worried, they barely managed to win, and if this thing goes for another vote the abstenion rate should be much lower, as Chavistas will do a much better job mobilizing their supporters.

Regardless, the opposition should be welcoming referendums right now, because of their weakness in congress.

I think its also important to pay attention to the opposition leadership. The student movements and and the reorganization of the opposition have created new political leaders that could possibly play very important roles in the future.

Also, anyone do any investigating into the actual voting system? They make the US's look like an obsolete hodgepodge.

Anonymous,  1:54 PM  

1) I conceeded, Greg is right.
2) I urge you to watch this video to understand my frustration. It was posted minutes ago and shows Chavea referring to the opossition's victory, in national TV with these words:
"This victory is full of shit, full of shit, shit."

3) Yes, the oposition should worry indeed.

Greg Weeks 3:58 PM  

Quite a scene--it is as if Chavez has no inner monologue, as the latter "mierda" part of the video is more something you would say to friends in private, not what a president would say in public.

The first part, though, wasn't so crazy--just that the proposal will be modified and reintroduced at some point. He said he had letters of support, which isn't exactly solid evidence, but he will have to risk another defeat.

Tambopaxi 6:32 PM  


To your question, I see Correa as becoming more subtle and taking lessons from the Venezuelan and Bolivian experiences. I'm not sure that worse or better than Chavez apply in Correa's case, so much as he's using a different approach, naturally, since Ecuador's a different country. People here are also watching Bolivia and Venezuela, and there's already wariness regarding the CA's inital moves here. Notwithstanding all of the sins of traditional political parties, we didn't have a dictatorship here and we don't want one in the form of 80 guys in the CA who seem to be taking their cues from Correa's close buddy, Alberto Acosta, President of the CA. (Recall that I perceive some differences between Acosta and Correa right now, so I'm not saying that the Acuerdo Pais people are taking orders from Correa; they could be, but you certainly don't see any public signals coming from Correa.)

Greg Weeks 3:44 PM  

Tambopaxi--well, Ecuador did have a dictatorship, but in fairness it was a generation ago and the first in the regional wave to leave power.

I'll definitely have to focus a bit more on the constitutional debate in Ecuador. Even though Bolivia has been violent, the CA there has actually taken fewer powers than in Ecuador.

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