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What lays ahead for Hugo Chavez

By Aleksander Boyd

London 31.07.05 | With respect to the very poignant comments of Cardinal Castillo Lara a couple of weeks ago, a reader was kind enough to send round some rather interesting remarks, which could give a glimpse of what it is to come to the proto-castrist Hugo Chavez.

From Martz, John D., Accion Democratica – Evolution of a Modern Political Party in Venezuela (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966): pp. 93-94.

"In 1957 Pérez Jiménez suffered a serious blow from the pastoral letter of Venezuelan Archbishop Rafael Arias Blanco of Caracas. The silence of the Church during preceding years was broken in a sharp attack on the misuse of the nation's funds. Arias charged that social problems were multiplying rapidly, seemingly without concern in official circles; living conditions for the majority of Venezuelans were increasingly wretched. He also deplored the condition of the labor movement. Furthermore, in the Archbishop's words, '…an immense mass of our people is living in conditions that cannot be regarded as human. Unemployment leads many Venezuelans to despair…the excessively low salaries on which a large number of our workers must survive is inexcusable…and the situation is worsening.'

"National elections were due by the close of 1957, and the regime set about the task of somehow legitimatizing its continuance in power. In July it was announced that a vote would be held in December, but no details were furnished. Not until November was the matter elaborated. In what proved to be a final miscalculation by the government, its Consejo Electoral announced a vote to be held December 15, 1957. Instead of an ordinary election, however, a plebiscite was to be held, giving the voter the opportunity to indicate whether or not he wanted the President to remain in office.

"The voter, it was explained, would receive a blue and a red card, the former representing an affirmative vote and the latter a negative one. A provision for blind voters permitted the use of a round card for a pro-government vote and a square one for a negative response. A curious item – reflecting the flood of immigrants – was the granting of a vote to all foreigners of at least 18 years' age who had been in Venezuela two years or more. Under this arrangement, some 2,700,000 votes were reportedly on December 15, with 85 percent approving the dictator's continuation in office. In fact, however, this proved one of the final errors in judgment that helped to precipitate the revolution."

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