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Hugo Chavez must leave Venezuela’s presidency in 2013

By Aleksander Boyd

New York 18.12.07 - For many years freedom loving Venezuelans lived with a harrowing prospect: that of seeing Hugo Chavez perpetuate himself indefinitely in power as his idol Fidel Castro. Time and again the strongman would state, unambiguously, that his rule would end in 2021 or 2031 or 2050… None of it made sense, however for Chavez it has been very clear since his early revolutionary days. As he once said to co-coupster Francisco Arias Cardenas “once in power we will never relinquish it.” The real goal of the constitutional reform proposal recently presented was to introduce, for the first time in Venezuela’s republican life, indefinite reelection. It must be borne in mind though that indefinite reelection was meant to be a possibility which solely the president of the country could, exclusively, benefit from, for no other democratically elected public servant, be it governors, majors, deputies, councilmen, etc. could have run for additional terms had the reform been approved. Moreover President Chavez is on the record expressing that emergence of caudillos had to be avoided at all costs. Such naked ambition leaves very little doubt as to the democratic credentials of Hugo Chavez.

Since 2005 parliamentary elections European and American electoral observers have produced damning reports with regards to the obscene way in which the State has used its powers and funds to support official candidates. Concerns from European observers ranged from “discovery of a design flaw in the software of the voting machines, with the consequent remote possibility to violate the secrecy of the vote” to “The circulation of a computerized list of citizens indicating their political preference in the signature recollection process for the 2004 Referendum (so-called Programa Maisanta)” and, with regards to 2006 presidential race, also included “the EU EOM has identified relevant problems in three areas: the existence of strong institutional publicity, unbalanced news coverage by the media, and the participation of public servants in the campaign.”

The OAS was somewhat harsher. About parliamentary elections of 2005 it said “The Mission laments the public statements made by a high-level leader of the governing party that sought to coerce the participation of government employees” and “During the election campaign, the Mission observed proselytizing activities on the part of high-level public officials, at the national as well as the state and municipal levels, and an absence of strict mechanisms to control the use of public and private resources for political and electoral ends” while it reminded the government about its primary responsibility in establishing a climate of dialogue. OAS observers further mentioned in its final report of seeing a substantial difference of resources destined to propaganda purposes available to parties identified with the government and those in the opposition. During 2006 presidential race sources reported that the ratio of airtime in Venezuela’s biggest TV networks was 22 to 1 in favor of Chavez, who, in clear violation of electoral legislation, continued broadcasting his Sunday’s talk-a-thons and kept on forcing all TV/radio media outlets to carry out his many 'addresses' to the nation.

Ergo the clearly partisan way in which supposedly independent institutions have participated in electoral processes in Venezuela is sufficiently documented. However forcing others branches of power to follow in lockstep has not been the only misdemeanor of Hugo Chavez. More worryingly international media outlets have contributed a great deal in establishing Chavez’s so called democratic credentials. Official announcements based on false information have been reprinted and echoed the world over by journalists covering Venezuela, who seem very prone to disregard journalistic principles such as accuracy, impartiality and objectivity. This irresponsibility is best exemplified by Reuter’s Saul Hudson and Ana Isabel Martinez, who, disregarding Venezuelan electoral legislation -which they should been made aware of, jumped the gun on 2nd December and decided to ‘break the news’ of a Chavez win many hours before electoral authorities had even announced the first preliminary bulletin. Hudson and Martinez merrily swallowed hook, line and sinker and their bit of unsubstantiated gossip was given green light by an equally irresponsible Sean Maguire, editor at Reuters. Alas as reality would have it, and to pile on Reuters’ catalogue of notorious blunders, Chavez did not win, quite the contrary. To this date no retraction or public apology has been forthcoming. Violations to electoral laws were not exclusive of Reuters though, both journalist Ernesto Villegas and Jesús Romero Anselmi, director of state TV channel Venezolana de Television, spoke about results before these were announced by the electoral board. At the end Hugo Chavez had to accept defeat, his dreams of staying in power indefinitely permanently shattered.

Not two days from the referendum had passed when the paratrooper had returned to his defiant self mood. Incensed by widespread rumors that he was forced to accept defeat by the military high command he lashed, yet again, against the opposition, defining its historical victory as shitty. Going further he stressed upon his military nature by saying that he’s made for long battles and promised that his constitutional reform will be presented, unchanged, via other means. He also reprimanded his supporters to whom he yelled “because of you I will have to leave in 2013.” Such behavior goes a long way to show how utterly undemocratic Hugo Chavez truly is. For not only have his aspirations to become president for life ruled illegal and unconstitutional twice by Venezuela’s Supreme Court, now said decisions have the backing of the majority of Venezuelans whom expressed their commitment to live under democratic principles by ruling out for good, via referendum, the possibility. The Venezuelan people spoke, Hugo Chavez must leave in 2013.

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