By Asad Ismi
On October 7, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s incumbent socialist President, won his third consecutive presidential election in a major victory for the Latin American Revolution. Chavez made clear in his victory speech that “Venezuela will never return to neoliberalism and will continue in the transition to socialism of the 21st century.”
This ensures the continuation of Venezuela’s social programs that have benefited millions of its people by bringing them free health care and education, along with subsidized food, housing, transport, medicines, land reform, and communal councils which have extended political power to grassroots communities. Poverty in Venezuela has been reduced by more than half—from 60% to 27%–under Chavez’s presidency, making him a very popular leader.
Equally important is that Chavez’s victory means the continuation of the process of Latin American integration, which has significantly advanced socialism on a regional level. The 10 left-wing governments in power in Latin America have set up a 33-nation regional organization (CELAC), a joint parliament and military alliance (UNASUR), a development bank (Bank of the South), a combined oil company (PetroSur), a trade alliance (ALBA), and a television network (Telesur). All these widely inclusive initiatives are acts of solidarity aimed at advancing the welfare and development of the Latin American people rather than as before, serving the interests of the Latin American élites.
In a speech on October 11, Chavez presented his vision for his third six-year presidency, emphasizing that this time would see “greater advances” towards the building of socialism and “greater achievements and greater efficiency in this transition from capitalism.“ Said Chavez, “We are obliged as a government and as the state to speed up the administration of efficient responses and solutions to the thousands and thousands of problems that the Venezuelan people still suffer from. We are obliged to be more efficient, precisely so we can continue every day with greater force.”
Chavez announced that as a member of Mercosur—an important regional trade bloc that includes Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay–his government will soon build railways and deep-water ports that will facilitate the export of Venezuela’s products to its Latin American partners.
“There is an extremely important project to convert La Ceiba, Trujillo state, and the Lake of Maracaibo into international ports. Further, we should start at once to begin the construction of the railway line between the Orinoco river and the Caribbean. This is the power of Latin America, this is the historic project,” explained Chavez.
The President also announced the expansion of official social programs through the implementation of “micro-missions” at the local level by organized communities, which will focus on “those most in need.”
“We are drafting ideas, revising notes and the specific and fundamental objectives of the micro-missions, as there will be many. They will be applied in towns, regions, factories, schools, and the different places where they are needed,” he said.
Chavez stressed that, for these projects to be effective, they must be rooted in grassroots organization. “We must keep giving power to the people, that is the solution; it’s not the power of the bureaucracy and élites that is going to solve the problems of the people,” he said. The president also announced the creation of a new government ministry of social missions.
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Chavez won a resounding victory over his right-wing rival, Henrique Capriles Radonski, a representative of the Venezuelan oligarchy. The President won 12% more votes than Capriles, gaining 56% of the total vote against the latter’s 44%. Some 8.2 million Venezuelans voted for Chavez, compared to 6.5 million for Capriles. About 81% of registered voters cast ballots, a record number. Chavez got 551,902 more votes this time than in the last election held in 2006. As Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, the influential U.S. political website, points out, Chavez’s winning margin would be considered a landslide in the U.S., where Obama won by a margin of just 7% more than John McCain in 2008.
Said Cuban President Raul Castro to Chavez, “In the name of the government and people of Cuba, I congratulate you on this historic triumph, which demonstrates the strength of the Bolivarian Revolution and its unquestionable popular support. Your decisive victory assures the continuity of the struggle for the genuine integration of Our America.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales called Chávez’s victory “monumental” in the fight against imperialism in Latin America. “It is a triumph of the people,” he said. “We are in times of the people, not of empires.”
For Dr. Maria Paez Victor, a Venezuelan-Canadian sociologist, “Venezuela has shown the world the excellence of its electoral process that unfolded in peace and order, and the keen democratic spirit of its people as more than 80% of voters took part in it.
“Considering that 95% of the media in Venezuela are in private hands, that they bombarded TV, radio, and newspapers with anti-Chavez ads, and that the United States had channelled $40 to $50 million to the opposition parties and groups to whom it gave strategic and communicational support, Chavez’s electoral triumph becomes quite amazing. He did not beat an individual or a party, but a powerful foreign conglomerate set against him. He won with 56% of the vote, a 12% advantage over his rival – while in Canada Prime Minister Harper won a majority last year with only 39% of the vote.
“This election will have profound effects in Venezuela, the region, and the world. Chávez is now the socialist leader with the most democratic success in the world. He now has a mandate to further socialize Venezuela to attain more social justice, to continue the efforts for the integration of Latin America, and, most of all, he has shown the world that there is a viable alternative to unbridled capitalism and neoliberal economic orthodoxy.”
The impressive socialism that Chavez has brought to Venezuela and Latin America is so popular in his country that even his neoliberal rival, Capriles, was forced to run from the left, portraying himself as a friend of the working class, which most voters knew was a farcical claim. As Luis Hernandez Navarro, editor of La Jornada, a leading Mexican newspaper, explains: “In today’s Venezuela, to be a rightist is out of fashion… Venezuela has given birth to a new political culture where the socialist ideal is widely accepted. Half the population agrees with the idea of building a socialist country. Citizens associate socialism with values such as democracy, equal opportunities, social inclusion, solidarity, co-operation, organization, participation, and efficiency.
“This massive adherence to the socialist cause is a relatively new development. During the 1960s and ‘70s, it was… a blocked idea, one most citizens considered forbidden. But that changed rapidly in the 2005 presidential campaign when President Chavez changed his stance from Bolivarianism, nationalism, and anti-imperialism to portray himself as a socialist. Capriles had no room to manoeuvre. He couldn’t oppose this ideal in public without [further] damaging his chances of victory. He couldn’t express his political and economic proposals clearly for he would have been [more decisively] rejected. Chavez’s view of his country, on the other hand, has become widely accepted — so much so that two-thirds of the population see him as the future.”
Capriles is not only a right-winger and the political leader of the highly corrupt and aggressive Venezuelan élite; he is also an actual terrorist. During the U.S.-sponsored military coup that briefly overthrew Chavez in 2002, Capriles participated in an assault on the Cuban embassy in Caracas (capital of Venezuela), a blatant act of terrorism that violated international law and amounted to an invasion of Cuban territory. Capriles was part of a crowd that attacked the Cuban embassy, destroying cars parked outside, cutting off water and electricity, and refusing to allow the Cuban ambassador to leave. But, instead of being prosecuted for this terrorism, Capriles was given a government amnesty in December 2007, which testifies to Chavez’s generosity even towards those who tried to overthrow him. As Maria Paez explained to me, “Chavez forgave Capriles.”
Capriles also has terrorist connections. One of his major supporters is Ricardo Koesling, a leader of Piedra (meaning “Rock”), a right-wing political party, who threatened during the election campaign: “We’ll use bullets, fists, kicks, everything we’ve got, to force the Chavistas out.” Koesling is one of the bosses of Miami’s Cuban-American Mafia and “the Venezuelan link in Luis Posada Carriles’ international terrorist network.” Carriles is the extremist terrorist and CIA agent who blew up a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing 73 Cuban civilians.
Koesling went on a tirade during an interview on Radio Caracas, pledging to “force out” Chavez, regardless of the results of the election. Koesling had close links to high-level officials in the Venezuelan government of President Jaime Lusinchi (1984- 89), and with these he helped Luis Posada Carriles escape from Venezuela’s San Juan de los Morros prison in 1985. On April 12, 2002, during the right-wing coup against President Chavez, Koesling led the attack on the Cuban embassy in which Capriles participated.
According to journalist Jean-Guy Allard, writing in the Venezuelan newspaper Correo Del Orinoco International, “Ever since the initial triumph of Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution (1998-present), the Miami-based mafia – which for decades executed CIA plans to destroy the Cuban Revolution – opened up its membership to a gang of Venezuelans that made opposing the Venezuelan President a business of its own.
“These Venezuelans are now modelling themselves after what the Cuban-Americans have done since 1959, serving as accomplices of former Dictator Fulgencio Batista, receiving both open and discreet support of different U.S. administrations. Towards the end of February, 2009, at the request of Posada Carriles and Angel De Fana Serrano, a group of Miami-based terrorists and Cuban-American mobsters held a public meeting with Venezuelan coup-mongers, including Patricia Poleo and exiled Venezuelan military officers.
“De Fana, linked to the 1997 plot to assassinate Fidel Castro during the Ibero-American summit, was seated next to Patricia Poleo, wanted by Venezuelan authorities for her role in the cowardly killing of prosecutor Danilo Anderson. Next to them both was none other than former Venezuelan Colonel Gustavo Diaz, one of Pedro Carmona’s loyal soldiers during the short-lived 2002 coup against President Chavez. [Carmona was one of the leaders of this coup].
“Miami is now home to numerous other Venezuelan delinquents, corrupt officials, and fugitives of justice, including Guillermo Zuloaga, former head of news corporation Globovision. This brotherhood of criminals, with whom Koesling identifies, represents the current, not-so-desirable U.S.-based support for opposition candidate Capriles Radonski.”
Now that the U.S.’s electoral options for removing Chavez appear exhausted and he is in power for another six years, there is little doubt that Washington will be activating all sorts of terrorist networks like the one above, in ongoing efforts to get rid of him. Chavez’s crucial re-election victory, however, has made the Latin American Revolution irreversible.
Published in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor, November 2012
Asad Ismi is the CCPA Monitor’s international affairs correspondent. He is author of the radio documentary The Latin American Revolution which has been aired on 40 radio stations in the U.S., Canada and Europe reaching a global audience of about 33 million people. He is also author of the anthology with the same title which can be ordered from the CCPA. This article is the 16th in a series on the Latin American Revolution.