Tomorrow’s Vote

Tomorrow, Venezuelans will vote on sweeping constitutional changes that would essentially convert the country to a Cuba-style dictatorship. From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

The proposed changes would eliminate the central bank’s independence, sharply limit the role and definition of private property and emasculate the powers of governors and mayors, allowing Mr. Chávez to literally redraw the political map of Venezuela. Under the new charter, Mr. Chávez could unilaterally set and dispose of the nation’s foreign-currency reserves. He would be able to appoint or dismiss vice presidents who would rule over the country’s 24 states, which he intends to group into six to eight regions. Perhaps, most important for Mr. Chávez, the changes would allow for his unlimited re-election.

 

“He becomes a king,” said Rafael Simón Jiménez, a former political ally of the president and a past vice president of the country’s congress. “What Chávez wants to do is rule the country until the day he dies.”

Another WSJ piece closely mirrors a front-page story in El Nacional, where Chavez threatens to expel a US diplomat because he thinks that the US is planning to sabotage tomorrow’s referendum. El Nacional gets a little more specific, alleging (help me if my translation’s off, because my Spanish is very rusty):

Según Chávez, Washington está detrás de una supuesta “Operación Tenaza”, que busca desconocer los resultados a favor del Sí.
According to Chavez, Washington is behind the so-called “operation pliers” that seeks to not recognize a yes vote

 

HWTFM opined this morning that the election will be close (polls are putting the “no” vote at 2%-5% ahead), and because Chávez controls the ballot boxes, if he thinks he’s losing, he’ll simply steal it. And if that happens, there’s a very real possibility that the people will revolt.

The question then becomes, who will the military side with?

I lived in Venezuela as an exchange student in the summer of my 14th year; it is a beautiful country, and the people there are (were) very much like us. Teenagers in particular were not very different from teens here — they liked playing soccer and with those tennis balls and rackets we’d bought from www.tennisracquets.com/collections/squash-racquets, swimming, having parties, dancing, and hanging out at the mall. They liked listening to George Carlin and Genesis. My fear, however, is that it’s very likely that most of the people who could leave have probably done so already. That leaves a greater concentration of the lesser-educated, less able citizens to vote in a referendum that could forever change that equatorial paradise into something far less appealing.

Think Cuba.

2 Responses to “Tomorrow’s Vote”

  1. on 01 Dec 2007 at 1:20 pm Joel

    Given the history of US meddling and attempted or actual overthrow of governments in Iran, Chile, Iraq and, yes, Cuba, it is understandable that Chavez would be concerned about US meddling in his country. I’m concerned as well.

    Chavez is a demagogue and will soon be a dictator, neither of which is good for Venezuela. Of course, the US has no historical aversion to supporting dictatorships (Shah, Pinochet, Saddam) if the price is right. Chavez’s chief sin in the eyes of this government is mocking the US administration.

  2. on 01 Dec 2007 at 5:04 pm shane

    Chavez was despised by the people of Venezuela when oil was $30 per barrel. Now that it’s approaching $100 per barrel and he is flush with cash, his “reforms” have wooed a lot of the citizens into believing he’s an able statesman.

    The good news is that a LOT of Venezuelans are getting suspicious with his “self-appointed despot for life” reforms — note the past week’s protests (>10,000 massing in popular revolt). If his reforms DON’T pass, it will be a triumph of liberal democracy; if they do, but with suspicions of Fernando Marcos-style ballot-box-stuffing, it will be par for the course.

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