FEAR OF CHAVEZ IS FEAR OF DEMOCRACY
Bush: If it’s our oil, why do Venezuelans get to vote on it?
GOP panicked that counting votes in Venezuela will spread to Florida
by Greg Palast
Monday December 3, 2007
The Family Bush can fix Florida. They can fix Ohio. But it’s just driving them crazy that they can’t fix the vote in Venezuela.[Note: Watch the reports taken from the Palast BBC investigations in Venezuela in the newly released DVD, “The Assassination of Hugo Chavez.“
http://www.palastinvestigativefund.org/ The Bush Administration and its press puppies - the same ones who couldn’t get enough of the purple thumbs of voters of Iraq - are absolutely livid that this weekend the electorate of Venezuela had the opportunity to vote.
Typical was the mouth-breathing editorial by the San Francisco Chronicle, that the referendum could make Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s President, “a constitutional dictator for life.” And no less a freedom fighter than Donald Rumsfeld, from the height of the Washington Post, said that by voting, Venezuela was “receding into dictatorship.”
Given that Chavez’ referendum was defeated at the ballot box, we now that, as a dictator, Chavez is a flop.
Of course, without meaning to gainsay Secretary Rumsfeld, maybe Chavez is not a dictator.
Let’s get clear exactly what this vote was about.
Firstly, it was a referendum to change the nation’s constitution to end term limits for President.Oh, horror! Imagine if we eliminated term limits in the US!
We could end up stuck with a president - like Franklin Roosevelt. Worse, if Bill Clinton could have run again, we’d have missed out on the statesmanship of Junior Bush.
While US media called Chavez a “tyrant” for suggesting an end to term limits, they somehow forgot to smear the tyrant tag on Mr. Clinton for suggesting the same for the America.
We were not told this weekend’s referendum was a vote on term limits, rather, we were told by virtually every US news outlet that the referendum was to make Chavez, “President for Life.” The “President for Life” canard was mis-reported by no less than The New York Times.But ending term limits does not mean winning the term.
As Chavez himself told me, “It’s up to the people” whether he gets reelected. And that infuriates the US Powers That Be.Secondly, beyond ending term limits, the referendum would have loaded the nation’s constitution with changes in property law, work hours and so many other complex economic adjustments that the entire referendum sank of its own weight.
It’s the Oil.
Term limits and work hours in Venezuela?
Why was this a crisis for Washington?
Why is the Bush crew so bonkers about Hugo?
Is it because Venezuela sits on the world’s largest reserve of coconuts?
Like Operation Iraqi Liberation (”OIL”) - it’s all about the crude, dude. And lots of it.
The US Department of Energy documents I obtained indicate that the guys holding Bush’s dipstick figure that Venezuela is sitting on 1.36 trillion barrels of crude, five times the reserves of Saudi Arabia.Chavez’ continuing tenure means that Venezuelans’ huge supply of oil will now be in the hands of … Venezuelans!
As Arturo Quiran, resident of a poor folks’ housing complex, told me, “Ten, fifteen years ago … there was a lot of oil money here in Venezuela but we didn’t see it.” Notably, Quiran doesn’t particularly agree with Chavez’ politics.
But, he thought Americans should understand that under Chavez’ Administration, there’s a doctor’s office in his building with “free operations, x-rays, medicines. Education also. People who never knew how to read and write now know how to sign their own papers.”
Not everyone is pleased.
As one TV news anchor, violently anti-Chavez, told me in derisive tones, “Chavez gives them (the poor) bricks and bread!” - how dare he! - so, they vote for him.
Big Oil has better ideas for Venezuela, best expressed in several Wall Street Journal articles attacking Chavez for spending his nation’s oil wealth on “social programs” rather than on more drilling platforms to better fill the SUVs of Texas.
Chavez has committed other crimes in Washington’s eyes. Not only has this uppity brown man spent Venezuela’s oil wealth in Venezuela, he withdrew $20 billion from the US Federal Reserve.
Weirdly, Venezuela’s previous leaders, though the nation was dirt poor, lent billions to the US Treasury on crap terms.
Chavez has said, Basta! to this game, and has called for keeping South America’s capital in … South America!
Oh, and did I mention that Chavez told Exxon it had to pay more than a 1% royalty to his nation on the heavy crude the company extracted?
And that’s why they have to kill him.
In 2002, The New York Times sickeningly applauded the coup d’etat against Chavez. But that failed.
Therefore, as the electorate of Venezuela is obstinately refusing to vote as Condi Rice tells them, there’s only one solution left for democracy-loving Bush-niks, the view express out loud by our President’s spiritual advisor, Pat Robertson:
“We have this enemy to our south controlling a huge pool of oil. Hugo Chavez thinks we’re trying to assassinate him. I think we ought to go ahead and do it. … … We don’t need another $200 billion war … It’s a whole lot easier to have some covert operatives do the job.”
But Hugo’s not my enemy. Indeed, he’s made a damn good offer to the American people: oil for $50 a barrel - nearly half of what it sells today. By locking in a long-term price, Venezuela loses its crazy Iraq war oil-price windfall.
In return, we agree not to let oil prices fall through the floor (it dropped to $9 a barrel in 1998) and bankrupt his nation.
But Saudi Arabia doesn’t like that deal. And Abdullah’s wish is George Bush’s command. (Interestingly, Chavez’ fellow no-term-limits dictator Bill Clinton endorsed the concept.)I don’t agree with everything Chavez does. And I’ve found some of his opponents’ point well taken.
But unlike Bush, I don’t think I should have a veto over the Venezuelan vote.And the locals’ sentiments are quite clear. I drove with one opposition candidate, Julio Borges, on a campaign stop to a small town three hours from Caracas.
We met his supporters - or, more accurately, his lone supporter. The “rally” was in her kitchen. She served us delicious arepas.The next day, I returned to that very same town when Chavez arrived. Nearly a thousand screaming fans showed up - and an equal number were turned away. (The British Telegraph laughably reports that Chavez’ boosters appear “under duress.”)
You’d think they were showing for a taping of “South American Idol.” (Well, the Venezuelan President did break into song a few times.)It’s worth noting that Chavez’ personal popularity doesn’t extend to all his plans for “Bolivarian” socialism. And that killed his referendum at the ballot box.
I guess Chavez should have asked Jeb bush how to count votes in a democracy.
So there you have it.
Some guy who thinks he can take Venezuela’s oil and oil money and just give it away to Venezuelans.
And these same Venezuelans have the temerity to demand the right to pick the president of their choice!
What is the world coming to?
In Orwellian Bush-speak and Times-talk, Chavez’ referendum was portrayed before the vote as a trick, Saddam goes Latin.
Maybe their real fear is that Chavez has brought a bit of economic justice through the ballot box, a trend that could spread northward.
Think about it: Chavez is funding full health care for all Venezuelans.
What if that happened here?
*****************Greg Palast has just returned from South America.
Catch his investigations for BBC Television and Democracy Now! in the newly-released DVD, The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, including Palast’s interviews with Chavez, his opponents - even the man who kidnapped Chavez.
You can watch the trailer on YouTube.
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse.
This week, Palast will release his new film on DVD, The Election Files: Theft of 2008, with music by Moby.These films are made available only as gifts to donors to the Palast Investigative Fund, a not-for-profit charitable foundation supporting investigative reporting.
More information at www.GregPalast.com or www.PalastInvestigativeFund.org
News from the Global Women’s Strike in Venezuela which is
campaigning for the YES to Constitutional Reforms on 2 December
Today, Sunday December 2, the people of Venezuela are voting on constitutional reform, amid renewed media attacks and assassination attempts against President Chávez – a laser point which could have been from a gun was seen on his chest and head, and for some seconds CNN had a clip of Chávez with a title saying “Who killed him?”
The media, and the US corporate and political interests they represent, claim that Chávez is using Venezuela’s oil revenue to manipulate the poor in order to stay in power for life.
Extensive reports of clashes between students have accused the government of heavy handed repression, while saying little of the violence against pro-reform students whose union offices were set ablaze risking the lives of those who were trapped inside.
The advances which are being put forward and the process they come out of have been entirely hidden by the media. President Chávez proposed 33 changes to the 1999 Constitution to be discussed by the grassroots nationally; and the National Assembly. Consultation has been massive.
The National Assembly says that between 16 August and 7 October, 10 million copies of the proposed reforms were distributed, some 9,020 public events were held throughout the country, and a special hotline took over 80,000 phone calls. 77.8 percent of the Venezuelan people report having read and been informed about the proposed changes. (Compare this to the European constitution which was never taken to a referendum in the UK and most people knew hardly anything about, was rejected by voters in France and The Netherlands, and is now being recycled in a shorter version to be adopted without a vote.)
Following these consultations, 25 additional reforms and 11 smaller changes have been put forward – altogether a total of 69 proposed reforms. People will vote on them in two separate blocks, A (46 articles) & B (24), on 2 December.
The constitutional reforms are promoting a Socialist Democracy, an economy that is “diversified and independent” based on “human values of co-operation and the preponderance of the general interest.”
We have spoken to the Global Women’s Strike in Venezuela, which is mobilizing for the reforms and told us that despite media claims to the contrary, the support for the Sí/Yes is massive. These are the proposed reforms they most want people to know about.
Article 21 forbids discrimination – sexual orientation and health have been added.
Article 70 – recognizes all the organizations by which people participate and lead on the road to socialism. They include assemblies and communal councils, councils of workers, students, small farmers, artisans, fisher people, sports people, older and younger people, women, people with disabilities…, and all kinds of cooperatives, networks, micro enterprises, voluntary organizations etc, “created to develop values of mutual co-operation and socialist solidarity.”
Article 82 – the right to adequate housing for all and the protection from judicial sanction of any home which is registered as “principal” with the Poder Popular.
Article 87 – the rights of the self-employed, entitles housewives, domestic workers, street vendors, taxi drivers, transport and motorcycle workers, artisans, barbers and hairdressers, farmers, small-mine workers, fisher people, seasonal workers, cultural workers… to social security, pension, holidays and maternity leave through the creation of a Social Stability Fund for Self Employed Workers to which the State, employers and workers will contribute.
Article 90 – introduces the 6-hour day. The working day is being shortened from 8 to 6 hours so that workers can have more free time to spend with their families, on their own self-development and on community activities. Workers in 24-hour industries such as oil will work four 6-hour shifts rather than three 8-hour shifts; more people will have access to employment.
“In order for workers to have enough time for their full development, the working day-shift will not exceed six hours a day or 36 hours a week, and the night-shift will not exceed six hours a day or 34 hours a week.
No employer will be able to force workers to work overtime. The State will promote mechanisms for a better use of free time to benefit education, training and human, physical, spiritual, moral, cultural and technical development of the workers.
Workers will be entitled to remunerated weekly time off and holidays under the same conditions as the days worked.”
Article 100 – recognizes Venezuela’s African roots and culture.
Article 109 – equal vote for students, professors and staff in the election of university authorities. At the moment staff have no voting rights and professors´ votes count far more than those of the students.
Article 115 – introduces different forms of collective property so that people can have a stronger claim on land and industry through co-operatives and other community organizations.
· Public: Fully owned and managed by the government.
· Social: Owned by the Venezuelan people and either managed by the government or by communities or other institutions.
· Collective: Owned and managed by groups of individuals for their particular uses.
· Mixed: A combination of ownership and management.
People’s involvement at every level and their power to make decisions about resources are being massively encouraged through communal councils and communes.
Article 136 – The people exercise their sovereignty through Popular Power. “This does not arise from elections but from their condition as human groups organized as population. Popular Power is expressed through communities, communes and self-government of cities, communal councils, councils of workers, students, small farmers, fisher people, sports people, young and older people, women, people with disabilities…”
Article 184 – decentralizes power and transfers it to organized communities, communal councils and communes. Promotes co-operatives and workers’ participation in the management of public companies.
Article 230 – the president’s new powers. Elections will be held every seven years rather than six, and there will be no limit to how many times a candidate can stand.
The proposal has the support of the majority of the population as people feel that the revolutionary changes they are working on stand a better chance of success against coup, assassination and destabilization attempts by the racist elite and their US counterparts, if Chávez is in power. It takes decades of organizing to produce a revolutionary leader like Chávez – why would you want to replace him when he is doing such good work? Those who criticize Chávez do not mention that people in Venezuela can revoke their elected officials through a referendum (Chávez won such a referendum by a huge majority in 2004), a choice other democracies do not provide. Also other democratic governments have the right to re-elect their president or prime minister – the US had no time limit until the law was changed after Roosevelt was elected four times, Britain still has no limit and Tony Blair was elected three times on a vote which was nowhere near that of Chávez.
The proposal has to be seen in context. In Venezuela where millions of people, especially women, are actively involved in the process of change and want Chávez to stay in power, while the US and the racist Venezuelan elite want him out and even dead, Article 230 signals a determination to protect our leadership so we can move the revolution forward. In Peru, when ex-president Fujimori, who is now being tried for human rights violations, wanted unlimited re-election, it signaled increased exploitation, repression, torture and disappearances – the US and their media did not object.
Article 305 – promotes “agroecology” and food security, communal land and resources for its development.
Article 307 – forbids big land estates in favour of agricultural workers’ co-operatives.
Additional points on the proposed reforms taken from Venezuelanalysis website:
· Article 64 – lowers the voting age to 16, following the lead of Austria, Nicaragua and Brazil.
· Article 98 – protects the creation and communication of cultural goods.
· Article 103 – articulates the right to education for all Venezuelans, and mandate that all public education through university be free of charge.
· Article 272 – establishes a penitentiary system based on full rehabilitation of prisoners and respect for their human rights. Work, study, training will be available in jail, and community sentences prioritized over imprisonment.
· Article 337 – calls for the limitation of certain rights during a national emergency, a number of rights would remain, including the right to life and personal integrity, the right to a defense, the right to a fair trial, and the right not to be tortured, disappeared or held incommunicado. This ensures that Venezuela remains consistent with – or in some cases exceeds – its international obligations.
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