Chavez declares victory

by Daniel on August 16, 2004

Apparently. Not yet got confirmation from the OAS and Carter Centre that the ballot met standards of honesty and probity, but it looks like Chavez has come in with a pretty thumping majority; 58% of the vote is really rather good on the massive turnout reported.

Of course there is now a fairly substantial Catch-22 situation. Part of the reason why Chavez was able to win was that in recent months he’s been throwing around money like water on social programs. He was able to do this because oil was up above $40 a barrel, generating vast profits for the state oil company. A lot of the reason why oil prices were so high was that … there was significant uncertainty about supply from Venezuela because of the impending referendum. Now that some of the uncertainty has been resolved, oil futures have already started tumbling, meaning that it’s going to be that little bit more dfficult to deliver on these promises; if I were a Venezuelan, I wouldn’t be assuming that we were out of the woods yet.

Update: Carter Centre and Organisation of American States just more or less endorsed the votes; they didn’t find evidence of serious fraud and the results more or less match what the independent observers were seeing.



Aidan Kehoe 08.16.04 at 4:34 pm

What, you don’t trust the CIA to do their bit to push oil prices up again?


Matthew 08.16.04 at 5:36 pm

How much are oil futures down compared to say Friday?


David C. Mace 08.16.04 at 5:56 pm

Oil Prices are going to climb higher and higher as time rolls by despite any temporary pull back. Only a real big economic slowdown in China will stop this and that only for a while. I don’t thinl Chavez need worry on that score.


Chris Marcum 08.16.04 at 6:32 pm

Both Oil and Chavez were big issues on The Mclaughlin Group yesterday. Most of those ‘experts’ believe that oil will continue to climb. Wouldn’t it be to Venezuela’s advantage to lower the price of their oil much in the same way Chile dumped copper onto the world market a couple of years ago?


Ken Houghton 08.16.04 at 7:28 pm

Taking the cash upfront–to put a cold phrase to chris marcum’s reasoned statement–might also help with US relations, if you assume the current regime will be in place on 21 January 2005.


Ken Houghton 08.16.04 at 7:32 pm

To Matthew’s question, via CNN:

“At 10:25 a.m. ET, U.S. light crude oil for September fell 23 cents to $46.35 a barrel, down from an early peak of $46.91 a barrel which was the highest since the New York Mercantile Exchange launched oil futures 21 years ago. London Brent was down 8 cents at $43.80 a barrel.

Prices fell after results released by Venezuelan electoral authorities with 94 percent of the vote counted showed Chavez survived a referendum to recall him….Energy markets have been worried about disruptions to the country’s 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) oil production if a disputed result sparked social unrest. Shipping sources had said shipments from Venezuela, the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter were running smoothly.”


Dem 08.16.04 at 7:52 pm

“…if I were a Venezuelan, I wouldn’t be assuming that we were out of the woods yet.”

Actually, now it starts to get really bad. Chavez represents the poor and repressed ethnicities. He won 2 elections and now a referendum by a huge majority. The wealthy elites failed in their coupe attempt 2 years ago (which the NYT called a victory for democracy) because Chavez’s supporters came out en masse on his behalf. So, the opposition tried the referendum route, hoping to use legal and extra-legal means to win the vote. But, the cheating on both sides probably balanced out (actually Chavez probably would have taken over 60% in a fair election).

So now the opposition realizes that they can’t win by legal means. No matter what they do the poor will vigilantly support Chavez, so he’s in power until he dies. Expect the shooting to start soon, accompanied by “strikes” (really lockouts) of the oil industries.

Chavez’ problem is that he should have built a coalition of the middle-class and poor. But he’s as divisive as Bush, appealing to one side while putting down the other. If he’d done enough to placate the middle class then there would be no popular opposition, just some unhappy military and business fatcats.


Brett Bellmore 08.16.04 at 9:11 pm

You know, cracking down on the media, and jailing opponents, might also have had something to do with the victory… Oh, well, he does at least serve to demonstrate that the right doesn’t have a monopoly on sucking up to thugs.


dsquared 08.16.04 at 9:32 pm

Brett: give over. If you’re trying to claim either that Chavez got sympathetic coverage from the Venezuelan media, or that the result of this election would have been different if only Carlos Melo was not in prison, you’re about as delusional as the “Si” campaign. Chavez is an authoritarian with plenty of imperfections. But the plain fact of the matter is that the poor people of his country want him to be President, the rich people don’t and that there are more poor ones than rich ones.
Everyone is completely eyes-open about Chavez, and in an ideal world the project of diverting oil revenues into education and housing would be carried out by someone less flawed – personally I’d nominate Gandalf – but to call him a “thug” is just wrong (quite apart from anything else, I thought that word had been reserved for Sadr). Neither Amnesty nor HRW have serious complaints about Venezuela; they don’t like the Supreme Court laws and they don’t think Chavez protects journalists enough from chavistas, but that’s really very small beer indeed.


Robin Green 08.16.04 at 10:11 pm

“jailing opponents”

Are you talking about the coup plotters, Brett?

And if so, why shouldn’t they be in jail? They plotted to get rid of democracy in Venezuela – I’d call that high treason.


dsquared 08.16.04 at 10:21 pm

No, he’s repeating talking points, so he’s not speaking about anyone in particular. Chavez has also imprisoned some of his leftist opponents on what look to me like trumped-up firearms possession charges (though I note that neither AI nor HRW have apparently taken them on as prisoners of conscience), so there is a certain degree of truth in the charge of being an authoritarian strongman. But many fewer than, say, the Russians, Mexicans or (hate to say it) Israelis.


Brett Bellmore 08.17.04 at 1:42 am

Actually, I’m more upset, in principle, over his elimination of the independent judiciary. That court packing scheme he carried off made FDR’s plans look tame.

You don’t do that sort of thing if you plan to remain within the law.

But, yeah, I’d buy that the cheating roughly canceled out, and Venezuelans have voluntarilly subjected themselves to what’s coming. A perfect example of Mencken’s definition: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”


mike d 08.17.04 at 2:34 am

dsquared, in a previous post you said:

“The CIA apparently regards it as a foregone conclusion that Chavez will win his recall referendum on Sunday (note: I think it’s actually pretty close)”

After every event the CIA does an internal evaluation/history (the one from Guatemala, ’54 is a fascinating read) of what they got wrong. Any willingness to do so on your part?

(I swear I’m not trolling- I’m curious to hear what your train of thought was behind that statement)


citizen lehew 08.17.04 at 6:09 am

Greg Palast has some interesting thoughts on the subject:

And what seems to have gotten our Veep’s knickers in a twist is not the price of oil, but who keeps the loot from the current band-busting spurt in prices. Chavez had his Congress pass another oil law, the “Law of Hydrocarbons,” which changes the split. Right now, the oil majors – like PhillipsConoco – keep 84% of the proceeds of the sale of Venezuela oil; the nation gets only 16%.

Chavez wanted to double his Treasury’s take to 30%. And for good reason. Landless, hungry peasants have, over decades, drifted into Caracas and other cities, building million-person ghettos of cardboard shacks and open sewers. Chavez promised to do something about that.

So began the Bush-Cheney campaign to “Floridate” the will of the Venezuela electorate. It didn’t matter that Chavez had twice won election. Winning most of the votes, said a White House spokesman, did not make Chavez’ government “legitimate.” Hmmm. Secret contracts were awarded by our Homeland Security spooks to steal official Venezuela voter lists. Cash passed discreetly from the US taxpayer, via the so-called ‘Endowment for Democracy,’ to the Chavez-haters running today’s “recall” election.

A brilliant campaign of placing stories about Chavez’ supposed unpopularity and “dictatorial” manner seized US news and op-ed pages, ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times.


Ross 08.17.04 at 10:15 am

“They plotted to get rid of democracy in Venezuela – I’d call that high treason”

Was it high treason when Chavez attempted a coup a few years ago, or are there all sorts of fascinating reasons why that was different? Chavez admirerers have no moral grounds to complain about coups.


MFB 08.17.04 at 10:46 am

You know, Ross, it sounds as if you think that a coup is a good thing if used against Chavez. Because, if the coup attempt that Chavez made (and for which he was punished) was such a bad thing, wasn’t the coup against Chavez (in connection with which the plotters got off scott-free) a bad thing, too?

Or, in your world, are up and down subjective things dependent on one’s political perspective?


dsquared 08.17.04 at 11:26 am

Any willingness to do so on your part?

Yeh, sure. It was partly “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”; I wanted Chavez to win so much that I was scared of predicting it. But it was mainly the age old fault of believing in what you measure. Intellectually I knew that opinion polls were likely to be oversampling a) Caracas and b) the literate, and that Chavez’ base of support came from outside both those areas. But I couldn’t draw away enough from the poll numbers that I kept seeing, mainly in retrospect on antichavista websites.

I’d also note that while this is a convincing victory, it’s not a landslide for Chavez; given that the rich white minority in Vene is between 25 and 30% and turnout figures are being given at 95%, a lot of his core constituency must be pretty pissed off at him too.


Abiola Lapite 08.17.04 at 1:51 pm

“I wanted Chavez to win so much that I was scared of predicting it.”

Why? Do his “Bolivarian circles” and the fact that he himself once tried to overthrow the democracy you are now making him out to be a defender of not trouble you at all? Or is this yet another case of “can’t make an omelette …”, in which case, why your wrath against Allawi?


Ray 08.17.04 at 3:50 pm

Chavez attempted a coup (and was thrown in jail) then won two elections and a referendum.
The anti-Chavez forces attempted a coup, then lost two elections and a referendum.
If attempting a coup means you no longer line up with the defenders of democracy, then that applies to both sides, right?


dsquared 08.17.04 at 5:14 pm

Do his “Bolivarian circles” and the fact that he himself once tried to overthrow the democracy you are now making him out to be a defender of not trouble you at all?

Yes, and I believe that I have said so in every single thing I have ever written on the subject of Chavez. But, it seemed obvious to me that first, nobody else was prepared to do a damn thing for the poor of Venezuela, who really did deserve a shot, and second, that the opposition to Chavez was composed of flaky oligarchs who really really ought not to have been given a chance at the economy. Meanwhile, for all the rhetoric about Chavez, it is very hard to come up with any actual specifics of human rights violations; the best that anyone seems to be able to do is that riot police in Venezuela have been guilty of brutality (riot police everywhere are always guilty of brutality) and that the firearms charges against Carlos Melo looked a bit weak.

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