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That Other Election

In the Venezuelan referendum the BBC reports: Chavez defeated over reform vote

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has narrowly lost a referendum on controversial constitutional changes.

Voters rejected the reforms, which included allowing a president to stand indefinitely for re-election, by 51% of the vote to 49%, officials said.

Mr Chavez accepted the result and urged his followers to remain calm.

Mr Chavez said his reform agenda would go on but correspondents say the result will put a brake on his self-styled “socialist revolution”.

Chavez failed to get out his voters. Only 56% of eligible voters showed up at the polls, and the 44% that didn’t bother were from Chavez strongholds.

The ballot measure was long and involved, couched in legalese, and Chavez neglected to rig the voting machines or terrorize his opposition, although there were no international observers for the voting.

Chavez assumed his personal approval rating, which is near 70% with voters, would be enough to assure passage and failed to mobilize his people to vote. He should see if Putin is planning any graduate seminars on leadership and election management.


1 andante { 12.03.07 at 10:19 pm }

I wonder if Chavez is taking a look at the ‘signing statements’ option.

2 Michael { 12.03.07 at 11:16 pm }

Could this be something that will cause Chavez to check himself? He need not make himself a dictator, he could just step down when his term is up and find another path from there.

3 Bryan { 12.03.07 at 11:19 pm }

I doubt it would occur to him, he isn’t sneaky like that. He needs to listen and break down what he wants in smaller pieces to get them through. He tried a massive dump and that made people nervous. They didn’t understand all of the changes, and don’t really trust any politician all that much. The poor have been fooled before in Venezuela, and they are not as radical as they have been portrayed.

He should have put the term limit up first, and just gone with that. If that didn’t pass, he would have to start looking for a successor.

4 Bryan { 12.04.07 at 12:07 am }

There’s a racial element in this. Chavez is obviously Indio, not European. The King of Spain telling him to shut up certainly set him off, because the main opposition are also Euros. In South America one the easiest ways of telling which side of the Euro/Indio question a politician stands is by facial hair. Euros will have it and los Indios can’t grow it. Chavez is on the verge of believing his own savior myth, that he is the only one who can save the poor, who are primarily Indios from the rich, who are primarily Euros.

Instead of wasting time building a personal empire, he should be building a political empire that will continue with or without him as president. If he builds a political empire he doesn’t need to be president to wield power. This is the problem with modeling himself on Fidel, Fidel didn’t really build the party as much as a cult of personality.

He just isn’t political enough to understand how he can run things without the sash of the president.

5 Michael { 12.04.07 at 12:25 am }

Indo- he is not. That refers to the Indian subcontinent, not the Amerind tribes.

6 Michael { 12.04.07 at 12:26 am }

Indio…that’s a word I’d not seen, however.

7 Michael { 12.04.07 at 12:31 am }

Sorry, just on a quick trigger tonight or something…. Nevermind.

8 Fallenmonk { 12.04.07 at 6:25 am }

At least Chavez let the people decide and accepted the results…Bush and Cheney should be so democratic.

9 Badtux { 12.04.07 at 10:51 am }

Chavez isn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, from what I can tell. A lot of his actions show that he’s a) a complete dimwit when it comes to economics, b) intellectually capable only of uttering talking points put forward by his socialist advisors, and c) utterly incapable of playing the game of international power politics in a way that would be productive (just look at how he pissed off the Columbians). I don’t think he has dictatorial aspirations as such, just a case of the thuggish stupids where he can’t figure out how to get equal rights and equal opportunity for the Indios without being a thug.

Not that his Euro opposition is any better. For literally centuries they ruled via deliberately disenfranchising the Indio majority, keeping them uneducated and denying them basic services such as health care and using death squads to kill any potential Indio leaders, and their notion of economics is to loot the wealth of the nation for their own personal benefit without investing in education and infrastructure needed to build a modern first-world nation.

All in all, a rather sad situation for the vast majority of Venezuelans, who want what pretty much everybody on the planet wants — education, health, a job, a place to live and enough to eat, and some time and money to entertain themselves and their families.

10 Bryan { 12.04.07 at 11:32 am }

Sorry, Michael et al., Indio is Spanish for Indian as in Native American. It is used as a generic identifier when you don’t know the particular civilization/tribe involved in Latin America. El Indio is the source of the best burritos in San Diego.

The number of people who are pure Indio or pure Euro is minimal, but the differentiation won’t go away and it pollutes the politics.

I agree, BT, that Chavez is educated only to the level of talking points on most issues. He doesn’t have a real plan and makes haphazard, spotty changes in an an hoc fashion rather than actually working towards a unified goal. He throws money at problems that could be self-financing if the structures were in place, and he isn’t looking beyond the oil, which won’t last forever.

It isn’t Venezuela-Colombia, it’s Chavez-Uribe, and Chavez doesn’t differentiate. Chavez also has a hard time separating those who claim to be working for people, from those who actually are helping which involves him with a lot of gangs who claim to be socialist revolutionaries, while are actually just criminals.

At least he respects elections and their outcome, which is a step forward for Latin America. He really could do some good, if he had some decent advisors and some planning.

11 Badtux { 12.05.07 at 5:44 pm }

At least he’s making some progress towards providing schools and health care for the extreme poor. Maybe if the majority can get educated, they can figure out how to themselves clean up the mess that the centuries of Euro rule and the years of Chavez rule have made.

For those who don’t know how this exclusion of the Indios from schools and social services works in Latin American countries, here’s how it works. The extreme poor live in shantytowns that surround the major cities. These shantytowns are formally illegal and receive no (zero) services — no sewer, no water, no nothing beyond what their residents are able to do for themselves. And certainly no official streets or roads. No official streets or roads = no address. No address = no eligibility for social services such as health care or food stamps. No address means your children are turned away from the schoolhouse when they show up. An address, in Latin America, is the fundamental means of social control used to make sure that the haves continue having and the have-nots, well, don’t.

Actually, it works somewhat like that today here in the United States for the homeless, except that a) the number of homeless here in the US is far lower than the number of poor people in Latin America, and b) there are a variety of social services willing to allow their address to be used by homeless people for things like, e.g., receiving Social Security benefits, or registering their children for school. But in Latin America the use of addresses to disenfranchise the poor has been taken to an art.

– Badtux the Addressed Penguin

12 Bryan { 12.05.07 at 7:09 pm }

Nice old European custom, the settlements outside the city walls are excluded from the laws. It kept Jews in line for centuries, and was imported to the New World, of course they are general called colonias, and not ghettos in the New World.

13 Michael { 12.06.07 at 1:38 am }

We should issue everyone an Internet address who wants one. IPv6 would let us do so with ease. Make governments reform to respect verified Internet addresses.

14 Bryan { 12.06.07 at 1:10 pm }

Actually, just assign them as a unique personal identifier and get rid of all of the other numbers in our lives. There are pluses and minuses on that score, but I would tend to favor the solution.

15 Michael { 12.06.07 at 2:56 pm }

It’s not enough to give them a tracking ID, that gets abused easily, but a true Internet address which lets them communicate. Wikigovernment could even work if we can evolve it well enough.

16 Bryan { 12.06.07 at 3:17 pm }

I meant a true IP address, Michael, not just a number. Frankly, I’ve advocated Congress convening electronically for a very long time. Gathering them all in Washington is a waste of resources.

17 Michael { 12.06.07 at 9:15 pm }

It’s probably important enough for them to physically convene from time to time and there isn’t much way to ensure security (and thus independence from undue influence) when they can be anywhere and unobserved.

But the IP infrastructure can have its parallel congress, and trusted IPs can be extended without need for election, simply as the blogs are doing. The idea that we are each individually sovereign members of such a congress, by our own consent to participate, with no need to delegate our authority to anyone except as and under such limitations which may always be revoked.

18 Bryan { 12.06.07 at 9:46 pm }

It’s a lot harder to be unobserved when you are a big fish in a small pond. Local people are lot more suspicious than the inside the Beltway crowd. Give them offices in their own districts with local staff. The Senators can work from offices in the state capital. The offices can be in existing Federal buildings. It will really annoy the lobbyists.

We are still a representative democracy, I would just like the representatives closer at hand so we can keep a watch on them.

19 Michael { 12.07.07 at 2:23 am }

I’ve seen a lot of local crap, Bryan. There’s actually a lot less graft and corruption in higher offices, because more people pay attention. How many people can name their state representative?

20 Bryan { 12.07.07 at 10:48 am }

I can’t say for sure which is the cause and which is the effect, but most Congresscritters are rare things in their district and what they do is not reported on by the local media. If they were in their districts the local newspapers and alternate weeklies would have more interest and access.

It’s annoying that the local media carry stories about what Congress does, but rarely mention what our Congresscritter did, unless the ‘critter issued a press release.

21 Michael { 12.07.07 at 6:59 pm }

Assuming your local media is impartial and not itself part of the Hedgemony…?

22 Bryan { 12.07.07 at 7:36 pm }

My local media are libertarian whackos who hold politicians in less regard than other “welfare recipients” and don’t understand why any taxes are necessary.

23 Michael { 12.07.07 at 10:30 pm }

Which is better than some and worse than others, I’d imagine.

I just don’t see the function of the US Congress being met by remote-only conference. The virtual world we are creating in this electronic space may have a separate kind of government, look at the Wikimedia Foundation and other projects like that.

24 Bryan { 12.07.07 at 11:14 pm }

It just that from the years I watched CSpan I rarely saw them doing much that required them all to be in the same room. Teleconferencing would be just as effective and would reduce the all of the flights to and from their districts with the dollar and carbon costs.

25 Michael { 12.08.07 at 4:05 pm }

I agree they should teleconference, just not exclusively. Maybe they need to convene in person at the start and end of every session, but not less often than that.

26 Bryan { 12.08.07 at 4:18 pm }

They would certainly have to meet to take their oaths, and new members would need to take classes on procedures, but most of the time things would be a lot cheaper if they stayed in their district.

27 Michael { 12.08.07 at 9:57 pm }

It might make them more accessible to their constituents too, so they don’t have to travel to Washington DC to meet with them.

28 Michael { 12.08.07 at 9:58 pm }

I can foresee problems as well as benefits to all of this, and it’s just part of evolution I suppose.

29 Bryan { 12.08.07 at 11:28 pm }

Locally, you never see the guy, except for a couple of weeks around elections. His home is in a small town, and if he comes back to the area, that’s where he goes. He has no idea what the laws Congress passes does to the local area, as his main source of information is the “good ol’ boy” Repub network.