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2004 August 17 Tuesday
Venezuela President Hugo Chavez Wins Against Recall Effort

Hugo Chavez wins.

The leftist president of Venezuela, backed by 58 percent of voters, easily rebuffed a recall referendum on Sunday. In the course of his political career, the 48-year-old former military officer has endured jail time and overcome two well-funded electoral rivals, an abortive military coup, a general strike and, now, a well-funded, internationally supported campaign to end his presidential term early

The opposition claims massive electoral fraud.

The opposition Democratic Coordinator coalition, which said its exit polls showed 60 percent in favor of ousting Chavez and 40 percent against it, demanded a manual recount.

Two opposition-aligned directors of the National Elections Council complained they were not allowed to monitor the tallying of preliminary results, as the three pro-government directors did.

Venezuelan Catholic Cardinal José Castillo Lara joins the chorus of those claiming electoral fraud.

"Exit polls at the ballot boxes showed that there was 65% in favor of 'yes,' that is, of the revocation of the mandate, and only 35% or at most 40% in favor of the president," said the cardinal, who is an expert in juridical questions and president emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State.

If Chavez didn't win by ballot box fraud he was certainly helped by his use of oil money to buy lower class support.

Chavez might not have committed fraud. However, he did buy the election in a way, spending at least $6 billion on social 'missions' that boosted his favorable ratings from 28 percent to 40 percent in only four months.

Caracas-based analyst Michael Rowan calculates that Chavez won close to 5 million votes at a cost of about $1,200 a vote in a country where two-thirds of the population earn less than $800 a month per capita and the remaining third less than $400 a month.

The white upper class of Venezuela may flee to Florida like the white upper class of Cuba has done.

Analysts had predicted that a Chávez victory could mean more Venezuelan immigration and investment in South Florida.

The Spanish white middle and upper classes in Latin America are losing ground to the lower class Amerinds. Expect to see more populist leftists coming to power in Latin America. For more on this trend see my previous post Identity Politics Building Ethnic Conflicts In Latin America.

The other significant trend is in terms of immigration. The political empowerment of the lower classes in Latin America may make life for the middle and upper classes so difficult that United States may start to pick up a larger upper class flow from Latin America in addition to the overwhelmingly lower class immigrants we now receive. This would be a good opportunity for the United States to put in place skill-based and education-based requirements on immigrants. We could skim the most skilled off the top in Latin America and keep out the less productive and more problematic lower classes.

Update: Chavez has been arresting political opponents and undermining the independence of other institutions of Venezuelan government.

His sorry record of arresting political opponents, stacking Venezuela's courts, undermining the country's civic institutions - and his close relationship with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro - led to violence and schisms at home, and criticism abroad.

Chavez is now going to further reduce freedom of speech and other freedoms.

The day following the vote, the Chavez administration announced plans to extend government control over the judiciary, state and local police, and radio and TV.

If democracy can not even produce a liberal government in Venezuela it is a fantasy to believe that democracy catalyze the political liberalization of the Middle East. Democracy is not a panacea. Given the right circumstances the mechanisms of democracy with elections and mass voting will produce support for authoritarian dictatorships.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 August 17 09:47 AM  Civilizations Decay


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Comments
gcochran said at August 17, 2004 11:34 AM:

Skimming the cream of Latin America... Words fail me.

Tony said at August 17, 2004 1:46 PM:

Why? Ok, perhaps the phraseology is somewhat blunt, but I see nothing wrong in wanting the best people in any society to migrate to your own country. They bring investment, knowledge, education and maybe something of their culture too. Put it this way, if they're thinking of leaving the country of their birth, and they have a modicum of wealth, something which in places like Venezeula can go a long way, then things have got to be pretty bad there haven't they?

The days of 'send me your huddled masses' should be well over.

Randall Parker said at August 17, 2004 2:08 PM:

Tony, I think Greg's point is that the cream layer in Latin America is pretty thin.

anonymous coward said at August 17, 2004 3:33 PM:

Having the ruling caste of South America come to our shores is about as attractive as having the ruling caste of the Middle East or any other despotism arrive here.

lindenen said at August 17, 2004 6:11 PM:

Actually, I thought Greg's point was well... racial since the upper classes in Latin America tend to be white.

Luke Lea said at August 18, 2004 6:43 AM:

skimming the best And leaving the worst behind to stew in their own misery? Actually, our best strategy for restricting third world immigration is to appeal to the liberal's social conscience, arguing that immigration to America is bad for the overwhelming majority left behind in the sending countries. So better not to skim.

gcochran said at August 18, 2004 1:34 PM:

Perhaps I should be clearer. It is hard to think of any social stratum in Latin America that, if imported, would be of net benefit to the US. The ruled have little human capital, the rulers have bad ideas in their heads. Except for Shakira and Salma Hayek, of course.

Fleming said at August 19, 2004 8:26 AM:

Chavez is a typical little tinpot dictator. He and Castro make great matching bookends. Daniel Ortega could make it a threesome, except--oh yeah!!!! Daniel Ortega was defeated in a fair election. Fair elections are almost unheard of in latin america (except for Chile lately), but somehow Nicaragua got democracy.

Democracy. Not a cure all, but if you can combine it with lasting freedom, it gives opportunities that dictators like Chavez will never allow.

john d. said at August 19, 2004 9:19 PM:

Chavez wins a clean election and is reviled by all the stalwart supporters of Anglo-Saxon democracies.

If you look at the dirty tricks that Tony Blair is pulling to hobble the British National Party, Chavez looks a pretty upstanding kind of democratic dictator.

Blair is changing the electoral process in Britain every which way to prevent the legitimate aspirations of the British people finding a voice. Massive mail-in ballots were introduced on a trial basis in areas of the country where the BNP polled strongest. These mail-in ballots are introduced to facilitate ethnic block voting. Other electoral changes are being planned (picking a first choice and an alternate second choice candidate) to blunt the BNP, notwithstanding that Blair achieved his electoral dictatorship under those rules.

Right now Barclays bank has frozen the BNP bank accounts under pressure. No bank account and the electoral commission decertifies the party and they can't contest elections. Anyone in an Anglo-Saxon country should be ashamed at what Blair is doing against democracy.

Government agencies, here the Royal Mail refuse to carry BNP campaign literature. Or rather the worker's union representing postal workers does. The unions are massive supporters of Blair so Blair indirectly he is using strong arm tactics to silence his critics. Violence against BNP campaigners is tolerated by the Police (another government agency controlled by Blair & company) while BNP campaigners who defend themselves are arrested.

Chavez is accused of "spending at least $6 billion on social 'missions' ". Blair has created an entire Middle class comprised of non-productive diversity consultants and other unemployable busybodies ministering to the third of the population on welfare. Both use oil money to do it. Britain's oil though is running out.


I don't think some of the commentators here should crow so much about how bad the South Americans are at practising democracy. Venezuela looks chaotic because people there give a damn and have the balls to get angry about it. The British have become apathetic losers. Score one for the Venezuelans.

Fly said at August 21, 2004 10:11 AM:

“Chavez wins a clean election and is reviled by all the stalwart supporters of Anglo-Saxon democracies.”

I question that the election was “clean”. From some incidents the opposition reported I suspect there was hanky panky. I don’t know that it made any difference to the final result. Nor do I believe that election tampering is restricted to non-Anglo-Saxon democracies. The parties in the US do whatever they can to insure winning elections.

I’m guessing the “reviling” is largely due to Chavez’s anti-democratic actions over the last few years and is not especially related to the referendum.

My larger concern is that Chavez really is the people’s choice and represents what can happen when mob politics wins.

“I don't think some of the commentators here should crow so much about how bad the South Americans are at practising democracy. Venezuela looks chaotic because people there give a damn and have the balls to get angry about it.”

I agree. I’ve been impressed by the people’s willingness to get involved.


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