Frustrating status quo-aspiration and falsifying most of the mainstream expectation coated with predictions, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has won a fourth term in office. It's a victory of the under-classes. His new six-year term will begin next year, on the 10 th of January, and the common people expect: the Bolivarian revolution, as Chávez identifies, will continue.
“The revolution has triumphed”, Chávez told the jubilant citizens from the people's balcony , a balcony of the Miraflores presidential palace in the capital city Caracas . “ Venezuela will continue its march toward the democratic socialism of the 21st century. Viva Venezuela ! Viva the fatherland! The battle was perfect and the victory was perfect”, Chávez said.
From Argentina , President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner tweeted: “Your victory is our victory! And the victory of South America and the Caribbean !”
With a turnout of about 81% voters Chávez had won more than 54% of the votes while his opponent Henrique Capriles was able to bag about 45%. A subdued Capriles, leader of a coalition of about 30 parties opposing Chávez and standing for the interests of the rich, admitted defeat. Capriles and his cohorts are also close to the empire and opposed to Cuba .
The information in the four paragraphs above provide, in brief, the perspective of the election victory in Venezuela, an old republic striving for a new society based on equity and equality, dignity and fraternity, and standing opposed to the strongest empire in human history – the US. The struggle is within the country and in the external arena. The perspective leaves no confusion concerning the tone of politics and its debates.
Wide expectation in the mainstream was that Capriles, the Justice First candidate, would kick out Chávez as the country is being oppressed by an overvalued currency, slow moving industry, crumbling infrastructure, alarming murder rate, corruption and inefficiency.
Oil accounts for more than 90% of the country's foreign currency inflows, but the economy is still to be diversified. Inflation in the fifth largest economy in Latin America is 20% a year. “Soaring inflation and government spending – coupled with currency and capital controls – have created a widening fiscal deficit”, informed Consensus Economics, a survey organization. “The authorities are increasingly reliant on external debt to finance this.”
The China Development Bank, Bloomberg news agency informs, has lent Venezuela $42.5bn over the past five years.
Arturo Franco of the Center for International Development at Harvard University cites Venezuela as “the worst performer in GDP per capita growth.”
And, there are similar other statistics that can be easily cited as evidence of underperformance of the state Chávez leads.
During election campaigns, Capriles, who had a privileged upbringing, opposed nationalization. His argument: Nationalization discourages investment. His other arguments against Chávez included increasing autocracy, harassment of the private sector, government's involvement in the economy, which is detrimental to private sector, spiraling crime and power cuts. Capriles also referred to scandals that surface occasionally.
The line of criticism and the argument for opposition to Chávez is clear: Neoliberalism that puts everything to the “pity”, “benevolence”, cruelty and greed of capital that seeks profit only. To the poor Venezuelans, Capriles is an agent of oligarchy and the US .
A closer look into the performance by Chávez makes the demarcation line, along opposing class interests, clear: Poverty has decreased, health indicators have improved, thousands have got jobs in the expanding state sector. A house-building program has sheltered thousands of families in new homes. Billions of dollars have been channeled into misiones , social programs for the poor: healthcare, education, low-price shops, transport, cooperatives. Now, with a gradually decreasing income inequality all the citizens have a more equal slice of the cake. Venezuela is having the fairest income distribution in the region.
Chávez, who casts himself as the unlikely friend of the wealthy, who always claims somos la mayoría , we are the majority, has nationalized strategic industries and expropriated millions of hectares of land that the rich kept idle with the only purpose of speculation with land. The constitution framed under his leadership addresses social exclusion, and facilitates participation, transparency and accountability.
Chávez, who declared himself a socialist and whose campaign slogan was Chávez es el pueblo , Chávez is the people, is close to the poor, and is alienated from the elites. His opponents called him a monkey. Rich Venezuelans are angry with Chávez.
Prior to the emergence of Chávez, two political parties were peacefully altering state power. Poverty and corruption was wide and deep. A plunderocracy was reigning. Opposing the corrupt system and the elites' squandering of the oil wealth Chávez promised pro-poor social policies. He now plans to build three million homes by 2018 for the low-income people.
Capriles dared not antagonize the poor. He had to say, during campaign, he would not automatically return expropriated assets to private owners. He praised a number of programs initiated by Chávez. He had to commit he would, if elected, push building health clinics and schools for the poor.
The stage is set: the poor are aspiring for a better life for them while despising the rich for their predatory and squandering lifestyle. In a country divided between the rich and the poor with respective politics Chávez's voice against the wealthy is well-known: “predatory oligarchs”, the rotten elites, “squealing pigs”, “vampires”, who looted the oil wealth, corrupt servants of international capital, living in “luxury chalets where they perform orgies, drinking whisky”.
His opponents propagate a contradictory demand. They oppose his programs while they say he could and should have done more.
With petrodiplomacy, PetroCaribe program, standing close to Cuba , organizing ALBA with soft loans to neighbors, Chávez takes a stand for solidarity, mutual cooperation and fraternity among countries. This position can't endear him to a section in the world arena, the sections that practices Shock Therapy .
It's not an easy task to steer an old state machine on a new socio-economic-political path. All parts of the machine are old. Efforts for a gradual transformation are being made. Reality imposes a lot of limitations. There are limitations within the social forces upholding the dream for change. Chávez is operating within this limitation.
It would be a utopia to expect a corruption-free Venezuela overnight. A comparison will tell the truth: billions of dollars are “traceless”, unaccounted in two war fields. Is the amount of Venezuelan corruption to that level? Corruption in other countries that are integral part of the world system, Ben Ali's Tunisia or Mubarak's Egypt or some other similar country needs no mention. Is speculators' corruption, of rating agencies and banks, being exposed through the Great Financial Crisis comparable? Should not one compare “efficiency” of banks and real estate developers that are getting exposed at the center of the world system and in countries near to the center with the Venezuelan inefficiency? A comparison between Venezuelan power cut and power cuts in countries integrated with the world system will provide a hard truth. Should not one compare the number of schools being closed and teachers being thrown out of jobs in an advanced capitalist country and the number of schools being established and students being enrolled in Venezuela ? Should not the number of homeless families and the number of families being evicted from homes in advanced capitalist countries and the number of poor families getting home in Venezuela be compared?
Despite the facts mainstream don't refrain from its task: vilify people's efforts to build up a dignified, decent life. This reality compels one to say Chávez es el pueblo , Chávez is the people as people turn tired of inequality, deception, corruption, wasteful luxury, and as Chávez inspires the poor.