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Response to "Recall Fever Spreads South" in Venezuela

by Andrés Valencia, (Caracas, 28/12/03)

Dear Dr. Gary K. Busch,

My attention was called to the article "Recall Fever Spreads South", by Steve Ellner, In These Times 23/12/03, updated Dec 27, 2003, 08:34, that appears at Ellner closes it by stating:

"Refusal to face Chávez in presidential elections indicates the opposition’s tenuous support. After several years of limiting its activity to ousting Chávez without putting forward programs, the opposition has lost whatever credibility it may have had at the outset of Chávez’s rule."

Let me point out that it is Chávez who has such tenuous support that his "supporters" demand to be paid to attend his meetings and sign his petitions. It is in buying his support, as I'm sure you know very well, that the profits from Venezuela's oil industry have gone. His destruction of all the basic industries have plunged Venezuela into a recession never seen before, resulting in it's becoming one of the poorest nations in South America. Tens of thousands of professionals have lost their jobs to unqualified "chavistas", and the level of government corruption has also reached never seen before levels.
Chávez has also armed his core of followers, provoking an onslaught of murders, kidnappings and hold-ups that has promoted Caracas to near the top in the world list of violent cities.

The article refers to Chávez as an "defiant Latin American leader", and places Lula, in Brazil, and Kirchner, in Argentina, in the same group. Both presidents are increasingly disassociating themselves from Chávez.
It would have paid more service to the truth by placing Chávez together with Muammar al-Qaddafi from Libya, when he was an active terrorist, and Saddam Hussein, from Iraq, when he was torturing and gassing his own people.
But most importantly, it should have mentioned Chávez’s alliance with Cuba's Fidel Castro, which has drained a big part of Venezuela's wealth and helped perpetuate Castro's iron-fisted reign on the island-prison.

It dismisses the opposition's rightful request for a referendum very off-hand, by stating a lie: "surveys that show him far ahead of his political rivals". Ellner should actually read the various surveys that have been taken since he became president, these unequivocally show Chávez's precipitous fall in popularity, especially within the poorest Venezuelans, which have increased in numbers due to his policies.

It is true enough that the opposition is fragmented and lacks coherence, and that their government plans are sketchy. But first it is necessary to stop Venezuela's free fall. Our country's international credit is in shambles, our aluminum, steel and oil industries need reconfiguration. Our health and social security services need to be revived. We must regain local and foreign investment. Our justice system must be upgraded. We have to elect a new congress.

I hope the National Electoral Council will produce a call for a referendum, and that it is held next year. So do the millions of very real Venezuelans that are wiling to be counted, and risk being persecuted by the regime. These are real democratic actions, and should prevail in all justice. It is not the opposition's call to have early presidential elections, it is Chávez's.

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