Venezuela's Chavez Wins Recall Vote

August 24, 2004

The following article is based on reports from Venezuelanalysis.com.

(Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 16)

At 4:03AM, Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) announced that President Hugo Chavez will continue his term until 2006.

According to the numbers, obtained from a tally count of 94.49% of ballots from automatic voting machines, the opposition failed to obtain more votes that those who wanted Chavez to stay. The "no" option obtained 4,991,483 votes representing 58.25%. The "yes" option obtained 3,576,517 votes, representing 41.74%. Manual count of votes from rural and low income urban areas where Chavez has widespread support, and where automatic machines were not used, could increase the President's margin of victory.

After almost six years in office, the South American leader has managed to hold up his popular support after obtaining 56% in the 1998 elections and 59% in the 2000 re-election.

After numerous attempts to remove Chavez from power through unconstitutional means, including a coup d'etat, illegal strikes, and a management-led shutdown of the state oil company, the opposition put all their hopes in the recall referendum to oust Chavez before the end of his term.

Recall referenda is a new constitutional right Venezuelans won thanks to the new Constitution drafted by an elected Constituency Assembly during Hugo Chavez's first year in office, and approved by popular referendum. The recall of elected officials was an idea proposed by Chavez to the Assembly, and it was supported by the majority and rejected by the opposition, which now used that right to attempt to oust the President.

The recall referendum win represents the eighth electoral victory of Chavez or his party in the last six years.

More than 400 international observers, including several ex-presidents, journalists, intellectuals, Human Rights advocates, and a mission from the OAS, came to Venezuela to observe the recall referendum process. Analysts define the Venezuelan recall referendum as the most closely monitored electoral process in the western hemisphere.

OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria announced on Sunday that the referendum results will be trustworthy.

"We are an example of Democracy in the world," said Venezuelan Education Minister Aristobulo Isturiz.

A Victory for Democracy and Against Imperialism

After the voting results were announced, Chavez spoke to thousands of his supporters concentrated outside the Presidential Palace in downtown Caracas. Chavez hailed the referendum win as a victory of participatory democracy over neoliberalism and imperialism He has argued that his real enemy in the recall was U.S. President George W. Bush, whose government opposes Chavez. "This is a constitutional and popular victory....a victory of the people of Venezuela and a victory of the Bolivarian constitution."

President Chavez said: "Venezuela has changed for ever, there's no going back to the past, the fourth republic [of the pre-1999 constitution] has died."

Chavez said he hoped the U.S. would respect the people and the government of Venezuela after this democratic victory and said mockingly that his victory is a gift for the Bush administration, "a gift that landed in the middle of the White House."