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So Much is At Stake in Venezuela's Presidential Election
by Jonathan Nack
Saturday Apr 13th, 2013 8:03 PM
Mural in Quito, Ecuador 2013
Photo: Jonathan Nack

A surprise upset by the candidate of the Venezuelan right would be a stunning blow to the left which would reverberate throughout Latin America. Conversely, and far more likely, a victory by the man who represents the political legacy of President Hugo Chavez will continue to drive the momentum of the Latin American left.
There is so much at stake in tomorrow's special election for president of Venezuela. It's not just the revolution in Venezuela that's at stake, but also the fate of the socialist and revolutionary movements currently flourishing throughout Latin America.

The Bolivarian Revolution is just that important.

A surprise upset by the candidate of the Venezuelan right would be a stunning blow to the left which would reverberate throughout Latin America. Conversely, and far more likely, a victory by the man who represents the political legacy of President Hugo Chavez will continue to drive the momentum of the Latin American left.

The election of Pres. Chavez in Venezuela in 1998 marked a historic breakthrough for the Latin American left. It began a succession of victories by a new generation of socialist presidential candidates: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was elected President of Brazil in 2002; Néstor Kirshner was elected President of Argentina in 2003; Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia in 2005; Rafael Correa was elected President of Ecuador in 2006; Daniel Ortega was elected President of Nicaragua, also in 2006; and then Fernando Lugo was elected President of Paraguay in 2008.

Why is Venezuela so important? Why does it lead the way?

There's no getting around it, an awful lot of it is because of the tremendous oil wealth Venezuela has. [ ]

Oil is one commodity that the developed world can not do without, that capitalists will pay dearly for, and the huge revenues the Venezuelan government derives from it forms a large part of the funding for the projects and social benefits of the Bolivarian Revolution.

The oil wealth is the beginning of the story, but far from the end. The late Pres. Chavez declared many times that the Bolivarian Revolution aspires to regional liberation, to unite Latin America and the Caribbean against the powers of corporate capitalism and the U.S. empire. To give birth to something new Chavez called, “Socialism for the 21st Century”, not just for Venezuela, not just in the Americas, but for the world.

The words of Pres. Chavez were matched by deeds. Many countries, first and foremost Cuba, received generous long-term deals for the purchase of Venezuelan oil on very favorable terms, even including some barter agreements.

Venezuela led the formation of a new regional alliance spearheaded by leftist led governments called ALBA, The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, or ALBA). Along with Venezuela, key member nations, Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador form the core of this regional block which has grown to include ten nations. [ ]

Venezuela also launched, with the assistance of ALBA nations and also Brazil, an international Spanish language news network called TeleSUR. Based in Caracas, TeleSUR provides 24 hour international news coverage - an antidote to CNN en Espanol, and the many corporate capitalist owned Spanish language networks. [ ]

In 2007, Venezuela was instrumental in the creation of UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations. [ ] In 2011, CELAC, he Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, was officially founded in Caracas. [ ]

All this is at stake in tomorrow's election. All this, because of the premature death of President Hugo Chavez, who had just won a resounding re-election last October, defeating the very same Capriles.

The good news is that the death of Pres. Chavez has re-energized activists across Venezuela's social movements and organizations. Chavez is now a martyr to the revolution. In death, he remains a powerful unifying force. A recent poll found 71 percent of prospective voters agreed that following Chavez's death, “now the most important thing is to continue President Chavez’s project.” [ ]

Nicholas Maduro, the acting President, who was Vice President under Pres. Chavez, and the man Chavez selected as his choice to succeed him, is running a strong campaign. Militants have rejuvenated the rank and file of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and other revolutionary groups in support of continuing the Bolivarian Revolution.

Maduro is no Hugo Chavez, as the right-wing opposition candidate Enrique Capriles, is fond of pointing out. True, Maduro doesn't have Chavez's charisma and, in fact, his personality is really quite different and reserved by comparison, but he does bring a lot to the table.

Maduro was a longtime and trusted member of Chavez's inner circle. Before becoming Vice President, Maduro spent years as Foreign Minister. In that position, Maduro made contacts with all kinds of international leaders and became an accomplished diplomat and statesman.

Nicholas Maduro is a second generation socialist. As a young man he tried his hand in music, singing protest songs. He turned to bus driving to make a living. Maduro eventually rose to become President of the bus drivers union. Then he joined Chavez's political project.

While Pres. Chavez was from the military, was provocative, passionate, entertaining, and inspiring; Maduro is a civilian, a labor leader, a diplomat, and a statesman, who speaks in serious tones.

The right has put its money behind Enrique Capriles in the hopes of defeating Maduro. Because socialist ideas are so popular in Venezuela, the Venezuelan oligarchy and its backers can't openly campaign for their real corporate capitalist neo-liberal agenda. Instead, the Venezuelan right hides behind candidates who claim to be moderate socialists. Such is the case with Capriles, who claims that he'll continue programs for the poor while governing in a more moderate socialist style he claims will resemble that of former President Lula of Brazil.

Unfortunately for Capriles' campaign rhetoric, President Lula is still alive and has been actively campaigning in Venezuela for Maduro. Lula recorded a TV. spot for Maduro in which he derided Capriles' phoney claims, proclaimed his strong friendship and solidarity with Pres. Chavez, and said, “Chavez’s great work was the transformation of Venezuela into a more just country...and I’m sure that Maduro as president will be capable of fulfilling the goals of Chavez.” [ ]

Underscoring the importance allied countries attach to tomorrow's election, Presidents Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, and Christina Kirchner have all visited Venezuela to express strong support for Maduro.

Nicholas Maduro is a man who chooses his words carefully. He has made clear that he understands that his challenge will be to live up to the legacy of Pres. Hugo Chavez. Tomorrow, Venezuelan voters will almost certainly give him the opportunity.
§Left Presidents united in 2008
by Jonathan Nack Saturday Apr 13th, 2013 8:03 PM
Presidents Fernando Lugo, Evo Morales, Lula, Rafael Correa, and Hugo Chavez
§Nicholas Maduro
by Jonathan Nack Saturday Apr 13th, 2013 8:03 PM
§Mural dipicting Chavez's impact on Latin America
by Jonathan Nack Saturday Apr 13th, 2013 8:03 PM
§Maduro saluting the crowd at a campaign rally
by Jonathan Nack Saturday Apr 13th, 2013 8:03 PM

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Maduro Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 50.66 Percent of the Vote [updated]
Venezuela Analysis

by Chris Carlson

Maracaibo, April 14th, 2013 ( – Nicolas Maduro has won the Venezuelan presidential election with 50.66 percent of the vote against 49.07 percent for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. Maduro gave a victory speech immediately after, while Capriles initially refused to recognize the results.

The “first bulletin” results were announced by the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, at around 11:20 p.m. Venezuelan time, with 99.12 percent of the votes totaled, enough to give Maduro an irreversible victory.

Nicolas Maduro received a total of 7,505,338 votes, against 7,270,403 for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, a difference of 234,935 votes. Total turnout was 78.71 percent of the electorate.

Of twenty four states and regional entities, Capriles won a majority in eight: Zulia, Miranda, Lara, Anzoátegui, Táchira, Mérida, Nueva Esparta and Bolívar.

Maduro won a majority in the other sixteen. In the October 2012 presidential election, Hugo Chavez won a majority in all states apart from Merida and Tachira in the Andean region.

Given the closeness of the vote, Maduro’s speech focused mostly on assuring the validity of his victory, and the reliability of the electoral body.

“If they want to do an audit, then do an audit. We have complete trust in our electoral body,” he said from outside the presidential palace.

“We have the only electoral body in the world in which 54 percent of the total votes are audited,” he added.

Maduro also noted that in other countries presidents often win by slim margins, and that it is recognized as a victory, and said to opposition sectors that “this is no reason to create violence”.

CNE Rector Vicente Díaz immediately requested that 100 percent of the electoral results be audited in order to make the results more transparent.

“This tight result has lead me to request that the CNE conduct a citizens’ audit of 100 percent of the ballot boxes. The country needs it,” he said.

Maduro immediately accepted the request, and assured there was no problem in doing a complete audit.

“Let’s do it! No problem. Perhaps they will find that my victory will be larger,” he said.

Maduro supporters had gathered at the presidential palace to await the results, and remained to celebrate the victory after Maduro’s speech.

Meanwhile, opposition supporters awaited in the Caracas neighborhood of Bello Monte to hear their candidate’s concession speech.

Initial comments from various opposition leaders appeared to indicate that they were confident they had won, and that they would not accept defeat.

Capriles wrote on his Twitter account hours before the official results were released that the government was planning to “change the results”.

“We warn the country and the world that there is the intention to change the will [of the people],” he wrote.

Upon the release of the official results, Capriles held a press conference in which he claimed that the victory was “illegitimate” and refused to recognize Maduro’s victory until all ballots are audited.

“I don’t make pacts with those who are corrupt or illegitimate,” said Capriles, assuring he would not agree to accept the results.

“The one who has been defeated is you and everything you represent,” he said referring to Nicolas Maduro.

Capriles claimed that the results are not trully representative of the Venezuelan population, and assured that the Maduro government was "completely illegitimate".