Chávez loses constitutional vote

  • 3 December 2007
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With rare exceptions, foreign correspondents have taken their lead from the US in their coverage of elections in Venezuela and Bolivia.  Presidents Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales are ridiculed and vilified.  But warmonger and global warming denier George Bush is treated with respect, and evidence of US-funded attempts to influence election results, even through assassination, is ignored.


Reports portray constitutional changes, such as Article 230 which abolishes re-election limits allowing President Chávez to stand after his second term (as he would, for example, in the UK), as "dictatorial".  Oil revenue spending on schools, clinics, pensions for housewives and domestic workers, increases in the minimum wage, a 6-hour working day, are sneered at.  So is President Morales' use of Bolivia's gas revenue to introduce a State pension for people over 60.  Better things, it seems, should be done with a country's riches.  (It took a letter from the Mayor of London and others, 1 Dec, to re-establish some balance.) 


When millions of people - especially women, society's poorest but also its first carers on whose work the survival of families and communities depends - are actively involved in a process of change, Article 230 takes on another meaning.  It signals people's determination to protect the leadership that can move that change forward.  People want Chávez not because they are easily swayed by so-called populist rhetoric, but because the changes they are making need him to reach fruition.  The same is true of the Indigenous majority in Bolivia who needs Evo Morales in power to defeat centuries of the most exploitative racism meted out by the US-backed elite. 


The socialist democracies of Bolivia and Venezuela are fighting for a radical change of course: for the economy finally to be brought to serve humanity and the planet on which we live.  Is this folly?  Chávez may have lost Sunday's constitutional vote by the narrowest of margins, but ultimately, the survival of the world depends on the success of what he and Morales stand for.